songs in the world with brand new chart-toppers. Usually,
a producer, almost just like jogging or he
says. just kind of have to start anew, like, I love making
music. dark and I have a pretty good sense of what sucks and
what And gonna make the music that rings true
and honest to us right
To do that, they relied not just on friends and collaborators
who helped them with The Heist, but on some of the people behind doors opened by the success. how Ed Sheeran
appears on and how they scored actor Idris
who played Bell on The Wire, the Commandant in
Beasts of No Nation, the lead in narrate
guess a difference between this album and the last:
I think be able to get [Idris Elba] for The he
says. there is something superdope and special about the
fact that like, Elba on this would be f**king
And Elba did it.
I A LI but Ryan Lewis just wanted to get away
from it all.
He and the hip-hop artist Macklemore had wrapped up a
two-year promotional campaign behind their slow-burning, selfreleased breakthrough album, The Heist. graduated
I A I His parents bought the place
from clubs to theaters to arenas to headlining slots at summer
in Idaho years ago. mom, Julie, says her son was a busy,
music festivals, just trying to keep up as
focused child. Whether it was building a fort or learning an
Hold and conquered radio and YouTube, becominstrument, if it was something he wanted to do, he dedicated
ing mainstays of Internet comment fields and essay factories.
himself to it.
Now it was time for the next step: turning the beats Lewis had
get into too much trouble because he was always
cobbled together on the tour bus into a follow-up album. And,
superbusy with some project that he was interested she says.
from top to bottom, from to Privilege
that he was perfect, because it was a challenge to get him to
the new release, This Unruly Mess Made, is about
do other things that he interested in. He easily got Bs, but
what happens when a couple of white kids from Seattle make a
he could have been a straight-A student. If he interested
blockbuster album in a black genre, when accused of culin what they were talking about, then he could capture enough
tural appropriation and Grammys from black artists.
to get a good
To escape the noise, they set up shop in a cabin in northern
In third grade, he started playing guitar. Julie remembers him
Idaho. It was the first part of 2015 in the dead of winter, and the
losing himself in the instrument for hours on end. In seventh
isolation was one of its selling points. Their crew included
grade, he decided to start a band, so he taught his best friend to
the engineer and cook worked with on The Heist. While
play the bass and sold doughnuts to raise money for gear, like a
they may have topped the pop charts and performed alongside
new kick pedal for the bass drum. But it just music that
Madonna at the Grammys, they liked the people who helped
kept him occupied. He designed T-shirts, a website and promo
them get there and decided to do it again.
flyers for the band, and in college, Julie helped him file taxes for
think a lot to process when you walk out of such
his budding enterprise, which she says earned him just enough
a unique roller coaster like The Heist Lewis says, calling
money to give him some financial breathing room in college.
from where the duo was touring behind Unruly Mess.
Since then, Ryan has codirected videos for his hits with
make sure that grounded, to make sure
Macklemore, from to Hold
that looking for validation in the right
which have done remarkably well in an
places, to make sure that relationally
era when catchy videos can be the difference
opposite: Ryan Lewis as
a boy with his mother,
strong with the team that got you there to bebetween a song being skipped or spun. Having
Julie Lewis; Both Lewises
gin with and, I know, trying to focus on
the skill to make both beats and videos also
in a promotional shot for
all of that stuff and have a good
allowed him to articulate his artistic vision
their The 30/30
Project, which raises money
The album is filled with the challenges
from beginning to end.
to build medical clinics
Macklemore (born Ben Haggerty) are particular songs that you make
in third-world countries
tered after he became the public face of some
and are, like, I can see he says.
affected by HIV/AIDS.
of the biggest hits in the
and some of these other ones,
notably, his slip back into drug use.
I definitely saw a But before Lewis
challenges were more behind the scenes, if
taught himself to play guitar, make beats or
direct videos, he faced a more daunting challenge: His parents
Lewis, 28, is the one who makes the beats. the one
told him that his mother was HIV positive.
who squawked out the sax line (on a sampler, he play the
saxophone) to that made the Washington rap crew
famous. And it was up to him to lay the foundation for what was
AT I AY he appreciate what HIV was as a
to come next. The pressure, he admits, is another But
disease, but he understood that his mom was sick and that she
a for a reason: not just difficult to follow up the biggest
may not have much time left.
76 a a