Macklemore And Tyler, The Creator Bring Sobriety To Rap

The two rappers couldn’t be more different, except when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

1. Pictured below: Two people who don’t abuse drugs or alcohol.


If you’re a casual fan of Macklemore, chances are you’ve probably heard about his past with drugs and alcohol. It’s part of his packaging as a fun, progressive, conscious rapper. He mentions his past as an addict extensively in his music and in interviews. It’s a part of him in a very real way.

It’s also a part of his fan base. Say what you will about the guy, but he knows how to write an anthem, and he’s written a few about staying sober that have attracted a very unique — and vocal — straight-edge audience.

3. A quick Twitter search pulls up pretty much everything you need to know about how Macklemore fans feel about his message of sobriety:

5. To his credit, his sobriety seems more about him and his choice and less about what others should do.

6. The most heavily tweeted Macklemore lyric about staying sober comes from his song “Starting Over,” off his most recent album, The Heist.

if i can be the exaple of been sober, i can be the example of starting over.- Macklemore

— tomicarniel (@Thomas)

8. His particular brand of “you don’t have to be drunk to party, but you can if you’d like to” sobriety has its detractors, however:

Noisey’s Jeremy Gordon describes the bizarre irony of Macklemore’s straight-edge message practiced live:

When Macklemore takes the stage, he clearly knows his purpose; the ad-libbed requests for the crowd to get really fucking crazy because they are so drunk are capable enough, and cleverly enough he’s slurring his words in the cadence of someone sober who is pretending to be drunk around other drunk people—someone who knows how to play along, how to not feel uncomfortable nor make other people feel uncomfortable for having a legitimately chemical reason to not partake in the imbibing, which is both commercially savvy and philosophically disappointing.

And if you’ve been to a bar in the last six months, you’ve probably seen a sea of absolutely demolished people screaming “Thrift Shop” at the top of their lungs. Whether he plays down his temperance for commercial appeal or because he doesn’t feel like being an alienating prick is still a mystery.

9. Macklemore’s whole conundrum, though, is a perfect snapshot of how tightly connected mainstream hip-hop is to party culture.

10. But Macklemore’s ambivalence to drugs and alcohol is interesting when compared with Tyler, the Creator’s attitudes toward substance use.

The fact the Tyler, the Creator is Straightedge too makes it all the sweeter ( ) #OF #TheEdgeThough

— aaron_frame21 (@Aaron Frame)

i like how tyler constantly talks about how he's straightedge in wolf

— hallucin8tion (@#basedandi)

This guy keeps saying how much he hates Tyler the creator because he's straight edge .... Uh you can leave

— samanthafath (@Samantha Fath)

14. Many casual fans don’t even know that he’s alcohol- and drug-free.

Just found out Tyler The Creator is Straight Edge......I suddenly like him even more

— Chrismis777 (@Chris Hansen)

15. But he opens up regularly about his decision to stay straight-edge on his Formspring.

16. Reading through his answers about it, you get the impression that he’s just a kid who doesn’t want the pressure to do or not to do anything.

17. Macklemore, as a recovering alcoholic, still allows himself to be defined by it. For Tyler, it’s a non-issue entirely.

18. But on his newest release, Wolf, he does open up at least a little bit about it on the song “Domo 23,” which sheds a little light on how Tyler views his sobriety.

And while yall rolling doobies, ill be in my bedroom scoring movies. #tylerthecreator #StraightEdge #OddFutureEdge

— aaron_frame21 (@Aaron Frame)

From “Domo 23”:

And while y’all are rolling doobies
I be in my bedroom scoring movies

It’s important to note that Tyler is straight-edge, which is to say he just doesn’t feel like drinking or doing drugs; Macklemore is sober because he had a serious drug problem. Tyler’s temperance is social; Macklemore’s is medical.

The way both rappers approach substance abuse is different for a few reasons. Mostly it’s that Macklemore’s got seven years’ worth of substance abuse on Tyler, who sees drug use primarily as a distraction to his creativity and a waste of time, rather than a health issue.

And because of that distinction, Macklemore takes a more introspective, measured look at his sobriety with his lyrics. While Tyler can be a big troll when addressing other social issues, his sobriety is a personal choice that he addresses in his lyrics only occasionally.

21. Both rappers are breaking from three decades of hard-partying mainstream hip-hop culture and existing in a strange middle ground.


22. …where they’re making music for partying but abstaining themselves.


23. And it’s hard to say if sober rappers will become more common, but after decades of excess in the hip-hop community, it might not be the worst thing that could happen.

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