What does a Grammy-winning platinum record artist do during a pandemic when he can’t turn with his music? For Seattle rapper Macklemore, it was for playing golf.
Best Rap Album 2014 has gone from being a fan of the game to someone who has played it himself several times a week for the past three years. (Macklemore currently has an 11 handicap and can be regularly spotted at celebrity tournaments.) Longtime Seattle sports fan who grew up playing baseball (as a third baseman his coaches compared him at Brooks Robinson) and attending Sonics and Seahawks games, Macklemore has since combined his love of golf with his other passion: creation. The rapper recently launched his own line of golf clothing (Bogey Boys) and in September opened a physical store in Seattle, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood where he grew up.
After the opening, Macklemore sat down with SI / Golf to discuss meeting his favorite athletes, his addiction to golf, his commitment to design, and more.
Are you still excited when you meet athletes that you grew up watching or are currently watching?
If I’m being honest there are definitely some people out there like I have to meet Tiger Woods. I’ve met a lot of people I idolized when I was a kid, or even an adult, so I’m not sure if I’m fading exactly. But there are certainly a small handful of people that I would probably be quite struck by if I crossed the road. You know, I had the opportunity to work with Jordan a few years ago, I met Michael Jordan and I watched the basketball game with him. And that was definitely one of those moments where I think to myself, what am I saying to Michael Jordan?
It sounds like way too much pressure. What did you say to him? What did you guys talk about?
I mean, we watched the whole game together, sitting next to each other for over two hours. And the conversation went all over the place. I would have liked to have played golf back then because I’m sure we just wanted to talk about golf. But he and Carmelo were definitely obsessed with high school basketball, which I knew very little about nationally. So I played whenever I could.
When did you realize that golf was such a great passion for you?
I have an addictive personality, go strong at it, and find it hard to balance anything once my mind has curled up in it. It happened quickly with golf. There was this fascination with the first five iron that I hit well, and then I wanted to feel that feeling again. And then it turned into, man, if I could, I would go golf every day.
I went to a driving range once and had a really bad time. It was awful, I kept rocking the club like a baseball bat. How frustrating were those early days of playing yourself and what drew you to the sport?
This makes perfect sense. It’s a game of self-loathing, with tiny bits of love that the golf gods return to you. I played enough par 3 golf when I was a teenager, like when Tiger first started dating. I’ve played enough times in a summer where I sort of had the mechanics. I had this general mechanic that allowed me to fire every 15 shots, to get a good one. And once you have one, once you hit a pure ball, a dopamine shot goes off in your brain. It keeps you coming back. I do not know what it is. It looks a lot like a drug. Golf is weird that way. You hit the ball just once and you want to feel that feeling again.
While playing golf and creating clothes, have you ever worried that your authenticity will be called into question by moving into a space other than music?
In fact, it’s honestly like the first time I really thought about it. Because it’s genuine. I think what a lot of people do is like they say to themselves, okay now I have a platform and this or that brand is reaching out to me saying they will give me an amount Equity X or a percentage if I use my likeness on a t-shirt or a hoodie or that sports drink or whatever, and they have no interest in creativity. It’s literally just a heartless transactional approval behind it.
I spend five days a week until two in the morning creating models or I’m in Los Angeles browsing the fabrics and feeling the tactile differences between this wool-cotton blend and this other wool-cotton blend. I feel like all these little things create authenticity, and that’s a passion. It’s not something I do for the sake of the money. If it’s successful, great, but it literally has nothing to do with why I wanted to get into the lane in the first place. I wanted to go down that road because I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and I’m like these polo shirts are rubbish, they should be better than that.
How much did growing up in Seattle, which has a unique fashion scene, influence the work you do now?
I think we take our life’s work with us when we step into a creative space. It is difficult to quantify my education. Everything I touch has my DNA. My favorite part is getting people to step out of their own comfort zone by realizing that they can step out of khakis and grayscale shirts that we are kind of subjected as golf fans. I want to create unique things, I want to keep pushing the limits and I want to inject my own style into it.
I think if I could do literally anything, it would be designing clothes. How much fun do you actually have to build things from scratch?
I love to do it. If someone has remodeled their home, all the questions that arise are like remodeling, that’s what it is for every item of clothing. There are a lot of decisions to be made for each room. Again, this is a labor of love. We launched this thing, and I had no idea who was going to buy it. And so I was very pleasantly surprised.
What was it like to see your physical store open in the city where you grew up?
I didn’t know the impact I would have left. We worked so hard to get there and so much came together and everyone broke their ass and to finally open up, see a line all around the block. People delighted to discover this new store in a neighborhood where I grew up in a place that will be community-based. It’s a dream to me, and I didn’t even really know it was a dream.
People have said that opening a brick and mortar store in the midst of the pandemic is a financially stupid idea. And I’m like, well, maybe it is. But I believe that what is more important than getting out of the red or more important than making a profit is to create a space where people can come and enjoy the game, enjoy the pursuit of the search for treasure and dig in old stuff in the basement. And I think we executed it very well.