Macklemore: “The greatest thing I ever did in terms of my career was saving enough money to buy my own equipment. Because it’s one thing to freestyle with your friends and get high and kick raps. It’s another thing to make songs. To cultivate songs. Because those songs figure out who you are as musician. You hear them back. You hear what you are doing well. You hear what you are doing bad. You can grow with that in progress. I think that was the biggest thing, biggest advantage, I had in terms of becoming a musician. Like [being] a professional musician was able to hear myself back and really work on song structure. Not just writing raps but writing songs. That was just because I had my own equipment.
I think that was the biggest thing, biggest advantage, I had in terms of becoming a musician. Like [being] a professional musician was able to hear myself back and really work on song structure.
“I was 15 when I went to Nathan Hale. I didn’t have any money. I sold a little weed and started with a two-track. Went to a two-track to a four-track. Went to a four-track to an eight-track. That was kind of the beginning of it. I started making beats, too. That was another big part was my own production. I couldn’t really rely on anybody. That was the biggest thing—being self-sufficient. I haven’t really thought about it for a while, but that’s basically the origin of kind of what we do now. Just being 100 percent self-sufficient. So we don’t have to rely on other people. I didn’t want to rely on other people. I didn’t want to holler at producers about beats. I didn’t want to buy beats. I didn’t want to work around somebody else’s schedule recording. I wanted to do it on my own. Whenever I wanted to do it.
“I worked at the zoo, actually. [Laughs.] The Seattle zoo. I worked at Burger King and Pizza Hut at the zoo. At the time, I am not proud of any of this, but this is the real story. I used to take money from the cash register. Because my manager at the zoo was like this 40 year old woman who was a huge weed smoker. She used to, you know, take a couple of bills a day. She kinda taught me how to do it and that was kind of my side income in terms of putting that money towards recording equipment. Granted, I am not proud of it. But that’s kind of how I started.
“My dad worked for a company that made office furniture. And there was some sort of like it almost looked like a tiny refrigerator. He brought one of those home. You had to sit down in it. It wasn’t big enough to stand up. And we called it the ‘Hot Box’ because you’d close it. Literally, it was like getting in a refrigerator that wasn’t turned on filled with foam. Fools used to go in there and come out profusely sweating. That where I really started to hone the craft. It was in my bedroom. My parents were super chill.
I worked at Burger King and Pizza Hut at the zoo. At the time, I am not proud of any of this, but this is the real story. I used to take money from the cash register.
“I had that rough couple of years. The fact that I was at home making music even though my friends would walk around the block and get high and come back. At least, we were at home and not like out in public doing dumb shit and getting arrested. They were happy that I was just at home making music. I would do it all the time. I would stay up hella late at night. I go to school off of three hours of sleep and just record. And make just many songs as I could. I was doing graphic arts at the time at Nathan Hale. I was designing my own flyers and designing my own CDs. And kind of just the graphics and the branding of it, that was the beginning of all of that.”