More Of Macklemore! A Post-’SNL’ Primer On The ‘Thrift Shop’-Loving Indie Rapper
Could the indie-rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis get any more ubiquitous in pop culture than they already were, with a single, "Thrift Shop," that's sold 3.9 million copies and is up to 140 million YouTube views?
The answer is yes, when it comes to a galvanizing, leaping-and-bounding appearance on Saturday Night Live that proved they're not just a one-download wonder. The duo's growing legion of fans now know Macklemore, the frontman of the pair, is as compelling a live performer as he is a low-budget clothes horse—as seen in this performance:
Since the duo may well be around for a while, here's a primer on some other things you might not have known about them, besides what a barrel of dynamism Macklemore is on stage:
* He's the anti-Puffy. Thriftiness might rank at the very bottom of the list of virtues held dear among rappers. But with the recession far from over for all Americans, music fans were ready for a hip-hop star who doesn't seem to live in an economical fantasy land. Hence: "Thrift Shop," which made him music's greatest unofficial pitchman for Good Will. “In hip-hop culture we’re constantly being told to buy Louis Vuitton, buy Prada,” he said recently, which is why the hit single "really stuck out.” Who knew you could find a breakout niche just by not acting like you're filthy rich?
* The debut album from Macklemore & Lewis as a duo, The Heist, was a hit right out of the gate. The collection debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard sales chart in October, selling 78,000 its first week—a considerable tally for an independently released album. Three months later, it's still at No. 16 on the chart—and due for another leap back up, no doubt, after the SNL exposure.
* "Thrift Shop" was still No. 1 on the digital songs chart last week, even before SNL raised its profile again. The tune moved 364,000 units in the week prior to their TV appearance, for a total so far of 3,878,000 digital singles sold. If the trajectory continues, it could cross the 5 million mark by the end of the month.
* Real name: Ben Haggerty. Macklemore, 29, hails from Seattle, where he grew up loving progressive acts like Digital Underground and Wu-Tang Clan. In late January, he Instagram-med a photo of the engagement ring he presented to his girlfriend of seven years, Tricia Davis.
* Don't call Macklemore a "conscious rapper"... even though he is. That tag is given to hip-hop artists who accentuate the positive and deal with social issues, as he certainly does. But he's also a throwback to a more carefree rap era and doesn't like to be thought of as preachy. "I just think it's corny," he said of the "conscious rapper" tag in a recent interview. "Am I more or less conscious than everybody else? I'm a full spectrum of a human being. There's songs that are deep and personal and might bring up some social issues, but that's not the full side of me. I think it's just a box, that's just corny. It's very outdated. It's very underground and backpacker-ish and that's not the music I make."
* He's got an flashy side, as you may have guessed from his SNL get-up. You probably won't find that colorful outfit Macklemore wore on the air at any thrift shop in your neighborhood... unless it's a second-hand store that happens to be near one of Michael Jackson's former residences. And you can take a cue about Macklemore's mixed attitudes from a song on the duo's album called "White Walls." It's about having a Cadillac with—you guessed it—white-walled tires. "People say you’re a 'conscious rapper.' You can’t rap about cars,” he said, introducing the number at a recent show. “And I was like, watch me do it.”