Macklemore Admits to Drug Relapse, Blames Fame: “I Just Wanted to Escape”

Macklemore
Macklemore opened up about his recent drug relapse in Complex magazine.  Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

He can change, if he tries. Macklemore had a big 2014. His breakout album, The Heist, won the 2014 Grammy for Best Rap Album and earned Macklemore and collaborator Ryan Lewis the Best New Artist Award, not to mention their handful of No. 1 singles. 

Afterward the rapper, 32, and Lewis, 27, retreated to their native Seattle, Wash., to work on new music. It was then, while they were trying to craft their new album, that the recovering addict began slipping back into some of his old bad habits. Now the “Thrift Shop” emcee is opening up about his recent relapse in the August/September issue of Complex

“I don’t feel like I’m grown up. I feel like I’m a kid,” he told the magazine. “I feel like I’m the 15-year-old kid down the street, trying to escape, get out of class, smoke weed in the street, and kick it. And that’s a version of myself that I don’t feel that far removed from.”

His most recent relapse, he shared involved taking pills and smoking weed. 

macklemore complex cover
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on the cover of Complex magazine.

“I held it together for a while,” he said. “But, eventually, I stopped going to my 12-step meetings. I was burnt out. I was super-stressed. We weren’t sleeping — doing a show every day, zigzagging all over the country. In terms of the media I was getting put into a box that I never saw for myself. The pressure and the fame — everything. All the clichés, man — like not being able to walk around, having no privacy, and from this TV appearance to this TV appearance, and the criticism, and the lack of connection, and the lack of meetings — all of that put into one pie was just…I just wanted to escape.”

And so he did. Noting that “everyone knew, but they didn’t necessarily know” about his relapse, Macklemore recalled his fiancee, Tricia Davis, finding sleeping pills hidden in his shoe at the SXSW festival, which prompted him to sober up briefly. 

But one day, he said, “I sat in a car, a hot boxed car — I thought that was a good idea — and got high. And then the next day it was like, ‘What’s up with the weed?’ And once I’m there, it’s over.”

The breakout star reflected on how he bargained with himself about sobriety. 

“You know, like, Monday, I’ma stop…. OK. Tuesday, I’ma stop…. OK, f—k it, I might as well go on to the weekend. Sunday, I’m done. But after this bag of weed…,” he explained, calling his actions “sneaky” and “deceitful.” 

Things got particularly bad when he started attending business meetings high and stopped making music with Lewis. 

“I’m in meetings with management with sunglasses on and I’m rolling around like a 15-year-old trying not to get caught smoking weed in my car,” he said. “Straight up, driving all around here, like I was 15 years ago. Same s—t. I felt so dumb. I felt like I’m just wasting time. What am I escaping here?”

Trisha Davis and Macklemore
Macklemore and his fiancee Tricia Davis attend an event in 2014. David A. Walega/Getty Images

It took a major life change for Macklemore to clean up his act. In September 2014 he found out that Davis was pregnant with their first child and started attending his 12-step meetings again. 

“I’ve been trying to grow up this year,” he continued. “Since I heard that Tricia was pregnant, I was like, ‘I need to grow up right now.’” 

His new sobriety has also helped to get the creative juices flowing. 

“The sobriety was the wake-up call that I needed,” he said. “And, as it always works, the minute that I start actively seeking recovery — not just sobriety, but recovery — music is there. It always has been. Songs write themselves. My work ethic turns off-to-on in a second and I get happy again. I get grateful again.”

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