Macklemore: "I'd rather take my time and put out something I'm truly proud of."

Macklemore, one of the headliners at this year's Westword Music Showcase, is playing two sold-out shows at the Fox Theatre this week, on Wednesday, April 11, and Thursday, April 12. The rapper and Seattle native, also known as Ben Haggerty, has truckloads of momentum right now. From being featured in the Source's Unsigned Hype column to being included as a member of XXL's prestigious freshman class for 2012, the MC's stock is most definitely on the rise.

Set to release a new album this year, Macklemore and his collaborator, producer Ryan Lewis, with whom he's fostered a fierce chemistry, decided to forgo SXSW this year in order to focus on the record. We caught up with Macklemore on the heels of a performance in New York City with the rest of XXL's freshman class to get some insight into why he chose to sit out SXSW.

Westword: The most talk about SXSW this year is how huge it was compared to other years, with performances by titans Jay-Z and 50 Cent, for example. Why, on arguably one of the most standout years to participate, did you choose to forgo your trip?

Macklemore: The decision not to go to SXSW this year was really one based on balancing all the work I knew needed to happen in order to put out an album this year, and what it would be worth to be down in Austin. It's a fun time, and I always enjoy all the shows and music that goes along with it, but in the long run, we needed that time to put in work with the new project.

The timing is crazy around you right now because you're so hot in the streets -- XXL, The Source. Do you feel rushed to put out a project?

You know, I wish I knew how to put out a project or a mixtape or an album every month and have it truly be a great piece of work. Artists who can do that, it works great for them. For me, though, and the way my process works, I like to put in the time to make each element match my creative process. Putting together an album, it's not easy. Some days it's like the worst thing ever. I feel like nothing I wrote is good enough, nothing is working out, and then once you get over that hump [laughs], the uphill battle is over. It's a roller-coaster ride.

An interesting perspective considering how much microwave rap is out there.

Yeah, people tend to want what's quick and easy to them, but for what I know I have to offer, I'd rather take my time and put out something I'm truly proud of. Working with Ryan [Lewis], we just get better and better the more music we work on and produce. I feel good about where we're going and what the plans are for future material.

You're been crazy busy, right? I'm sure your schedule has been blowing up since the XXL Freshman class and the Source's Unsigned Hype news. Everybody loves you.

[laughs] Yeah, I've been working on balancing everything and making everything work between shows, interviews and also working on the album. For me, that's first priority right now. It feels really good to receive those accomplishments and the props, most definitely.

And you're still in the studio with Ryan Lewis, right? Is the chemistry between you two as producer and MC as hot as ever?

Absolutely. Ryan Lewis is handling all the production for the record. We've worked together for so long, we've built a great relationship throughout the whole album process. We're both on the same page in terms of making sure we put out something great that we can both be proud of. It's definitely an exciting time to be making the music we want.

Have you been inundated with the whole "white conscious rapper" bag yet?

You know, not from the media so much as a lot of the fans like to make those comparisons. If you check my Twitter feed right now, you'll see at least a dozen people talking about this white rapper or that white rapper.

Any XXL Freshman you'd like to work with? A Danny Brown/Macklemore collaboration would be crazy.

Yeah, he's definitely someone I'd love to work with. At first I didn't think I could get with an entire album of his stuff because his voice is just so crazy. After getting more into it, I love the guy, and his rhymes are just so ill.

Catch Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at this year's Westword Music Showcase. Pick up your tickets now for just $20 if you haven't already.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, with MTHDS, Xperience and Shelton Harris, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 11 and Thursday, April 12, Fox Theatre, 1135 13th Street, $17-$20, 303-443-3399.

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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