How did Macklemore get his name?

Macklemore GQ

You might think you don’t know who Macklemore is, but I’ll bet you’ve heard (and loved) his song “Thrift Shop.”

In the hip-hop world, where boasting about brand names, expensive cars, and jewelry in rap is the norm, Macklemore is a breath of fresh air, especially with his awareness of social issues such as the economy, voting, and gay rights. He’s is a 29-year-old rapper from Seattle who has been making music for over a decade, and in a recent interview with MTV, Macklemore cleared up some questions about his professional and personal life.

The first thing to know about him is even though he may have reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, he really does shop at thrift shops. In fact, that’s how he got his nickname.

Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, told MTV, “When I was 17 I was living in Brooklyn, NY for the summer. I was young, creative, boney and drunk a lot of the time. I use to go to thrift shops and buy the most flamboyant plaid outfits. On some Prince meets Bob Barker meets your grandpa meets Matt Lauer on sherm. When I’d go out in the city and kick it, I would dress up in these garments. When I did this I was known as ‘Professor Macklemore.’ Later, I realized that I wasn’t a professor of anything but the name Macklemore followed me.”

In an interview with Hard Knock TV, Macklemore describes the hip-hop scene where he grew up in Seattle as “amazing” and says “there’s a lot of great music coming out of Seattle that the rest of the nation isn’t necessarily privy to.” Macklemore says he is influenced by West Coast hip-hop and grew up listening to Freestyle Fellowship, Aceyalone, Living Legends, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and Talib Kwali. He earned a bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College and worked at a program called Gateways for Incarcerated Youth, where he facilitated music workshops.

Macklemore went to rehab in 2008 for drug and alcohol addiction. Perhaps one reason his music is socially conscious is because he spent many years trying to move past his addiction problems. In a documentary entitled Jabari Presents: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, he says, “The simple answer is that I’m an addict. Like, it was like that with drugs, it was like that with women, it was like that with material objects, it’s always been this all-or-nothing type of thing.” He goes on to say, “I want to be somebody that is respected, and not just for my music. I want to be respected for the way I treat people, the subjects in which I choose to address in my music, and not because I’m trying o make records about them, but because that’s what’s important to me.”

The rapper wants to use his voice and newfound celebrity to talk about issues that really matter. He takes his role as a public figure seriously, and knows he has a social responsibility to discuss issues he feels passionate about, such as voting. He says, “It’s our right to vote and stand for the issues we believe in.” One social and political issue that Macklemore feels strongly about is gay marriage; his song “Same Love” addresses his support of gay marriage. The idea behind writing and releasing the song was his frustrating with the rampant homophobia and misogyny that he was exposed to in the world of rap; he said in an interview to Studio 360, “Those are the two acceptable means of oppression in hip-hop culture…. It’s 2012. There needs to be some accountability. I think that as a society we’re evolving and I think that hip-hop has always been a representation of what’s going on in the world right now.”

The song “Same Love” from the perspective of a gay 13-year-old boy, after his mother sent him a heartbreaking article about this same young man’s suicide, which resulted from him being bullied at school for being gay. Even though Macklemore is not gay, he felt strongly enough about issues of marriage equality and tolerance to pen a song in support of gay marriage. His exposure to gay rights and issues of equality comes from having gay relatives and having lived in a liberal area of Seattle. He told MTV, “You can only watch injustice go on for so long until you’re compelled to say something. To speak out against it. I read an article about a 13-year-old kid who committed suicide because he was ridiculed at school over being gay. That was it. I had to say something.”

Don’t get your hopes up ladies: even though he might sound like the perfect man, Macklemore is off the market. He got engaged to his girlfriend of seven years, Tricia Davis, on January 21, 2013. He says, of his fiance, “She also stunt doubles as our tour manager and runs our merch business. She is beautiful, challenges me to be of service to others and makes me laugh. She is one of the more creative people I know. That is so important. She encourages my art and knows that it starts with me being good with my connection to the universe.”

(Photo via GQ)

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