October 27, 2015
Otherside- 2009 Original Version
Otherside-(feat. Fences) [Ryan Lewis Remix] 2010
In Otherside, we find Ben Haggerty ( Macklemore is his stage name) telling a personal story of battling with addiction, pouring his heart out to his fans, begging them to learn from his mistakes. Not many people, especially celebrities, are so real with their lives. We expect them to be perfect, and if they aren't, we gossip and write stories about it. Ben on the other hand, confesses to a past riddled with addiction, living in his parents basement at 25, his only motivation was what his dealer supplied. That takes guts, most people in his position would never be this transparent.
When Macklemore comes up in conversation, the first song people think of is "Thrift Shop" and their first thought in many listeners is, "another rapper with another single that will be forgotten in a week." But as with most stereotypes, this one gets obliterated the more you dig in to his music. We begin to hear the story of someone who lost himself in the industry, and desperately climbs out, testifying that hip hop industry's status quo of "violence, sex, and drugs sell" kill creativity along with the artist.
Surprise, you know the drill
Trapped in a box, declined record sales
Follow the formula violence, drugs, and, sex sells
So we try to sound like someone else
This is not Californication
There's no way to glorify this pavement
Syrup, Percocet, and an eighth a day will leave you broke, depressed, and emotionally vacant.
BAM. He called out the whole industry. He points out the fact that most artists are in the music industry for money and fame. They are willing to follow the formula, become someone else, to sell records. Earlier he says says, "He just wanted to act like them--He just wanted to rap like him. Us as rappers underestimate the power and the effects that we have on these kids." Some of our greatest role models are the artists we listen to every day, whether we intend that or not.
You may have noticed that the title is a reference to "Otherside" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This isn't the only reference to them either, in the second verse, "Californication" is mentioned. "Otherside" deals with addiction, and "Californication" is a critique on the lavish lifestyles of Hollywood. His choice to include these songs is very deliberate and it adds substantial meaning and power to the themes Macklemore is trying to portray. For a detailed analysis of "Otherside" click here and for a closer look at "Californication" click here.
There is so much to unpack in these lyrics. Honestly, I sat for a week trying to figure out the best way to convey all the intricacies of this song, but there comes a time when an artist's words about their song can be more impactful than my own interpretation. Here is a link to an interview with Ben, centered around the themes of this song. I know it is long but I guarantee it will make an impact on you if you watch it.
I encourage anyone who now sees Macklemore in a new light to dig in to more of his music, he covers a variety of themes including consumerism, political criticism, spirituality, and more. To get you started, here is a list of my top 4 deepest Macklemore songs (other than Otherside).
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