Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are nominated for six MTV VMAs, tied with Justin Timberlake for the most. Unlike Timberlake, Macklemore and Lewis, his producer partner, have taken the long independent road to fame.
"Macklemore wasn’t established — nobody knew who he was a year ago," the producer Just Blaze told us recently. "But he had a catchy record. He had a good record, and he marketed himself and positioned himself the right way."
That's only part of the story. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis write more than catchy beats and lyrics. They cut through the hype, rapping about the sinister marketing of Nike shoes and calling for marriage equality. Hip-hop is cyclical, and some of Macklemore's success can be attributed to timing. Different is in, especially if it's good. Here are our favorite Macklemore & Ryan Lewis songs. Don't agree? Tell us why in the comments.
5. 'Irish Celebration'
'Irish Celebration' is one of Macklemore's older songs, off 'The Vs.' EP. The title really says it all. The song is a dedication to his heritage, his "leather weathered Irish skin / Beard orange as the sunset over the flag." Macklemore would deliver more specific messages in other songs on the EP, such as 'Wings' and 'Can't Hold Us,' both of which would later appear on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's album 'The Heist.'
Wings, in this case, are Nikes. The song isn't an homage. What begins as a 7-year-old boy idolizing a pair shoes grows into the demise of an adult's identity. "Strangled by these laces, laces I can barely talk / That’s my air bubble and I’m lost, if it pops / We are what we wear / We wear what we are / But see I look inside the mirror and think Phil Knight tricked us all." By the end of the song, Macklemore gains perspective and understands that "it's just another pair of shoes."
3. 'Same Love'
Macklemore's lyrics reguarly blow against the gusts of rap convention, but he really steps out of convention with 'Same Love.' How many hip-hop songs, especially in the mainstream, call for the acceptance of same-sex marriages? And then how many hip-hop videos end with a call to action to vote for the approval of a referendum, in this case, Ref 74 in Washington state, which ended up legalizing same-sex marriages? The answer to both questions is none. Plus, the video is a true tear-jerker.
2. 'Can't Hold Us'
'Can't Hold Us' has a club-anthem beat and a club-anthem chorus, but it's also a celebration of success, the I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T way, with thrift clothes and Bob Barker suits. "Labels out here / Nah they can’t tell me nothing / We give it to the people / Spread it across the country."
1. 'Thrift Shop'
In another day and age, 'Thrift Shop' might have been considered a parody -- a motley crew of people on various modes of pathetic transport, clad in thrift-shop gear, in the middle of which is Macklemore, rapping about buying a broken keyboard, a skeet blanket and a knee board. But 'Thrift Shop' is the furthest thing from a parody. It's the honest truth. Most importantly, it's groovy. For the uncensored version go to their SoundCloud page.
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