Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' follow-up to their million-selling 2012 debut, The Heist, ran into an unexpected delay: At the height of their success, Macklemore — who has been in recovery for drug and alcohol addiction since 2008 — backslid with weed and pills. "I went in and out of sobriety," says the Seattle rapper. "That usually ends up in creative stagnation." It wasn't until October that he was able to give his full attention to making music with producer Lewis. "When I got back into my 12-step meetings, it was like, 'This is no joke,'" Macklemore says. "'Do you want to make another album, or let go of everything you worked for?'"
You can hear their ambition on songs like "Downtown," an improbably epic ode to the moped Macklemore brought along on their last world tour. "It started as a clowning-around thing, but we kept making it bigger," he says of the song, which ranges through old-school hip-hop (complete with vocals from Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel and Kool Moe Dee), Broadway show tunes and Seventies arena rock. "That one took forever to figure out," says Lewis. Expect some sensitive moments, too, like an emotional ballad with soul singer Leon Bridges and the already-released Ed Sheeran collaboration "Growing Up," which Macklemore wrote for his now-two-month-old daughter. "Ryan really pushed me to get more vulnerable and come to grips with how scared I was to be a dad," he says. "I'm still trying to figure out who I am."