Macklemore On New Single 'Chant,' Life After 'Ultra A-List Success' - Rolling Stone
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Macklemore on His ‘Rebirth,’ Sobriety Challenges, and Life After the ‘Ultra A-List’

“As much as it’s awesome to walk in the airport and see your face staring at you on the cover of Rolling Stone, it also had a downside,” says the Seattle rapper as he releases his latest single

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Macklemore

Jake Magraw

The video for Macklemore’s new single “Chant” begins with the rapper rising out of a misty lake and directly addressing his deepest insecurities. “They told me that I vanished,” he raps in his opening lines. “They told me that I had it/They told me that I’m gone…They can’t take my talent/They can’t take my stripes.”

This might be a surprising sentiment for an artist who’s racked up billions of streams over the past decade, headlined huge concerts all across the globe, and won major awards. But it’s been five long years since his last record, the commercially underwhelming Gemini. During that time, he endured a brief relapse after 16 years of sobriety, along with the lingering effects of his split with longtime producer Ryan Lewis, and the backlash they faced after beating out Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Album in 2014.

“This song is a bit of a rebirth,” Macklemore tells Rolling Stone from his home in Seattle. “I wanted to challenge myself, get through moments of writer’s block, and capture the spirit of what it’s like to overcome something, push through it, and get up the next day and do it again.”

“Chant” is the first preview of a project Macklemore has been working on since shortly before Covid hit, working largely out of his house. He originally hoped to get music out years ago, but he couldn’t imagine putting songs out that he couldn’t play in front of an audience. “Songs belong to everyone once you put them out in the world,” he says. “The best way to experience that with people is to get in front of them and watch them sing the words back to you. There’s no better feeling as a performer. I didn’t want to put out an album where I couldn’t do that.”

The extended hiatus gave Macklemore the opportunity to fine-tune every song, and get detailed notes from his seven-year-old daughter, Sloane. He’s poked fun of her merciless honesty in a series of TikTok videos, but he says she’s equally blunt when the camera is off. “She has absolutely no filter,” he says. “And I’ll go, ‘Maybe she’s got a point. Maybe we don’t need a bridge. Maybe I can re-write that verse.’ There’s just something about that childhood honesty.”

@macklemore

Sloane hears my song for the first time 😂 #nextyear

♬ Next Year (feat. Windser) – Macklemore

Early on in the recording process, he saw Australian singer/songwriter Tones and I perform at the Showbox in Seattle. “I was just floored with her performance, with her as a human, her music, her voice,” he says. “I left inspired and excited to make art. We had been working on ‘Chant’ for a while. When it got down to figuring out who was going to sing the hook, she was first person that popped into my head.”

The song touches upon key moments in his past, including a scary pre-fame experience with drugs that nearly ended his life. He’s very involved in the recovery community, and he’s been open about a recent relapse. “For me, the most important thing to learn in recovery is that I’m powerless over drugs,” he says. “The disease is insidious. It’s constantly telling you lies in order for you to go off and go, ‘You know what? I think the best thing for me is to go off and get high’ — knowing damn well that’s the thing that kills me. That’s the insanity portion of the disease.”

He’s not ready to discuss any of the other songs he’s been working on in detail, but he does say that one of them is produced by Ryan Lewis. The duo split apart in 2017 after a decade of steady work together so they could have “creative space.”

“We needed a break,” says Macklemore. “We were together damn near every day for that decade. That’s intense. And we’re so comfortable with each other, so honest with each other, that it can be daunting. We needed some space, both of us. He was the one that initiated it in the first place. I was kind of at the time like, ‘Oh my God. What am I going to do? This is nuts.'”

He remembers telling his wife he didn’t know how he could carry on creatively without Lewis by his side. “I said, ‘What am I going to do?” he recalls. “She said, ‘What you’ve always done. Go downstairs and make art. This is not complicated for you. This is what you do. This is your craft. Go down and exercise it.'”

That led to his 2017 solo LP, Gemini. It didn’t sell as many copies as his two albums with Lewis, or generate any hits nearly as big as “Thrift Shop” or “Same Love,” but Macklemore says he truly didn’t care. “It was the perfect amount of success for me to live a normal, healthy life,” he says. “As much as it’s awesome to walk in the airport and see your face staring at you on the cover of Rolling Stone, it also had a downside. I want to make art that I believe in. I want to be able to tour this art. But do I need this ultra A-list level of success to be happy, or does that actually equate to my drama in my life? It was confusing. It was challenging.”

With Gemini, he continues: “It was the beginning of ‘You know what? I made great art. It can be successful at this level, and this is perfect.'”

He’s kicking off a tour in early August where he’ll open up for Imagine Dragons at amphitheaters and stadiums across North America, and looking forward to playing to fans that may not be familiar with his music. “I love that challenge,” he says. “I love getting in front of people that you actually have to work for their respect. That’s where your craft gets polished. That’s where you get tested.”

Right now, he’s focused on his work as the co-owner of the Seattle Sounders soccer team and the Seattle Kraken hockey team, plans for the 10-year anniversary of The Heist later this year (“Ryan and I are planning some fun things”), and plotting out a headlining tour that will keep him on the road throughout 2023. “We’re not going to let up,” he says. “There’s too much music to put out. This is just the start.”

In This Article: Macklemore

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