How Macklemore Conquered Addiction and Teamed With Rap Royalty for New LP

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Originally Published at http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/how-macklemore-conquered-addiction-and-teamed-with-rap-royalty-for-new-lp-20150910

Photo copyright rollingstone.com

September 10, 2015 – An hour before they took the stage at MTV’s Video Music Awards in Los Angeles on August 30th, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were sure their set was going to be a total disaster. The Seattle rapper-producer duo had just finished the final run-through of the performance — an ambitious outdoor version of their new single, “Downtown,” involving tricky choreography and multiple guest vocalists — and nothing was going right. “We watched the playback, and Ryan was bummed,” says Macklemore. “He was like, ‘Dude, this isn’t good. It’s going to be a s**show.'”

In the end, their first televised performance in more than a year went off without a hitch — but it was a high-stakes moment for more reasons than one. The last awards show Macklemore and Lewis performed at was the 2014 Grammys, where their platinum-selling The Heist beat out Kendrick Lamar and others for Best Rap Album. The backlash that followed was swift and brutal: Many fans saw them as symbols of the advantages that white artists have even in a historically black genre. Last fall, the rapper — who went sober in 2008, but relapsed into drug use during his sudden rise to fame — got clean again, and he says the 12-step philosophy has helped him deal with criticism. “There’s this tendency to be like, ‘Where’s the negative stuff? How valid is the criticism?'” says Macklemore. “But honestly, what people think of me is none of my business. If I live on the Internet looking for public approval, I’m going to be miserable.”

The day after the VMAs, Macklemore is calling from a mountain cabin in eastern Washington, where he and Lewis are putting the final touches on their follow-up to The Heist. “I’m feeling great about this album,” he says. “It has a diversity of sounds and textures and concepts. We’ve been able to take our time with it, and it’s a great feeling to get to that point.”

His relief at having gotten through the VMAs is audible. “It was intense,” he says. “You’re sitting in your seat, Kanye’s giving his speech 10 feet away from you, and you realize how many people are out there watching and commenting and judging and making memes. This Internet culture that we’re in feels so foreign and so strange sometimes. The VMAs, the Grammys, Twitter, Facebook — all of that is artificial. What’s real is creativity.”

The “Downtown” video has been viewed more than 11 million times on YouTube; the song is the result of an 18-month-long recording process that began when Macklemore and Lewis were on tour somewhere in the American Midwest. “Ryan made a beat called ‘Moping Around,’ and I thought it was about mopeds,” Macklemore says with a laugh. He began writing rhymes about the vehicles that he and Lewis had bought to relieve the monotony of life on the road. Lewis took this theme as a production challenge, building “Downtown” into a five-minute epic packed with stylistic detours into Seventies rock, show tunes and more. “We worked at whatever studios were available when we had random ideas,” Lewis says. “There was a long time when I didn’t think I was going to be able to capture what was in our heads.”

RISE OF THE ETERNALS ~ HIP HOP IMMORTALS OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

October 8, 2015 – With the recent launch of the Legacy of Hip Hop exhibit at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) the city has been buzzing with debate about who should top the list of Seattle’s most iconic artists to have represented this genre over the years.

What was most amazing to me as I walked through the MOHAI exhibit was that I saw the names of Bboys that I knew about based on recent performances. Yet, the exhibit had information on them dating back to the early 1980’s.

Because of the vibrant history of NW Hip Hop there will always be heated debate about who was/is/will be the greatest in any one of the 5 elements (Breakdancing/DJ’ing/Rapping/Graffiti/Knowledge). Believe me, it is easy to get pulled into that conversation. However, for purposes of this article I would like to focus on something else; the eternals of NW Hip Hop.

This column lists 10 artists who I feel have never left the game. But have represented the genre for the past 4 decades. I felt like I needed to share the list; because there just isn’t anyone writing about Seattle Hip Hop that actually has any roots in the community.

So here is the list. These are the realest of the real.

Coolout Network. Copyright by Dave Narvaez/Studio Narvaez.

10. Gordon (Music Inner City) Curvey and Georgio (Coolout Network) Brown (1990 – Present)

Element:  Knowledge

Two hip hop historians documenting the going-on’s in the hip hop community for a quarter century. Definitely two different personalities; with Gordon engaging in semi-regular public arguments with just about everyone on Facebook. Meanwhile, Georgio Brown keeps it cool. Constantly building bridges and giving local artists stage time at his annual Coolout events (the 25th of which will be celebrated in 2016!) Georgio recently helped design and promote the MOHAI event; while Gordon was less than impressed with acknowledgement of his contributions.

9. Greg (Funk Daddy) Buren and Derrick (Vitimin D) Brown (1988 – Present)

Element:  DJ/Producers

Are these two the same person? Both broke out around 1988. Both hit the ground running; putting out some major beats and haven’t taken a break in almost 30 years. These two have to share the spot, because both are legendary producers in the Northwest. Funk Daddy (aka Greg B) from Seattle and Vitimin D from Portland.

 8. Ishmael (Butterfly) Butler (1988 – Present)

Element:  DJ/Producer/Rapper

Founding member of Digable Planets. Grammy winner. Currently performing with Shabazz Palaces.

 

Copyright Dave Narvaez/Studio Narvaez.

7. Derrick (Silver Shadow D/Derrick X) Seals (1985 – Present)

Element:  DJ/Producer/Rapper

Member of the seminal Seattle rap group DURACELL. 30 year history of active performances and musical releases. Vast knowledge of Seattle’s music and hip hop culture from the 1990’s. Current member of 206 Zulu.

Copyright Michael Johnson

 

  1. 6. Michael (Edwag) Johnson (1983 – Present)

Element:  Bboy, Rapper

Edawg was a founding member of the Gail Place Rockers (aka Horton hand-spinners) before launching his music career as a member of the Mixalot posse. Edawg has over 30 years in the hip hop game and is a platinum selling recording artist. Currently hosts E’s Way Radio and regularly preforms both past and current hits.

 5. Carter (Fever One) McGlasson (1983 – Present)

Element:  Bboy, DJ/Producer

Founding member of the 1983 Seattle Circuit Breakers as well as a current member of the legendary Rock Steady Crew. Fever still performs in Bboy contests and also currently DJ’s at multiple clubs in Seattle.

Sire One. Copyright by Nathan Hivick.

4. Nathan (Sire One) Hivick (1990 – Present)

Element:  Bboy, Graffiti Artist, DJ/Producer, Rapper

One of the few artists to represent all 4 of the original elements; Sire One has over 25 years of producing music and visual arts that is as fresh today as it was when he began. Still competing in (legal) graffiti art competitions as part of BAM crew, and performing with both North City Rockers and 206 Zulu.

Coolout 20. Copyright by Dave Narvaez/Studio Narvaez.

3. Dave (Pablo D) Narvaez (1984– Present)

Element:  Bboy, Rapper, Knowledge

Founder and current manager of the North City Rockers; a multi-generational breakdance group in North Seattle. Recognized as one of the Northwest’s most knowledgeable hip hop historians and widely respected for his photo documentation of the hip hop community over the last decade via Studio Narvaez. Currently working on music production with Specs Wizard and Sire One.

 

DJ Mr. Supreme. Copyright by Danny Clavisilla.

2. Danny (DJ Mr. Supreme/Supreme La Rock/Preme) Clavisilla (1983 – Present)

Element:  Bboy, DJ/Producer, Knowledge

DJ Mr. Supreme (along with RSC legend DV One) is the current DJ for the Seattle Seahawks. Founding member of the 1983 Seattle Circuit Breakers. Regularly produces music scores for movies & television. Widely considered one of the foremost experts on both NW music and NW hip hop in the world.

Specs Wizard. Copyright Michael Hall.

1. Michael (Specs Wizard) Hall   (1979 – Present)

Element:  Bboy, Graffiti Artist, DJ/Producer, Rapper

Currently produces a line of comic books for Capstan Media/Healthy Bunch. Regular music releases and performances throughout 2015. Featured artist at the MOHAI exhibit.

 Thank you for taking time to read.  I hope you enjoyed the list!  Let me know what you think!  Agree?  Disagree?

10 Biggest Seattle/Tacoma Celebrities

Originally posted at http://seattle.about.com/od/artsevents/tp/biggestcelebs.htm.

Seattle may not be a magnet for entertainers like New York or Hollywood, but with its high quality of life, strong arts culture, and uber-educated populace, Seattle generates more talent per capita than anywhere else.

Let’s count down the biggest names in arts and entertainment (sorry, Bill Gates) to call Seattle home. People like Ray Charles who spent on a brief—but formative—period here are disqualified. These people all came from the Seattle area or spent a large portion of their life here.

10.  Terry Brooks

You probably won’t recognize Terry Brooks in line for coffee, but he’s a rock star of the fantasy publishing world. With 22 New York Times bestsellers and several robust fantasy series to his name, including The Sword of Shannara, he is one of the most successful living writers. Brooks lives in West Seattle, routinely holds book readings in town, and has set large portions of his Genesis of Shannara series in Seattle and the Northwest. With the fantasy genre “hot” in Hollywood today, several of Brooks’ works have been optioned by major studios and may soon make their way to the silver screen.

copyright RollingStone.Com9.  Ann and Nancy Wilson

While these sisters were born in California, their family soon settled in Bellevue. The talented sisters were associated with a few now-defunct Northwest bands before finally forming Heart, the most successful female-led hard rock band of all time, with hits like “Magic Man” and “Barracuda.” After a hugely successful heyday in the ‘70s, the sisters went their separate ways musically a few times, but eventually officially reformed Heart and now tour regularly. The Wilsons have remained an active force in the Seattle music scene and greater community.

8.  Dave Matthews

Although the alterna-crooner was born in South Africa and earned his musical chops in Virginia, he’s called Seattle home for over ten years now, and is probably Seattle’s most frequently sighted celeb. He’s a regular at certain restaurants near his Wallingford home (no, I can’t tell you which ones) and his twin daughters attend school here. While many years have him on the road with his band-mates he has stated unequivocally, “This is my home now.”

7.  Frances Farmer

Her name may not ring any bells among younger readers, but for a few brief years Farmer was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Farmer was born in Seattle in 1913 and went to West Seattle High School before becoming a sensation at the University of Washington School of Drama. She quickly became a major star in the late 30s, appearing in such hits as Rhythm on the Range (with Bing Crosby) and Come and Get It. Despite her breakaway success, Farmer always bristled against the Hollywood lifestyle. Soon she became more famous for her struggles with mental illness and her precipitous fall from grace (for a time she worked sorting laundry at the Olympic—now Fairmont—Hotel in Seattle).

6.  Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones may not be thought of as a Seattle musician, but the all-time great composer, producer, and arranger grew up in Bremerton and attended Seattle’s Garfield High School. Jones went on to have one of the most broadly successful careers in music history, receiving Oscar nominations for films scores, and worked with a “who’s who” of 20th century pop music, including Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and, most famously, Michael Jackson. While his musical career has taken him away from the Northwest, Jones has returned numerous times, accepting awards from his alma mater and the Northwest African American Museum.

5.  Kenny G

This titan of smooth jazz was born Kenneth Gorelick in Seattle and attended Franklin High School. After graduating from the University of Washington, Kenny G quickly became a successful jazz instrumentalist (playing with Barry White on tour) and eventually recorded his own work. His massive, multi-platinum success was unprecedented for an instrumentalist, Kenny G not only dominated but expanded the audience of smooth jazz. While his slick sound has inspired innumerable detractors, he has sold over 70 million records and continues to be a popular performer.

Copyright RollingStone.com
Copyright RollingStone.com

4.  Kurt Cobain For an entire generation, Seattle and Kurt Cobain are almost synonymous. The Grunge movement Cobain led in the early 90s shot Seattle to a cultural prominence it had never enjoyed before. Cobain grew up in the logging town of Aberdeen, and was drawn into the burgeoning 80s punk-rock scene in Olympia and Seattle. Cobain formed Nirvana with fellow Aberdeener Krist Noveselic, and soon channeled his uncanny command of melody and adolescent rage into huge rock hits like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and radically transformed rock music in the process. After marrying fellow grunger rocker Courtney Love, Cobain moved to Seattle where he lived with his wife and child until a struggle with depression, stomach pain, and heroin led to his suicide at 27.

3.  Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix’s three years of stardom are among the most influential in the history of pop music. He was born in Seattle and attended Garfield High School. His first gig was in the basement of a Seattle synagogue, Temple De Hirsch. Hendrix later toured with the Isley Brothers and then went to London, where he became the singer-songwriter-guitar-phenom that launched him to worldwide fame. Hendrix ushered in a heavier guitar sound into the psychedelic rock world, and also inspired R&B acts to incorporate more rock elements into their sound. After his untimely death due to alcohol and sleeping pills, Hendrix was buried in Renton, Washington. Seattle’s Experience Music Project was largely built to honor Hendrix’s legacy.

2.  Bruce Lee

Those only casually familiar with the martial arts great may assume Lee was born in Hong Kong or China. In fact, Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco and spent seven critical years (from age 19 to 26) in Seattle. He worked in a Chinese restaurant on Capitol Hill (now since demolished), attended Seattle Central Community College and the University of Washington, taught his unique brand of martial arts in various city parks and at his own studio in the U-District, met and married his wife Linda Emery here, and was ultimately buried here. Indeed, Bruce’s well-tended grave in Capitol Hill’s Lakeview Cemetery is a major destination for his enduring legion of fans.

 - © Bing Crosby Enterprises1.  Bing Crosby

38 number one singles. The top-selling musical act for two straight decades. A break-out movie career that followed. Over a half a billion records sold. Who could this be? Michael Jackson? Elvis? No, it’s Tacoma’s own Bing Crosby. Bing was born in Tacoma in 1903 and later attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, where he formed his first jazz band. While he spent most of the rest of his life in Hollywood, Crosby always held a fondness for the Pacific Northwest and returned here numerous times.
Bing Crosby in Vancouver. © Bing Crosby Enterprises

 

Originally posted at http://seattle.about.com/od/artsevents/tp/biggestcelebs.htm.

COMMUNITY POSTINGS WARN OF DANGER; ASK MAYOR FOR EQUAL REPRESENTATION

  WN CD

October 3, 2015, Saturday evening drivers entering Seattle’s CD and Rainer Valley were greeted with hundreds of warning posters alerting them to dangers in Seattle’s Central District and South End of town.  The large red print on a black background shouts “Warning!  Entering the Central District!” and “Warning!  Entering Rainier Valley!”

While on the other side of the posters; drivers leaving these areas were greeted with a bright and colorful sign reading “Welcome! Now exiting the Central District/Rainier Valley!”

WLC CD

Members of Equal Representation Now say that the problem of youth on youth violence in the area is being overlooked by city officials and are asking for equal representation in regards to city policy.

In the summer of 2014 neighborhoods in these areas saw an unprecedented rise in youth on youth violence and murders, with almost daily reports of gun fire and nearly 20 youths murdered at the hand of other children.  Summer 2015 we saw the continuation of this violence with multiple murders, and much like the previous summer most going unnoticed by local media.

The organizers of tonight’s event note that in other areas of the city our leaders react differently to violence and threats of violence.  “On Capitol Hill the reaction to threats of violence was to put together a task force, engage LGBTQ leaders, and even go as far as to paint crosswalks to show solidarity and that (the threat of) violence would not be tolerated.”  We applaud the City’s quick action in this case of the verbal threats and harassment on Capitol Hill. However, the African-American community in Seattle is actually losing lives; and we are being told that the find-it-fix-it campaign is enough.”

The East African community in Seattle has community leaders that represent themselves and hold advisory positions in the Mayor’s office.  The LGBTQ community has leaders from the LQBTQ community that hold advisory positions in the Mayor’s office.  Yet when it comes to the African-American community we are told that adult AA males who were born and raised in these very neighborhoods are not best suited to advise on African-American youth in the area.

In 2014 the Mayors Office was presented with a proposal for the creation of an Office of Inner-City Affairs to help address the problem of youth violence Seattle’s CD and Rainer Valley.  The proposal was rejected as City Hall felt that there were adequate programs in place to address the issues; despite the evidence that youth-on-youth violence was escalating.IMG_20151003_185739

Organizers of tonight’s event hope that this display will be the catalyst to start people asking why there is not equal representation of communities in the Mayor’s Cabinet; and that maybe the Mayor will take another look at the previous proposal.

“We posted these signs because people need to know what they are driving into.  These neighborhoods are not safe.  There is a much greater chance of being shot and killed in this area than in any other part of Seattle.  Especially if you are a young, African-American male.”

“There are a lot of things that City Hall deals with on a daily basis; but few are truly a matter of life and death. When we see true leadership in the area from grassroots community groups such as Rose Prayer Ministries, B.U.I.L.D., and others it gives us hope.  But these voices need to have the Mayors ear!“

Reaction to the signage has been mixed, with mostly positive support for addressing the issue of youth violence and the loss of life in the African-American community.  However, there are some who disapprove of the message and have started their own campaign of removing the posters.

-JP Scratches