Seattle’s Hip-Hop Scene: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

24 Jul

Remember when I said in my last  post that I could write hundreds and hundreds of words about the Seattle music scene? Well, here are roughly 675 more words.

Today I will focus on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, a hip-hop duo that hails from Seattle. They are part of the Town’s growing hip-hop scene.

I don’t associate hip hop with Seattle. New York City (Jay Z, the Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan); Los Angeles (Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar); and even Atlanta (Ludacris, T.I., and 2 Chainz) first come to mind when I think of rap music. I usually connect Seattle with rock and indie acts.

But that was before I learned while writing my previous Seattle-themed post that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hail from the Emerald City.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

(Image via Filter Magazine.)

You’ve probably heard Macklemore (ne Ben Haggerty) and Ryan Lewis’s hit single from the breakthrough album The Heist, “Thrift Shop”, an ode to clothes shopping at the local Goodwill. That is unusual for hip hop, as rappers are more likely to rhyme about luxury labels* like Gucci and Louis Vuitton** and not dressing “grandpa style”. This song is catchy as all get-out and has major earworm potential. The horn accompaniment is fun, too. I have a soft spot for songs with horn sections.

I dig “Thrift Shop”, but not as much as their next single, “Can’t Hold Us”. This song gets me going with the carpe diem lyrics–and, yes, the horn section. I have no further commentary to add. Sometimes librarians just like songs to like songs. This track is fun. And the video is pretty neat, too. Enjoy.

This video takes us all over the world, but I like how Mackelmore plants his flag atop the Space Needle at the 5:35 mark.

Definitely listen to The Heist in its entirety. It is really good. (Listen up for the Seattle references throughout.) Macklemore’s lyrics are based on real life, as in classic hip hop. On “Thin Line”, Macklemore raps about growing estranged from a lover because of his demanding career.

“Jimmy Iovine”, named after the co-founder of Interscope Records and legend in the business side of music, discusses how record companies take a huge cuts of artists’ earnings. That may be why Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released The Heist independent of any major record label.

“Starting Over” covers Macklemore’s struggles with alcohol abuse and his shame over a relapse. This track features an assist by singer Ben Bridwell*** from Band of Horses–another Seattle-based group.

Perhaps the track that has generated the most recent interest is “Same Love”, where Macklemore voices his support for gay marriage and comments on the homophobia that still exists in hip-hop culture. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s home state of Washington legalized same-sex marriage in 2012.

Warning: You may want to have some tissues handy when you watch this video.

Macklemore is quite an anomaly in the hip-hop world. Could his roots in progressive Seattle have influenced his point of view and lyrics?

For more about Seattle-based hip-hop artists check out this roundup from XXL Magazine, which apparently caused some major drama in the scene.

Is this my last post about Seattle? That remains to be seen. 🙂

-Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

*For more about the intersection of hip hop and luxury fashion, check out this fascinating article by Kelefa Sanneh, “Harlem Chic”, from the March 25, 2013 issue of the New Yorker. This link contains an excerpt of the article, but the reference department has the magazine available to borrow if you want to read the full piece.

**Fabolous featuring Ne-Yo, “Make Me Better” and Kanye West, “Stronger” are two examples of rap songs that name-drop Gucci and Louis Vuitton, respectively. Notice there are no mentions of “grandpa style.”

***Recommended Band of Horses song: “No One’s Gonna Love You“, from the album Cease to Begin.

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