If you pay any attention at all to popular culture, you know about the meteoric rise of Macklemore, especially if you live in Seattle like me.
The hometown boy is pretty beloved around here, but he’s getting some unfair and harsh criticism over his latest album with Ryan Lewis, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.” Some call him preachy, others call him cheesy. Critics have excoriated him for “White Privilege,” in which the white rapper takes on racism, and others just don’t like his music.
But for a lot of reasons, this suburban mom – who admittedly most often has the car radio tuned to the news or ’80s hits – is a major Macklemore fan.
Ever since “Thrift Shop,” blew up after Macklemore and Lewis put it out independently I’ve been listening. “Same Love” really hooked me. Then he seriously won me over with his sweet ode to impending fatherhood, “Growing Up.”
If you’re a Macklemore naysayer, give him a try for these reasons:
At least he’s trying to address issues of racial injustice.
He didn’t just make a song about institutionalized racism; he seems to be honestly delving into the complicated and emotional systemic problem. He and Lewis say they educated themselves and partnered with community organizations like Black Lives Matter.
They released “White Privilege II” with an accompanying website, on which they say they are “committed to a long-term investment of our time, resources, finances and creative capacities towards supporting black-led organizing and anti-racist education & discourse.”
Hate the song, if you want, but at least he’s speaking his mind and trying to make a difference. That’s a lot more than many of us do.
He brings other artists along with him.
I love that it’s always “Macklemore and Ryan Lewis,” even though everyone always just says, “Macklemore.” He makes it clear they are team, that he couldn’t produce his music on his own.
As more proof, Macklemore looks for talent, collaborates with lesser-known artists – and gives them credit.
Part of what made “Thrift Shop” so fun was the deep voice of Wanz singing the catchy hooks, “Only got 20 dollars in my pocket,” and “I look incredible…” Before Macklemore asked him to sing about popping some tags, Wanz was Michael Wansley, a software engineer who dreamed of a music career. After the overnight success of the song, Macklemore invited Wanz on tour and put him up-front in the video for the song.
He also enlisted the help of unknown Seattle songwriter Mary Lambert, who wrote the tender, beautiful melody and lyrics, “My love, she keeps me warm,” for “Same Love.” She was on stage to perform the song at the 2014 Grammys, and launched a solo career after the song’s success. (Check her out too.)
And what about that epic gay wedding at the Grammy’s? Call it schmaltzy if you want, but I was in tears.
He says no to drugs.
Many interviews have detailed Macklemore’s battle with substance abuse. A Rolling Stone reporter even accompanied him to a 12-step meeting. But he’s not just doing it for press. Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, gave a candid talk at the 20th anniversary of the King County Drug Court.
“I’m Ben. I’m an alcoholic,” he told those in the courtroom.
It hasn’t been an easy road, he said, and he admitted he has had some relapses after his huge success. But he wants more for himself – and others fighting similar demons.
“The thing that is clear, what is evident is that if I do put those things in my body I cannot be a fulfilled happy content person,” he told the rapt audience. “If I put those things in my body I don’t love myself….If I’m going to continue to be successful, I need sobriety in my life.”
That’s an important message, especially for his younger fans.
He has a good heart.
With his big smile, Macklemore seems like a genuinely good guy who wants to give back to his family and his community. He shows up at Seahawks games and is devoted to our continually disappointing Mariners. He lent his name to raise money for homeless youth and supported kids at an anti-bullying event.
To mark the release of “Mess,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hosted a free show at a Seattle club and signed autographs at a record shop. Fans spent the night on the street hoping to get in.
He filmed an episode on E! TV, in which he arranged for a surprise makeover of his mother-in-law’s house. He thanked her for her support over the years, recalling how he got to know her around her kitchen table in Seattle. Throughout, he also earnestly proclaimed his love for his now-wife Tricia (who is incredibly beautiful and yet seems like one of us.)
A friend of mine – who is both much cooler and way hotter than me – met him a few times through her work. She confirms my sense: he really is a nice guy.
He loves being a dad.
He wrote Growing Up as he awaited the birth of his daughter, Sloane. The advice he offers are things I say to my kids, like read a lot, and tell the truth. My 9-year-old son and I listened to it repeatedly. (Disclaimer: my kiddo only listens to the clean versions on the radio. My buddy Macklemore does drop a lot of F bombs.) Some of my favorite lines:
“You put the work in, don’t worry about the praise, my love.
Don’t try to change the world, find something that you love
And do it every day
Do that for the rest of your life
And eventually, the world will change.”
“The quickest way to happiness?
Learning to be selfless.”
Ask more questions, talk about your self less.”
Oh, and this: “Every day, give your momma a compliment.”
I probably repeat that line to my son more often than I should, but thanks, Macklemore, for acknowledging us moms.
He goes through the same things we do.
I haven’t heard much about one of my favorite songs on his new album, the upbeat ditty “Let’s Eat” that humorously looks at the challenges of dieting. He struggles with wanting a donut and bemoans the fact that he hasn’t used him gym membership in four years. And he’s going to change his eating and exercise habits … tomorrow.
I mean, what woman doesn’t relate?
Among the lyrics he raps:
“And today man I gotta go big cause it’s my last day
Before I lose that weight, I gotta get one last plate and go big…
I should probably start on Monday instead.”
Oh Ben, you so get me.
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