Picture it: 2012. You just saw The Dark Knight Rises in theatres. Rumors are swirling about Kate Middleton and her pregnancy, and you’re feeling slightly concerned that the ancient Mayan doomsday prophecy might come true. You turn on the radio, and “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis comes on. And then it comes on again, and again, and again. It was a simpler time, and that song was inescapable. It carried the world into 2013, and it ended up being one of the highest-selling songs of the year. Although it seemed like the hip-hop duo was on track for total domination, we haven’t heard much from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in a few years.
If you’re wondering what happened to Macklemore, we have all the details about what the rapper has been up to and the rift between the hip-hop duo.
Macklemore Has Been An Independent Artist His Entire Career
While it might seem like Macklemore’s career ballooned overnight, he’s been working as an independent artist for years. Macklemore, whose real name is Benjamin Haggerty, grew up in the Seattle area to working-class parents. He started dabbling in music while attending college, and by 2000, he released an EP called Open Your Eyes under the name Professor Macklemore. Five years later, he dropped “Professor” from his moniker and released his debut album The Language of My World.
A few years after the release of his first record, Macklemore met Ryan Lewis, a DJ and producer. The pair teamed up for their first joint project in 2010, an extended play called The VS EP. They quickly began work on their follow-up project, a full-length album. But rather than try to get a traditional record label like most mainstream musicians, the two opted for a DIY approach.
After several years of production, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis had an album ready: The Heist. They had built a fanbase online, but they wanted their work to go further. Concerned about their creative control and profits, Macklemore and his music partner were hesitant to pursue a traditional record deal. Instead, Macklemore approached the Alternative Distribution Alliance, which is the independent arm of Warner Music Group. They signed a deal that allowed them to trade a small percentage of their royalties for some major label benefits – like radio promotion. This partnership allowed Macklemore & Ryan Lewis to retain their status as independent artists while dramatically scaling their reach.
Thanks to their partnership with the Alternative Distribution Alliance, singles from The Heist were promoted to alternative and pop radio stations. The rest is history. The duo skyrocketed to success between 2012 and 2014, with singles like “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” playing on nearly every radio station.
Both sonically and lyrically, The Heist covered territory that was uncommon for hip-hop. Critics at the time thought Lewis’s production felt fresh and new. Meanwhile, the lyrics from Macklemore floated between energetic and playful, like on “Thrift Shop,” to poignant and powerful, like on “Same Love,” a track featuring Mary Lambert that highlights support for same-sex marriage.
The hip-hop duo won three Grammys at the 2014 awards ceremony, which sparked outrage among hip-hop fans who felt Kendrick Lamar was the more deserving artist that year. Macklemore shared a text he sent to Lamar, apologizing for the win. “You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have. It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you,” he wrote. Lamar responded humbly, saying that Macklemore’s win was “well deserved.” Despite the amicable text back, the situation didn’t do him any favors in the hip-hop community.
Why Macklemore Split With Ryan Lewis
After the incredible success of The Heist and their awkward Grammy wins, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis followed up with their 2016 album: This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. It was an ambitious record, packed full of socially conscious songs and A-list collaborators, like Chance the Rapper and Ed Sheeran. Despite the big effort, the album failed to replicate the blockbuster success of The Heist.
The duo went dark following the release of This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, and when they failed to submit the sophomore album for Grammy consideration, rumors started to swirl about the future of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. It seemed like the duo behind “Can’t Stop Us” had indeed been stopped.
In 2017, Macklemore broke his silence. He confirmed that the musical group was no longer working together. But is there bad blood between Macklemore and Lewis today? It doesn’t seem like it. The two agreed that some creative space would be beneficial for both of them.
Macklemore moved forward with a solo album in 2017, called Gemini. During a promotional interview for the solo record, he went into more depth about the split from his longtime collaborator.
“It was a decision that we both came to,” the rapper said in an interview on Sway in the Morning. “I think with the last album and how intense it was at times — particularly making ‘White Privilege II’ [on This Unruly Mess I’ve Made], that was an intense, as it should have been, song to write … I think it was really heavy to make a nine-minute song about race. And again, it should be heavy. You can’t even scrape the surface on it.”
Despite their professional break-up, the two stars maintain a brotherly friendship according to an Instagram post shared by the rapper in 2017.
What Is Macklemore Doing In 2021?
The 2010s were a rollercoaster ride for Macklemore. He went from being a little-known rapper to having one of the biggest albums in the world and winning Grammy awards. But what is he up to now, and when can fans expect to hear new music?
Macklemore married his longtime girlfriend, and he’s been keeping busy as a family man. The couple has two young kids who he frequently posts on Instagram.
His most recent venture is surprising, and it has nothing to do with hip-hop. He created a line of golf clothes called Bogey Boys, meant to modernize your traditional golfing gear. Think bold colors and prints – like a tartan windbreaker or a soft pink cardigan.
For the rest of the year, Macklemore plans on focusing on activism. His website has a whole area dedicated to his social justice causes and Black-led organizations that focus on racial and social justice issues.
If you’re itching for more Macklemore, so far, he has two outdoor shows scheduled for this summer. He hasn’t formally announced plans for new music, but judging by this adorable post on Instagram, something new might be in the works.
In the meantime, check out this freestyle he released on YouTube earlier this year.