One half of hip hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Macklemore is an American rapper whose 2012 single ‘Thrift Shop’ propelled him to fame. But where did Macklemore grow up?
Macklemore, aka Ben Haggerty, was born in Seattle, Washington and grew up in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood with his parents and older brother. He attended school in Seattle and later enrolled at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.
Read on to learn about Macklemore’s early life and his love for his city.
Growing Up in Seattle
Macklemore was born Benjamin Hammond Haggerty, to Bill Haggerty and Julie Schott. Born June 19, 1983 Macklemore attended school in Seattle, but frequently found himself in trouble, with little interest in schoolwork.
He acted out as a teen, entering into a difficult relationship with liquor, drugs, and petty theft which he referred to, in an interview with Rolling Stone, as “a rite of passage, hormonal changes, trying to fit in, trying to be known”, adding “and liquor didn’t help”.
The devotion to his music ultimately demanded his attention and is where he directed his energy. He first listened to rap music at the age of six, when he heard Digital Underground, and from then on, rap has been his focus.
Making Music in Seattle
When Macklemore was growing up, hip hop was not pop culture. He told The Seattle Times that there were “500 people that were truly coming out to shows and participating in the culture”, a far cry from hip hop’s mainstream influence today.
Coming up as a musician, Macklemore ingratiated himself with Seattle’s spoken word community, and would read his lyrics in the basement of Langston Hughes Cultural Center in the Central District of Seattle. It served as a platform for him to convey his art, in the absence of a vibrant Seattle hip hop scene.
Macklemore told Hard Knock TV that he was influenced by West Coast underground hip hop when starting out. His career began as a solo artist, and he would self release records and distribute his mixtapes, performing gigs in Seattle and at the city’s music festival, Bumbershoot.
He met fellow Seattle musician, Ryan Lewis, in 2006, who worked as Macklemore’s photographer for a while before their music collaboration was formalized with the creation of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in 2009.
Watch Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s hit single ‘Thrift Shop’ in the YouTube below.
Macklemore lives in Seattle with his wife and two children, continuing his work in the city that shaped his career. But his community reach extends beyond his own music.
A Seattle sports geek, Macklemore grew up in a sports-loving family, so when in 2019 he acquired an ownership stake in the Seattle Sounders FC, it really wasn’t a surprise.
His city pride runs deep and Macklemore said of his involvement with the club, “Man, to be part of this organization, having grown up in Seattle – it’s pretty surreal. It’s just very exciting. I’m very honored”.
Seattle born and bred, Macklemore has also taken pains to give back to his artistic community. Reflecting on his younger years spent crafting his art, Macklemore knew he wanted to provide opportunities for other aspiring artists.
He dreamt of creating “a program where youth could come and rap and get outside of their comfort zones and really engage in a community space, one which I felt was lost a little bit from the days of myself rapping in high school”.
True to his roots, Macklemore founded The Residency in 2015, in partnership with Ryan Lewis, The Museum of Pop Culture and the Arts Corp, and the Seattle-based organization “exists to break down barriers to equitable arts learning” and leave a mark on the growing Seattle music industry.
Whilst many stars migrate away from their hometowns when they make it big, it seems that for Seattle, Macklemore is there to stay.