by Eric Tullis
Friday, Nov. 9, 2012
On Friday afternoon, several hours before Macklemore’s Friday performance at Cat’s Cradle, he and a female companion sat down across the street for a meal in a secluded corner of the patio at Carrboro gastropub, Milltown. They ate, and Macklemore washed the food down by reading a few pages of the paperback version of Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad. Minutes later, Macklemore hopped on his skateboard and rode down Franklin Street, amid a town full of folks celebrating UNC’s homecoming. This isn’t the standard routine for most visiting rappers, but the 29-year-old Seattle rapper/ singer has amassed a devoted following with his ambitious, hip-hop homilies, not standard rap follies.
A sold-out crowd of Macklemore fans, who’ve personally dubbed themselves Shark Face Gang, erupted as Macklemore opened with his ode to Cadillac-cruising “White Walls” from his chart-topping album with producer Ryan Lewis, The Heist. The song’s studio version features Compton-area rapper Schoolboy Q, but the crowd of mostly white, Generation Z kids who’ve probably seen The Twilight Saga films more than Menace II Society weren’t parsing socio-cultural backgrounds. Macklemore wouldn’t let them.
In fact, he reminded them of just how much he stands for equality before jumping into The Heist’s fourth single, “Same Love”, a song originally made in support of Washington’s Referendum 74, which gives same-sex couples the right to legally marry. Earlier this moth, the referendum was approved by popular vote; three days later, Macklemore brought the celebration here to North Carolina, where same-sex marriage is still not recognized.
Then there was the case of Macklemore’s wardrobe changes: a throwback Seattle Supersonics jersey with his name on the back, a pink rabbit fur coat passed on to the stage from the crowd during “Thrift Shop,” a poncho purchased from an actual Chapel Hill thrift shop, and a purple-and-white-striped cape with a glam-rock wig straight out of the video for the riot-inciting “And We Danced”. None of this seemed out-of-the-ordinary, especially compared to Macklemore’s hypeman—a black, bare-chested trumpeter who ran around the stage waving a giant Irish flag while dressed in nothing but a Scottish kilt.
“You people did a better job than any major label could have ever done,” Macklemore told his fans, thanking them for helping The Heist eventually become the No. 1 downloaded album on iTunes during the first week of its Oct. 9th release. He began chanting the chorus for “And We Danced”: “And we danced/ And we cried/ And we laughed/ And had a really, really, really good time/ Take my hand, let's have a blast/ And remember this moment for the rest of our lives.” Macklemore’s emotionally charged bon voyages are tender enough to captivate and memorable enough to want to be relived.