Hip-hop artist Macklemore talks about addiction, performing and shoes

Hip-hop artist Macklemore raps about the social state of American families, drug addiction and penises.  The emcee is an indie favorite and attracts tens of thousands of fans to clubs across the nation. Macklemore spoke with QSaltLake about the challenges a white rapper faces and the impact he wants to make through his music. He’ll be stopping in Salt Lake City at In the Venue on Dec. 17. Tickets are $15-18, 801-487-8499 or smithstix.com.

Thank you for chatting with me, I really appreciate your time. What can we expect to see at your show?

A live show, to me, is meant to be an experience. It’s not just a rapper on stage throwing out raps and the audience listening. It should be an active, participatory experience. I have serious songs, fun songs and some that are in between. I like to use them all and take the audience on roller coasters. At times they will be heavy messages, and  sometimes nothing but everyone jumping up and down.

You’ve been to Utah before. What do you remember about the crowds here?

I really like Salt Lake City. I’ve played there a couple of times. The people are into music and are very active music listeners. The audience is so appreciative of good music and the energy level is always off the hook.

Most of your shows in other cities are sold out. How’s the pressure performing for packed clubs?

You know, it’s been absolutely amazing. There’s no better feeling than selling out a show and having people there that are really excited, following lyrics and singing along.

Will you play mainly from your latest EP, or can we expect some of  your older stuff?

It’s kind of all over the board. There’s going to be some new stuff and some old stuff. We try to keep it diverse. We try to go back and do some things from the early years for our fans who’ve been following us for years.

So you’re working on a new album with producer Ryan Lewis? What can you tell us about it? Any surprises?

We’re working on it now and hope to have it out in the spring. It’ll be out in 2012 for sure. Not a lot I can tell you about it at this point. I’m really excited and I think there’s going to be a lot of stuff that people can really relate to.

When I listen to The Language of My World and then I listen to your later EPs and singles, I notice a lot of similarities, but your new work seems to have a more dark, serious tone and fewer comedic songs. How has your music and writing progressed?

I like to showcase all parts of my personality in my music. There are times when I want to show my character and sometimes I want a song that will just make you want to dance. Other times, I cover more serious concepts. I think with this album there’s not going to be as much character stuff.

I’d like to talk to you about the single “Wings.”. Is it based on your life? Are you still really into shoes?

Yeah, I do love shoes and they’re still a big part of my life. I try to keep it contained, but I really love them. And yes, the song is based on my experiences.

You’re often described as a socially conscious rapper, but I’ve read that you don’t like that term. With songs like “American” and “Bush Song,” there’s no doubt that you address current events and make a social commentary. Is that through a concerted effort on your part? Or does it just flow organically?

I think that the good songs flow organically. When I am inspired to write something based on an issue I really feel, that’s where you see the really good stuff – when I’m inspired by something that’s happening. But when I sit down and try to force something out, that’s where I run into problems.

Your songs are often very lyrical and tell a story. Is that a conscience effort? Do you see yourself as a storyteller?

I think that it all flows organically. I would absolutely consider myself a storyteller. Any good emcee should have the ability to tell a story.

What are the biggest challenges of being a white hip-hop artist?

I think that you know, first and foremost, in 2011 it’s difficult to be an artist at all. There’s going to be comparisons made about everyone. People love to put artists into boxes, ‘This is what this person is,’ or ‘He sings this type of music.’ I understand that, on first glance, people come to conclusions about me. But there are going to be distinctions between me and any other artist that’s out there and I don’t want to have a label put on me. I think there are some people who are going to try and make obvious conclusions about me and other artists who look like me, but it just can’t hold up. Labels don’t work.

Who would you say are your biggest influences? Who’s on your iPod right now?

John Coltrane, that’s about it.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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