With four Grammy awards under his belt and tens of millions of records sold, Macklemore has achieved remarkable success in the music industry. His music has been streamed over 13 billion times, solidifying his status as a popular and influential artist.
The rapper, whose birth name is Benjamin Haggerty, has recently released his first new album in over five years, titled “Ben.” This album offers a candid portrayal of Macklemore’s life, covering topics such as his struggles with mental health and addiction, which he said began for him at the age of 14.
“My addiction began the first time that my parents’ Smirnoff half gallon of vodka hit my lips. That was the very beginning,” Macklemore said.
While recording “Ben,” Macklemore said he relapsed. He shared a pivotal moment when he realized he needed to stop using drugs after his wife Tricia took a pregnancy test and he was high.
“I remember listening in the bathroom,” he said. “And I heard tears coming from Tricia. And right then, I knew she was pregnant.”
Those were not tears of joy, Macklemore said, as he “wasn’t being the version of myself that I know is the best.”
Growing up in Seattle, Macklemore was obsessed with pop music and culture, and he was heavily influenced by artists like Michael Jackson, Digital Underground and NWA.
After making a name for himself in the Seattle rap scene, he gained national success through social media and without the backing of a major label.
His singles “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” eventually became diamond-plated hits despite being passed on by record executives. Macklemore and his producer, Ryan Lewis, won a Grammy for best rap album in 2014, a highly debatable win to this day and one that left Macklemore feeling conflicted about winning over fellow nominee Kendrick Lamar.
“I’m also looking at it from the lens of, who wins these award shows? Who’s won them historically? I’ve been watching White artists win Grammys over Black artists who are at the core of what, where the culture came from,” Macklemore said. “And I’m like, ‘If I don’t say something right now when I’m benefiting from this same system that I’ve been calling out for the last 15 years, what does that say about me?'”
Topics like race are something that Macklemore has never shied away from covering.
He said he could choose to prioritize writing radio-friendly hits but says it is crucial for him to tackle heavy topics in his music.
“I think that it’s important as a White person within hip-hop to realize that you are a guest, that this culture was birthed out of oppression that we were not a part of, or we were a part of the other side of it. And if I don’t talk about it, if I just pretend like it’s all good, and I’m taking the best parts of culture, and I’m not giving back, or I’m not speaking my truth, or I’m not helping other artists visualize their full potential, then what am I doing?” he said.
Macklemore, who resides in Seattle with Tricia and their three children, has not only dedicated himself to music but also to the community and the local sports teams. He has ownership stakes in the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer and the Seattle Kraken of the NHL.
Decades after first bursting onto the scene, Macklemore said he’s learned a lot but would say to his younger self, “Keep going. Keep striving. Don’t feed into the instant gratification that is right in front of you. Zoom out. Look at the bigger picture. And know that today’s sacrifice is tomorrow’s W.”