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Macklemore’s formative years as a rapper were in New Mexico — Santa Fe to be exact.
Today the Grammy Award-winning rapper — born Ben Haggerty — is one of the biggest names in music and is back with a new album, “Gemini.”
The album was released on Sept. 22 and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart.
The 34-year-old entertainer is in San Francisco at Fisherman’s Wharf with his parents and daughter heading to a children’s museum. The wildfires are making the day smoggy. He took some time out of his day to talk about New Mexico and his career.
“New Mexico has a special place in my heart,” he says. “I went to the College of Santa Fe for a year, spent a lot of time between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. It was a very pivotal time in a lot of ways. Santa Fe was the place where I got good at rapping; just being in my dorm room, not going to many classes and really focusing on my craft. That’s when I felt I was starting to make music that was different than just being in high school and rapping, when I was like ‘I really like this, I wanna listen to this.’ It’s awesome, Santa Fe is the place where I got my fake I.D. taken back in the day, so there’s a lot of love for that place and I always love coming back to New Mexico.”
In 2012, his single, “Thrift Shop,” catapulted him into the mainstream. The single took its time to rise up the ranks, eventually reaching the pinnacle on Feb. 2, 2013. It then spent six weeks in the position.
In 2014, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis picked up seven Grammy nominations. The duo took home four Grammys for best rap album, best rap performance, best rap song.
Macklemore’s life has gotten better in recent years. He is now married and is a father — both changes that have influenced his writing.
He says on “This Unruly Mess I Made,” he had this song with Ed Sheeran called “Growing up.”
“I feel that was a moment where, going into fatherhood, I was very conscious of the type of dad that I wanted to be and who I was as a person,” he says. “On ‘Gemini,’ I was heavily influenced by my family, but I don’t know how much of it made its way into the recorded music. There’s bits and pieces, for sure, of who I wanted to be as a human, as a father and wanting to get better, to progress in life. For the most part, this album was not one that I was like ‘You know what I’m gonna write, my dad song’ or my husband song, it was much more of a ‘in the moment’ process. It was a little bit different than other conceptual topics that I’ve made in the past.”
Macklemore has always done music his own way and developed his signature style.
“For me, the more I make music, the more that I’m tapped in, the more that I’m treating it like something that I wake up to, the better I get,” he says. “In terms of the technical aspect of rapping, and the diversity of sounds, cadence and styles, I would say I’m at the best place I’ve ever been. ‘Gemini’ was an album that was very much based on a feeling and a vibe, whereas my music in the past has been really thought out and conceptualized. This was a different experience. Making something off the top of my head, nothing (but) spending a week writing a song and going through edit after edit, reading it to Ryan and processing it. This was much more about feeling the moment. I’ve gone back to some things, and re-wrote and refined some of it, but I wanted it to be in the present and space spontaneity. There’s songs on there that would probably be under the umbrella of a signature sound, but a lot of them aren’t. That’s why it’s fascinating to be an artist. I don’t want to remake songs over and over again just because that’s what people have known me for, I want to be able to push myself and get different vibes and emotions. Some people will resonate with the new, some with the older stuff, but I need to be happy in my heart if I want to be happy with the finished product.”
“Gemini” has 16 tracks and Macklemore says there were plenty more songs recorded than what made the album.
” … There’s about 30, if not 40. It was difficult, for sure; there are some songs that I really liked that ended up getting cut. I held them all in a special space,” he says. “We hit a certain point in the process where, if we wanted to finish this thing, we had to stop working on some songs and focus on finishing the other ones. I really wanted the world to hear these 16 and we couldn’t keep going. We can always put the other songs out as an EP or a ‘lost tapes’ type of thing. It was challenging to narrow it down because ‘Gemini’ is, sonically, all over the place. The only consistency on the album is the fact that there’s no consistency at all. But that’s the whole idea behind ‘Gemini,’ this duality, these multiple sides and not being boxed in.”