Macklemore on thrift shopping post-"Thrift Shop"

Photo by Jason Koenig

With The Heist, an independently released album that's landed at the number two spot on the Billboard 200 charts and two of the year's biggest viral singles, Macklemore is quickly becoming one of the most visible new artists in music today. The Seattle MC, who recently performed his hit "Same Love" on Ellen and chatted about his video "Thrift Shop" on 106 and Park," returns to Minneapolis this weekend for a pair of back-to-back shows at First Avenue.

We spoke to Macklemore on his return to the Twin Cities, his recent success and if any song concept's ever made him think twice before releasing it.

In this era of mixtape-mixtape-mixtape with artists putting out as much music as possible in rapid succession, what made you decide to make your new album, The Heist, composed of three years of work?

It's tough for Ryan and I to put out music on a basis to compete with everyone else. It's an industry over-saturated with content over quality. Everything we do, we take our time on. Whether a flyer, a promo video for a merch item, a music video or a song, we take a long time to make sure it turns into what we have in our heads. That usually takes us a long time. It was a project we wanted to invest as much time as possible into, and I would much rather put out music that would stand the test of time than stand the test of people's attention spans over the next two months. I want to make music that's timeless.

Right now you're one of the most visible and inspiration artists in terms of finding success as an independent. As a longtime hip-hop fan, do you recall your first time hearing of an independent label?

Hmm. For me, when I was coming up, it was Hieroglyphics, Living Legends and Freestyle Fellowship. A lot of those guys put out their own music. It was probably my first exposure to people doing it themselves and not relying on a record label.

Since your recent video "Thrift Shop" became popular, has it changed your thrift shopping experience much?

You know, I feel almost self-conscious when I go into thrift shops now because I'm getting far more recognized when I go into thrift shops as "the guy from the thrift shop song." I still go thrift shopping all the time. Just because we're making more money now than we had a few years ago, [doesn't mean] thrift shops [aren't] still the main place where I buy clothes.

Some of your songs, namely "Otherside" and "Same Love," touch on certain delicate subjects that hip-hop doesn't often deal with. Do you ever have moments of hesitation before tackling such subjects?

Absolutely. Any time I feel fearful or scared to put a record out, I usually know I'm writing a powerful record that needs to be said. That's usually my indicator. If I'm scared, that usually means I'm on the right track.

What made you decide to do back-to-back nights at First Avenue?

The first one sold out very quickly. Then the second one sold out very quickly. There's a demand for it, I wish we could do five nights at First Ave. The people of Minneapolis and the greater [Twin Cities] area have such a great foundation for the hip-hop community that Rhymesayers and people like Doomtree have laid this infrastructure where people really support the music. It's been crazy to watch it grow and we've been blessed to do a couple Soundsets the past couple years. It's probably, outside Seattle, the number two or damn close in terms of our fanbase.

Do you recall your first show in Minnesota?

We played the 7th Street Entry, and I remember Sonya, who books First Ave, say "Next time, it would be crazy to get you into the big room." In my head I was like "There is NO WAY, next time, we're going to be able to fill that place, or even come close." Sure enough, that was the last time we were there, and we did.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis perform at First Avenue on Friday, November 30 and Saturday, December 1 with Dee-1 and Xperience. All Ages, $18, 5:30 p.m.

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