License article

Rhyme and reason to Macklemore's rapid rise

Metro Theatre, February 11
Reviewers rating 4/5 stars

''WHO had heard of me three months ago?'' asks Ben Haggerty, the MC who calls himself Macklemore, after watching an ecstatic all-ages audience chant flawlessly along to an early handful of tunes from his debut album with producer Ryan Lewis, The Heist.

Many in the Metro pass Macklemore's devotion test by keeping up with the machine-gun rhymes of 2010's comparatively ancient Otherside, but so rapid has been the rise of this duo from Seattle, that it's fair to say most music fans didn't have a clue who they were until late last year.

That changed when the pair's funky jam, Thrift Shop, went viral on the back of a killer hip-hop beat, a simple horn sample and memorable lyric grabs.

Without the help of a major record label, the track raced to No. 1 in the ARIA charts, topped the Triple J Hottest 100 survey and, most recently, hit the summit of the Billboard Hot 100, where it reigns supreme.

Proving he is as confident with his repertoire as he is as a rapper, Macklemore dispenses with both a seismic Thrift Shop and its superior follow-up, the current No. 1 ARIA single, Same Love - a thoughtful, heroic ode advocating gay rights - within the first half-hour.

He keeps energy levels up by engaging the audience with standard hip-hop call-and-response techniques and even a few hilarious disco moves during And We Danced, but the key to the night's success comes down, as it should, to the songs and the performance.

Macklemore sharply delivers his rhymes, while the extraordinary ear of Lewis means the beats and samples swell with rhythm and melody. The whole shebang benefits further from the trumpet blasts (and occasional cymbal bashing) of their charismatic offsider, Owuor Arunga.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis play at the Enmore Theatre, Friday. Their Australian tour has sold out.