KillerHipHop Exclusive: Macklemore Interview
What you know about rockin’ a wolf on your noggin’? Not much? Don’t worry. If Macklemore has taught us anything, it’s that the best wolf heads are at the thrift shop. But moving on, KillerHipHop recently had the privilege of talking to Seattle’s Macklemore. You might recognize Mack’ from the XXL Freshmen list, most likely because he was on it. The Seattle rapper and his partner in rhyme recently dropped their highly anticipated freshmen album titled The Heist.
During our conversation, Macklemore spoke about the album, writing “Same Love,” the message behind “Thrift Store,” working with Ab-Soul, his independent grind, when he’ll sign to a label, and Lil Wayne’s inspiring work ethic. Hit the jump for KillerHipHop’s exclusive interview with Macklemore.
QuezKHH: Your debut album came out on October 9th. But before we get to talking about The Heist, what was the first album that you ever bought?
Macklemore: The first album that I ever bought was, man, it would’ve probably been Digital Underground’s Sex Packets. You know, I don’t think I bought that. I think I dubbed that from a friend. I really can’t remember. You know what, it might’ve been The Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. That one was probably the first one I ever bought.
KHH: Now on to your own album. How is The Heist different or even similar to your past projects with Ryan Lewis?
Macklemore: To me all of our music is just a continuation. It’s just a continuation of life. Life changes, your music changes. It’s not like a vast difference in terms of what we’ve put out before. I mean, we put out the Versus EP which was an album that was based around sampling contemporary music. This album has no samples. In terms of the actual writing of the album, I would say it’s just the last three years we’ve been through a lot of stuff. There’s been a lot of ups and downs. When we started it, it was a very different time in terms of our careers. So it kind of navigates through the last three years and brings you up to the present moment and that’s The Heist.
KHH: Would you consider The Heist your best work?
Macklemore: It’s tough to say. I think that it’s very challenging to [rank] the best, second best, [and] third best. I think that in a lot of ways it is. I don’t know why it wouldn’t be. I know that there’s certain moments in life, like I’m never going to write another “Other Side.” But there’s songs on this album that I’m equally as proud of if not more proud of. So it’s just what’s current right now. I can’t label if it’s the best or not.
KHH: When the video for “Same Love” dropped, it had YouTube going crazy. What made you want to write that song?
Macklemore: Just seeing the injustice and the discrimination that’s happening. It’s been happening against gay people. Seeing young kids taking their own lives because they’re getting bullied at school and not being able to be themselves. And looking at a community like the hip-hop community, or the religious community, which I grew up in, which has constantly been a source of homophobia and hatred against gay people, and wanting to take a stand against it. I have a platform now to use my words to have some impact on people. It’s an issue that I feel strongly about, equal rights for all human beings. That was the push to write the song.
KHH: How did you think that people were going to react, especially this being hip-hop where rappers usually stay away from topics like that.
Macklemore: I didn’t know. I thought that I did some hate. I thought that it might alienate some people. I think that you are immediately kind of, I was cautious of the people that I’ve met, either worked with or other rappers that I’ve talked about working with, I was like, how are they going to perceive this? Are they not going to want to work with me now? Are they not going to want to do a record or whatever? Those thoughts come into your head, but I let them go. It’s not about that. If people don’t want to work with me because of this song, that’s what it is, and that’s okay. This is something that I believe in that I’m willing to take a stand for and if that comes with the repercussions of people not wanting to collaborate, or not respect what I do, then I don’t need them on my record anyway.
KHH: Another song that had people going crazy was “Thrift Shop.” Just to reiterate, does Macklemore really shop at thrift stores?
Macklemore: Absolutely. I mean, I don’t only shop at thrift stores. That’s not like the only place that I shop. I definitely shop at many other places. Thrift stores are a huge part of my wardrobe.
KHH: You have a good amount of songs that talk about clothes or fashion, another song being “Wings.” Is there a message that you’re trying to deliver with songs like these?
Macklemore: To me it’s just looking at consumerism. Looking at how we get caught up with brands and marketing, and what really is important. More than anything it’s kind of analyzing my own life. I’m not trying to tell anybody how to live or how not to live. I still have hella pairs of Jordans in a closet full of shoes. A bunch of new clothes just came through the door. It’s something that I’m not over. It’s more that I’m just processing it on paper and trying to work it out in my own head and it ends up turning into records.
KHH: On the album you have a track with Ab-Soul titled “Jimmy Iovine.” Your features seem very selective. Why did you pick Ab-Soul for that specific track?
Macklemore: “Jimmy Iovine” is a song that is very anti-industry in a way. It exposes the truth of what really happens when you sign to a label. I think that Ab-Soul, I’ve been a fan of his for a while. He’s somebody that seems like he goes against the grain a little bit. He kind of rebels against the system. I thought that he would be perfect for the track. I sent it to him, and he really liked it so it worked out perfectly.
KHH: To my understanding you’re not opposed to signing to a major label. But in the track you actually turn down the deal after you get it. So where do you stand record label-wise. Who’s calling?
Macklemore: We’ve talked to pretty much every major label in the past like year. Again, I’m not against signing with a label. I think that if I do sign with a label, that it has to be right. And it’d be right meaning that they’re not going to take my touring, they’re not going to take my merch’, and I’m going to have creative control. So to a lot of those labels, that’s just completely like, no we’re not going to do that. If that’s the case, then that’s all good. We’ll keep making music independently and put it out ourselves.
KHH: In the past you’ve listed Lil Wayne as one of your influences. How has he influenced you musically?
Macklemore: I love Carter I, Carter II, and all of the Dedications. I’m a big Wayne fan. I was a really big Wayne fan. He’s somebody whose work ethic has really inspired me. He’s somebody that’s just constantly working. I really respect that about him. He’s put out some amazing albums and mixtapes.
KHH: So you would be open to working with him if the opportunity arose?
KHH: Most of the time when people see you, you’re performing, or in the studio, always doing musical things. Aside from thrift store shopping, what does Macklemore do in his spare time?
Macklemore: Ah man. I work. I don’t really have too much spare time. I like to go to AA meetings. I’m chillin’ at the house if I have any time, watching some TV. It’s really like an hour here an hour there. It’s not a lot of free time. So I’m constantly working and trying to turn my mind off when I’m not.
When The Heist dropped on October 9th, it shot straight to number 2 the following week. It independently sold an astounding 78,000 units in its first week of retail. So congratulations to Macklemore and his team.