The first thing that struck me as Seattle hip-hop vet Macklemore took the stage on Sept. 21 was the new knowledge that the MC is apparently somewhat of a heartthrob with the ladies. The girls behind and beside me shrieked with delight as DJ Ryan Lewis brought out his counterpart, Macklemore, for what turned out to be a stellar set of indie hip-hop on the first day of Rifflandia 5 shows at Royal Athletic Park.
It’s not particularly hard to understand why he’s a hit with his female fan base. He’s a good-looking dude, non-threatening, with a large dose of hip-hop swag: a thrift-shop gangster with a conscience. Macklemore possesses an ability to appeal to different sects of a large, fractured hip-hop community with his lyrics that straddle the worlds of party-life rap and socially conscious hip-hop.
The energy Macklemore brings to stage is nothing short of joyous, buoyed by Ryan Lewis’s endlessly groovy beats and accented by the trumpet of Owuor Arunga. The three men reveled in the adoration of their fans as they rocked to a setting sun.
Despite both Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s obvious enjoyment, the set did touch on the dark side as Macklemore talked to the audience about the dangers of drug addiction before pulling out his hit “Other Side.” Built around a sample of the Red Hot Chili Peppers song of the same name, the song is a serious look at drug addictions and the toll that such demons can take on a personal and professional level.
Macklemore delivered the goods and was cheered on like a champion as he closed up his set with two rousing, crowd-moving dance numbers, though the campy, fake British accent in “And We Danced” was more than a little grating to my ears. I find the accent-faking a touch offensive. I just can’t get down with faking culture.
Only moments after the set, I overheard people in line at the merchandise booth bemoaning the fact that tank tops and t-shirts bearing the names of both Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were sold out. My visit to the booth shortly after brought about the strangest feelings towards the duo. I noticed that a sweatshirt, with nothing more than the names of the duo printed in simple white letters, was selling for $50. I normally don’t bat an eye at merchandise prices at shows as I’ve been to enough of them to understand that specialty items cost more, but that $50 price tag, right after hearing Macklemore rap about thrift shops and the evils of consumerism (“Wings”), was a bit of a tough pill to swallow. Luckily for me, the sweetness that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis dropped moments earlier was the spoonful of sugar to help that pill go down.