Luckily for Macklemore and his fans, the stage is where he feels most at home. He confesses it's always been that way and that walking out in front of that audience brings out the best in him.

"I strive as a performer to showcase all aspects of myself. I want to take you on a roller coaster of what it is to be me," he says. "I want to have songs that make you cry. I want to have songs that inspire you. I want to have songs that uplift and turn the crowd out and start a dance party. I want to have everything in between, and I want to do it in a way that includes the audience. They are not watching the show; they are the show."

To both the rapper and his production partner, the live Macklemore & Ryan Lewis show is the most important aspect of their jobs, aside from the music itself. It's part of their commitment to hip-hop's communal roots.

These dudes don't front.
John Keatley
These dudes don't front.

"If you want to show support to an artist, for me, the biggest way is to come out to a show," Macklemore insists. "You're there, you're participating, that's what hip-hop culture is about. This culture started in parks and on street corners and with people actively participating. There was a vibe, an energy, and individuals telling stories. That is the oral tradition. That is where this art comes from.

"What technology has done, it's made us participate from the outskirts of it," he notes with some disappointment. "Just because you download an album does not mean that you're participating in the culture, and that to me is sad. You can't prevent it, but if you want to be an active participant in hip-hop culture, you have to get off the couch, go to a show, and experience the live element of it. That's the only way."

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