After fighting their way onto the popular music scene, Seattle-based hip hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are finally cashing in on the success that persistence, a loyal fan base, and more than 10,000 hours of logged studio time studio will get you.
Macklemore (real name Ben Haggerty) and Ryan Lewis have been working together as a collaborative team since 2000 and are currently in the process of ascending from their status as hometown heroes to that of national superstars, having finally found success after their recently released debut album titled “The Heist.”
“The Heist” was released on Oct. 9 and entered at No. 1 on the U.S. iTunes download charts and No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 charts, selling 78,000 copies in the first week.
As soon as their album was released, the duo embarked upon The Heist World Tour, which was created to promote and celebrate their debut album.
Recently, the band performed at Toad’s Place in New Haven, which was the first time either of the West Coast gentlemen had been to Connecticut.
Currently, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are not signed to a record label. According to Haggerty, this is completely by choice, as the band has been offered several contracts at this point but has turned them all down.
In a song off their album called “Jimmy Iovine,” Haggerty raps about what it’s like to be an independent artist in today’s modern music industry and how, at the end of it all, the artists themselves are the ones left with the short end of the stick.
One of the many facets of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ overwhelming success as independent artists is the fact that their music, more specifically their latest album, isn’t comprised of a bunch of similar songs. In fact, it could be argued that their diversity and variety is what’s making them so popular; it’s as if they have a song for everybody.
While some of their music is heavy and deals with serious topics such as their song “Otherside” about battling addiction, they have produced plenty of light-hearted songs such as “And We Danced,” which is a humorous song about enjoying a really great impromptu dance party.
The pair have also been applauded for producing several songs that comment on and draw attention to civil rights topics and societal issues such as gay marriage, racism and the dangers of consumerism.
Like many artists who are making it big these days, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ success is rooted in a strong Internet presence and subsequent fan base.
Known for their artistic and high quality videos, several of the band’s music videos have gone viral, including the videos for their singles “Thrift Shop,” which is played regularly on BET, and “Same Love,” a video about marriage equality that has been viewed on YouTube more than 30 million times. This latter video has also drawn the attention of well-known celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, who had the the band on her show for a live performance of the song and gave everyone in the audience a copy of their CD.
Their Nov. 18 concert at Toad’s Place, a small and relatively intimate venue, was filled with a frenetic and nearly tangible energy that can only be produced by genuine fans. Many in attendance were college students from nearby schools such as Yale University, Quinnipiac University and Fairfield University.
Fairfield sophomore Patrick Kueny who attended the concert said, “The crowd was unbelievable, absolutely amazing… that was probably my favorite part. Everyone was singing along to every single song and we all knew the lyrics.”
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis gave an entertaining and lively performance that came with all the trimmings: sequin-clad dancers, multiple costume changes (including wigs) and more than a few stage dives and crowd surfs.
When the familiar beat and trumpets started blaring, introducing their most popular single “Thrift Shop,” the crowd roared and seemed to break out in dance simultaneously. Before Haggerty started rapping, he pointed to a few people in the audience who were sporting fake fur jackets and asked if he and Lewis could wear them as they performed the song.
Unsurprisingly, they said yes and crowd surfed them up to the stage.
In between sets, Haggerty and Lewis would address the crowd and talk about a variety of topics, ranging anywhere from how thankful they are for their supportive fans to how pretty they think the girls in Connecticut are.
In what most fans would consider a highlight of the night, Haggerty complimented the crowd on their enthusiasm and energy, saying that this crowd may have cracked their top three favorites of all time.