If these two studly Northwest hip hop moguls have not yet had the pleasure of gracing your ears, or your eyes (*wink*), you must’ve been living under a rock for the last year because these guys are on fire. And it’s brilliant. Ben Haggerty is Macklemore, specializing in rapping and being awesome, growing up right here in Seattle’s “proudest” neighborhood, Capitol Hill. Ryan Lewis is…Ryan Lewis, producer extraordinaire, hailing from the less proud, Spokane, WA. And together they are the greatest thing to come out of the Northwest, and to the hip hop industry, in a long time. With the release of their newest album, The Heist, came a lot of much deserved love. The album skyrocketed to number one on iTunes within hours of its release. Their most popular song, Thrift Shop claimed the Top Song title on iTunes, and topped the Billboard Hot 100 for weeks on end. The song also reached number one around the world in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Canada, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand. For the last year, these guys have rocked sold out shows worldwide, and had a hell of a time doing it.
As if all this weren’t enough to make me, all of us swoon (which it’s not, because there are plenty of artists out there who are equally popular, despite my objection); these guys are from Seattle, my home. And might I say they are doing a beautiful job representing our city and the Pacific Northwest in all our kookiness, and our consciousness. Somehow they manage to embody everything that I personally identify with, all wrapped up in a hansom little musical ball of fun – quality lyrical hip hop, live instruments, heavy influence from other genres and other art forms, seductive hooks, progressive messages, comedy, love of Seattle, and a David Bowie jacket! Not many people share the same affinity for David Bowie, specifically as the Goblin King in the movie the Labyrinth, but Ben and I have this in common. Not to mention our common interest in looking fly. His alter ego “Raven Bowie” frequently appears at their shows, doting fabulous capes, bad hair, and a wild, androgynous 80’s British pop star demeanor. Too much fun.
Compare their music to…well, their competition. In today’s mainstream hip hop scene, there’s simply nothing like it. They’re not telling you to go buy a bunch of expensive crap so you’ll be cool and get laid. They’re not degrading women. They’re not talking about partying all night and getting faded. And they’re not just throwing together strings of meaningless metaphors and words that rhyme. In fact, quite the opposite. They’re fighting for marriage equality, fighting for sobriety (Ben overcame his battle with addiction years ago). They’re advocating thrifty shopping habits, and making fun of the current status quo. They’re bringing up enlightened, relevant discussions that are simply not present in the mainstream culture – consumerism, capitalism, greed, equality, bureaucracy, real musicality.
Not only does this dynamic Seattle hip hop duo advocate for progress, they actually live it. They are 100% independent – no record label. They took this from backpack rapping around Seattle, where I first fell in love (I knew they could be great), self-promoting and building a fan base through social networking, to selling out shows around the world. Their most recent project released just last week, the “Can’t Hold Us” video, which they produced themselves. It’s…AWESOME. Creative genius. Featuring the epic journey of The Heist Flag, what seems to be around the world, on a pirate ship, and finally home, waving proudly atop Seattle’s infamous Space Needle. For a beautiful insider perspective, follow Ben’s lovely fiancé, Trisha @baba_g on Instagram.
This is truly an inspiring “indie rags-to-riches story,” and a glimmer of hope for the fate of the hip hop industry. These guys actually helped fuel my desire to become a music journalist, not only their music, but they helped me realize the potential of the Internet and social media! It’s incredible, and for that, I would like to say thanks. The icing on the cake, though, is that they’re actually super nice people. I’ve been to many of their shows, and after each one they stay behind at the venue to meet the fans. I’ve met Ben twice. He remembered me =). They’ve made me so proud to be a Seattleite, fully emerged in its music scene, its progressivism, its weirdness, and its happiness. They’ve also renewed my faith in and love of hip hop. So be on the lookout for these guys (you won’t have to look hard, they’re EVERYWHERE, so many commercials featuring their songs right now). We can be sure to see more great things from them in the future; I cannot wait to see what they come up with next!