Ryan Lewis was born on March 25, 1988, in Spokane, Washington, eventually taking up photography and music production. After he befriended the rapper Macklemore via Myspace, the two teamed up and later went on to have huge success with their debut album, The Heist, and the singles "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us," with millions of copies sold. Lewis is noted for the act's distinctive, original sounds. In 2014, the duo won four Grammys, including the prize for Best New Artist, and released their sophomore effort This Unruly Mess I've Madetwo years later.
Background and Friending Macklemore
DJ and producer Ryan Lewis was born on March 25, 1988, in Spokane, Washington. He developed an interest in music during his youth, playing the guitar and working in media production. He eventually took up photography as well. He befriended Seattle hip-hop artist Macklemore via Myspace in 2006.
"He recorded a track called 'Welcome to Myspace,' and there wasn't anything like it at the time," Lewis said of his future partner in a 2013 Billboard interview. "No one was writing about meeting women on Myspace or checking your messages over and over again." Lewis worked with the rapper first as a creative consultant. Later, after Macklemore recovered from major substance-abuse issues, the two decided to team up and work together musically.
Releasing 'The Heist'
In 2010, the two released the Vs. Redux EP. Rather than go the traditional record-label route, the duo opted instead to work on their full-length debut independently, relying upon their own savvy, hard work, word of mouth and online buzz. (Lewis is particularly known for having a sharp business acumen and drive that belie his years.) They released The Heist in October of 2012. The album, which is noted for being a hip-hop project that doesn't have any samples and relies on Lewis' original sounds, opened at No. 2 on Billboard's main album charts.
Major Hits: 'Thrift Shop' and 'Can't Hold Us'
The Heist's lead single, "Thrift Shop," eventually reached the top of the Hot 100 chart, with eventual sales of more than 6 million downloads. The video for "Thrift Shop" has become a phenomenon as well, receiving tens of millions of YouTube views. The duo's second single, "Can't Hold Us," reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart as well, making Macklemore & Ryan Lewis the first duo in music history to have their first two singles reach the top of the pop charts.
Part of the duo's appeal is their innovation and reliance on ideas and lyrics that go against much of hip-hop's traditional swagger. "Thrift Shop" talks of a penchant for secondhand clothes, with a chorus sung by Wanz (a onetime software engineer in his fifties), while the Heist song "Same Love" features singer-songwriter Mary Lambert in a celebration of same-sex unions.
The duo embarked on a full-fledged international tour in 2013. The next year the duo won four Grammys, including several awards in the hip-hop category and the prize for Best New Artist. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis released their second album, This Unruly Mess I've Made, in 2016, preceded by Top 20 lead single "Downtown."
In April 2014, Lewis revealed that his mother, Julie Lewis, has lived with HIV for 30 years. In a video posted on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's website, Lewis explained that his mom contracted HIV from a blood transfusion she received in 1984 after giving birth to her daughter. Julie Lewis was diagnosed with HIV in 1990, after she had given birth to two other children, including Lewis. None of her children contracted the virus.
Although Lewis's mother was told she only had a short time to live, she has survived with HIV for three decades. To celebrate her story, Lewis launched 30/30, a project with the goal of building health centers around the world to help others living with HIV.
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