Ben "Macklemore" Haggerty has quickly become an unlikely and conscious voice in hip-hop. His name may seem new, but this is really Haggerty's second wind, and he's using his newfound platform to speak out -- but also to have some fun. Speaking by phone from his native Seattle, Haggerty picks up in an exaggerated British accent, briefly maintaining the persona of his British alter ego, Sir Raven Bowie, the spandex-clad star of Haggerty's viral hit "And We Danced." Yes, Macklemore can be as silly as he is serious, and it's that dichotomy between party tunes and introspection that have a younger demographic enamored with him.
From throwing out the first pitch at his beloved Mariners' games to unabashedly repping the Seahawks in his music videos, Haggerty supports the people who supported his ascent. But one can only go so far in his hometown. Rather, the 29-year old rapper has now found baffling success, selling out dates on his "The Heist World Tour" both here and overseas, and with his independently-released #2 Billboard debut The Heist, selling a more-than-modest 78,000 copies in its first week.
"Overall, the music is spreading and it's a direct reflection of people connecting with it," Haggerty says.
It seems like fans have been resonating at that. From a social standpoint, Haggerty seems to be one of the most aware artists at the moment, a Generation Z version of advocates like Atmosphere and Immortal Technique. His themes tend to eschew some of the most selfish points of Western culture as he denounces consumerism on the sneakerhead-specific "Wings," and shares a raw firsthand account of robotripping and prescription drug abuse on "Otherside."
It's that openheartedness that's captured the attention of Haggerty's diehard following, but it wasn't until he was inspired by the same-sex marriage debate that he finally fell into the national spotlight. Though he's been rapping for thirteen years, it wasn't until his single "Same Love," a song that openly advocates same-sex marriage, that he found himself atop a rightful soapbox with apt listeners. It may seem like his timing is immaculate, given the context of the presidential elections drawing near, but that's not the case.
"I'm never going to force a social issue because I feel pressured to do it or somebody tells me to do it," Haggerty explains. "If you're aware and you're reading, there's always stuff to write out."
Yet it wasn't always this way for Haggerty. Though he's always written and performed as Macklemore, it was a battle with addiction, his call to sobriety, and subsequent collaboration with producer Ryan Lewis that brought him to the all-time high he's at now withThe Heist
. "People don't take three years to go off and experiment with drugs and not put out music," he explains.
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And it's this second chance that's likely kept Haggerty humbled. Unlike some of his peers, there's no inflated sense of self-worth about him. In fact, his personal outlook on his trajectory, regardless of how sudden it has been, is quite the opposite. "Any sort of pedestal is false. It's created by us, it's not real. The minute that I start thinking of myself on some artificial pedestal is the minute that my art suffers."
Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis are scheduled to perform Saturday, October 28, at Club Red in Tempe.