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Macklemore Says ‘Intense’ 2020 Relapse Created ‘Darker’ Moments on New Album

Macklemore is opening up about his 2020 relapse. In an interview for The Kelly Clarkson Show, the rapper opened up about the “intense time,” and how it became a “catalyst for art” in his upcoming album, Ben.

“I’m used to a certain schedule of touring, of being gone, of being home, of recovery and being able to go to a physical 12-step meeting. That stopped during COVID. Eventually, I’m on Instagram while being on Zoom and I’m just not really paying attention to the meetings,” he said. “Eventually, and this is what happens when I don’t prioritize my recovery, if I don’t put that first, then I will lose everything that I’m putting in front of it. That’s what happens.”

Macklemore explained that his relapse didn’t last long, but that it was a “reminder” and a “slap in the face” to prioritize his own well-being.

“‘This is your life. You get one of these. What are you going to do with this precious time on this Earth? Do you want to be secretive? Do you want to be hiding?” he remembered thinking. “Do you want to be in the shadows, or do you want to live your life to its fullest potential, get back on it, and be honest?’”

Now, Macklemore is channeling those experiences in his new album Ben, saying that “pain is a catalyst for great art,” and that his relapse created vulnerability.

“I don’t want to inflict pain on myself anymore to make art. It’s not like I need to self-sabotage in order to create, but I think that it created some darker, more honest and vulnerable moments on the album,” he said.

In January, Macklemore released his song “Heroes” alongside DJ Premier, where he raps about the “criminal” heroes he had as a kid growing up.

In an interview with Rolling Stone last year, Macklemore spoke about the collection of songs he’d been working on the last couple years, and how he kept holding the release until he’d be able to properly tour in support of an album. He also spoke about how his seven-year-old daughter has been a helpful critic and editor throughout the process.


“She has absolutely no filter,” he said. “And I’ll go, ‘Maybe she’s got a point. Maybe we don’t need a bridge. Maybe I can re-write that verse.’ There’s just something about that childhood honesty.”

The album — which will mark Macklemore’s first in five years, following 2017’s Gemini — includes the previously-released songs “Chant” with Tones and I, “Maniac” with Windser, and “Faithful” with NLE Choppa. 

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