Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Take on Swoosh City
Seattle superstars Macklemore & Ryan Lewis will take to the McDonald Theatre stage on Saturday, October 20. As the artists’ fame has taken a meteoric rise in the last year, the Eugene show is sold out. The only place you can buy tickets now is on Craigslist — and they are being marked up by about 200% by scalpers.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis hail from Seattle, Washington. They are two separate and distinct artists who have collaborated on several musical endeavors in the last few years. Macklemore is a rapper — a white rapper, to be precise. I would not call attention to the fact of his whiteness were it not the subject of many of his raps. More important than his race, though, in my opinion, is his focus. Macklemore provides biting, spot-on social commentary, music industry jabs, and moving passages of poetry in his oft-termed “diary rap” style. He takes a genre known for bling, women, and cars and transforms it — almost effortlessly — into rhymes advocating same-sex marriage, anti-consumerism, and fighting addiction to oxycontin.
While Macklemore provides the lyrical mastery to the group, Ryan Lewis provides the musical mastery. And to be honest, as good as Macklemore’s raps are, Lewis by far steals the show in whatever the group does. Lewis’ productions are epic, employing scorching beats, ethereal strings, and angelic choirs. Should Lewis break out on his own, he could easily end up in the Producer VIP world where Timbaland and Kanye West currently reside. He is really that good. Lewis is also in the same company as Xaphoon Jones, the production wizard half of the rap group Chiddy Bang. They both are moving hip hop towards a “high pop art” feel, using both traditional, heavy-hitting rhythms as well as unique orchestrations and indie music sensibilities.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis just released their debut album this last Tuesday, October 9. Entitled “The Heist,” the album shot to the top of the iTunes charts within hours. It is still currently the most downloaded album on iTunes, four days later. And this was accomplished entirely with DIY marketing. Also, according to Billboard, “The Heist” is aiming to start with over 65,000 sold by the end of the tracking week on Sunday. It is debuting in the No. 2 slot, behind Mumford & Sons’ “Babel.”
This fact alone inspired PopDust to write a story entitled, “Are Macklemore and Ryan Lewis the Mumford and Sons of the Rap Game?” Just to save you time: the answer is complicated, because “while his folkie counterparts from London seem comfortable, or even complacent, with their place in the universe, Macklemore is more agnostic. In the 15 tracks of The Heist, the former Ben Haggerty agonizes and philosophizes over what it means to be a well-meaning white rapper in the world today.”
With Lewis’ impeccable production quality, it makes sense that the duo have broken out of Seattle and made it into earbuds around the country. But the draw is certainly not only musical. Macklemore’s words are very affecting — in the sense that they give you the goosebumps because they are either that poetic or chilling.
Or silly. Macklemore certainly has a sense of humor, as evident in “Thrift Shop” on “The Heist” album. The rapper brags about all the swag he has bought at discounted prices at a thrift shop:
Rolling in hella deep, headed to the mezzanine
Dressed in all pink except my gator shoes, those are green
Draped in a leopard mink, girl standing next to me
Probably shoulda washed this, smells like R.Kelly sheets, p***
But s***, it was 99 cents
Then he completely changes the mood and raps eloquently about his desire to see same-sex marriage legalized. Even the fact that he is dealing with homosexuality at all within the confines of hip hop is nearly revolutionary. In “Same Love,” he raps:
When I was in the 3rd grade
I thought that I was gay
Cause I could draw, my uncle was
And I kept my room straight
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like, “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-K”
While Macklemore’s lyrics are almost universally engaging to audiences, it is his song “Wings” that will be the most interesting in terms of audience reception at the Eugene concert. Eugene is, of course, Track Town USA. It is the home of the Oregon Ducks. Sometimes it feels like half the city belongs to Phil Knight. And even if it does not, half the hearts of the people of Eugene belong to Phil Knight. Because Phil Knight and Nike make the Oregon Ducks an exciting reality. Eugene is the City of the Swoosh. How, then, will Eugene concertgoers respond to lyrics from “Wings,” when Macklemore calls out Phil Knight for “tricking us all”? Macklemore raps,
I’m an individual, yea, but I’m part of a movement
My movement told me be a consumer and I consumed it
They told me to just do it, I listened to what that swoosh said
Look at what that swoosh did
See it consumed my thoughts…
We are what we wear, we wear what we are
But see I look inside the mirror and think Phil Knight tricked us all
Will I stand for change, or stay in my box
These Nikes help me define me, but I’m trying to take mine…
It will be an interesting moment, to say the least.
To get pumped up for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ show in Swoosh City, check out these videos. (Warning: profanity.)
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Thrift Shop”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Wings”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis perform at the Historic McDonald Theatre on Saturday, October 20, with DEE-1 and Luck-One opening the show. Tickets are sold out. For more information about the artists, visit Macklemore’s website or Ryan Lewis’ website.