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The hip hop self-starters Macklemore & Ryan have gone far in a short time: they brought thrift stores to the masses with breakout No. 1 single “Thrift Shop,” released their debut album Heist to a No. 2 spot on the Billboard 200, and came out in support of same-sex marriage with gay rights anthem “Same Love.” Combining Macklemore’s thoughtful, funny verses and Lewis’ expertly crafted productions, their unique take on hip hop has struck a major chord with audiences, but what ultimately makes the duo a success has been their ability to write some of the year’s catchiest hooks. As a performer, Macklemore radiates positive energy and delivers his rapid-fire lyrics with crystal clear precision – Lewis takes a supporting role, cueing the beats, hyping the crowd, and engaging in the occasional crowd surf. The pair are on tour in 2013 in support of their debut album, and tickets are in high demand thanks to their reputation for dynamic, must-see live shows.

The Seattle-based duo first joined forces in 2006 when Lewis became Macklemore’s promo photographer, but the focus quickly shifted to music with the release of The VS. series, which included The VS. EP in 2009 and The VS. Redux in 2010. Their 2013 debut The Heist took three years to write and record, and it shows – from the extensive list of collaborators to the appearance of the Seattle Rock Orchestra, the record oozes originality and craftsmanship. In addition to producing, recording, and mixing all of their recordings, Lewis also directs their music videos, including the video for No. 1 single “Can’t Hold Us,” an epic seven-minute-long mini-film that earned them an MTV Video Music Award for Best Hip-Hop Video. As for the music’s point of view, Macklemore isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo of his chosen genre – from questioning the materialism of hip hop culture in “Thrift Shop” to lamenting homophobia among rappers in “Same Love,” these are songs that embrace diversity and endorse keeping an open mind.