Beyond the Mic: Macklemore Artistic Influence in the Graffiti World

Fact: Macklemore art of graffiti and abstract painting is a way for him to ground. Struggling with substance abuse, Macklemore used his artistry as therapy.

macklemore art

Macklemore, the renowned American rapper and musician, has captivated audiences with his thought-provoking lyrics and infectious beats. Beyond the stage, however, lies a lesser-known facet of his artistic journey — his passion for painting. For Macklemore, painting serves as a form of therapy and a creative outlet, providing solace and inspiration in a world often filled with chaos and pressures of fame. 

Before he rose to stardom, Macklemore’s artistic journey began with the written word. At an early age, he started writing lyrics, using poetry as a means to express his emotions and observations about the world around him. As he grew older, his creative instincts expanded, and he found himself gravitating towards visual art, particularly painting.

As a kid, Macklemore graffiti was his art form, it was a big part of his middle school, and early high school era. One of the artists that made a huge impact on his career was Jean-Michel Basquiat, a legendary graffiti artist. He evens raps a verse about him in his song “Ten Thousand Hours.”

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great because they paint a lot

Ten Thousand Hours ~ Macklemore

macklemore paintings

Macklemore had some teachers that resonated with him. One of which brought spray paint to school so that the students could spray paint the desks. Even though it was something of taboo, and something that shouldn’t be done outside of school, illegally, this teacher was using a different form of approach. Instead of it being a punishment, finding a solution or an outlet to allow the students to release. When speaking to ET Online, he said,

“I had some great art teachers. And, being honest, I wrote graffiti as a kid and it was a big part of my middle school, early high school era. I had a teacher that brought us spray paint and had us spray paint on the desks. Just kind of that different type of approach was really big, not just saying, ‘You kids can’t do this,’ but, you know, ‘You kids can’t do this, how about we figure out a solution to it versus just a punishment.’”

Macklemore’s preference for abstract art is emblematic of his approach to both music and life. Abstract art allows artists to convey emotions, experiences, and ideas without being bound by the constraints of realism. For Macklemore, this form of expression opens the door to unfiltered exploration of his thoughts and feelings.

In his earlier years, the rapper grappled with substance abuse, a struggle that eventually led him to seek sobriety and rehabilitation. During this transformative period, painting became an essential tool in his recovery process. Through abstract art, he could externalize his inner turmoil and delve into the depths of his soul. The vibrant colors, fluid shapes, and dynamic textures mirrored the emotional landscape of his journey to healing.

Macklemore paintings love is not confined to a private studio; it has found its way onto his public persona as well. The rapper has showcased his artwork at the Seattle Art Fair, sharing his talent with fans and art enthusiasts alike. By bringing his paintings to a public platform, he provides a glimpse into the intimate relationship between his visual art and his music.

Incorporating his passion for painting into his musical career, Macklemore the rapper has co-directed music videos for some of his songs, infusing them with abstract visual narratives that resonate with his lyrics. This blending of two art forms allows him to create a multi-sensory experience for his audience, inviting them to explore the intricate connection between his music and paintings.

For many artists, creativity serves as a form of therapy, a way to process emotions and transcend challenges. Macklemore art is no exception. Painting serves as an emotional release and an opportunity to address the complexities of fame and public scrutiny. By immersing himself in the act of creation, he finds moments of peace and clarity, away from the demands of the limelight.

In interviews, Macklemore has spoken about the meditative quality of painting, how it helps him find balance amidst the chaotic lifestyle that often accompanies his success. Engaging with his canvas allows him to distance himself from external pressures, helping him connect with his authentic self and maintain a sense of groundedness.

In fact, in 2014, Macklemore the rapper has the opportunity by The Bernard Shaw to tag up their walls with some graffiti, and this happened the right before he was to perform in fron of the biggest crowd he has ever had of 37,000 in Dublin.

macklemore the rapper

Macklemore’s passion for painting has had a profound influence on his music. The abstract nature of his artwork has seeped into his songwriting, leading to a poetic and metaphorical approach to his lyrics. The symbolic language of his paintings often finds its way into the metaphors he employs, adding depth and layers to his music.

Songs like “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” showcase his ability to weave vivid imagery into his rhymes, a skill perhaps honed through his exploration of abstract art. The fusion of the visual and auditory realms enhances the emotional impact of his music, allowing listeners to experience his songs on multiple levels.

Macklemore’s relationship with painting is one of continuous growth and evolution. Just as his music has evolved over the years, so too has his art. As he experiments with new techniques and styles, his paintings become a reflection of his personal growth and introspection.

Macklemore’s love for painting as a form of therapy and creative outlet offers a profound insight into the depths of his artistic soul. Beyond his catchy tunes and thought provoking lyrics, the rapper’s abstract paintings reveal an artist on a journey of healing, growth, and self-discovery. By sharing his passion for visual art with the world, Macklemore paintings reminds us of the transformative power of creativity and the infinite possibilities that lie within the canvas of human expression.

This creative outlet was important in building the foundation and creativity that we see now. Now that he has kids, he wants to give them every outlet and possibility to help them grow and use their wonder and creativity. He has that power now and has even has had the honor to nurture the less fortunate. He has teamed up with LIFEWTR to assist schools in Miami, Boston, Chicago, to name a few, to build keep or build their art programming.

He says,

“I got behind the campaign because it deals directly with youth and creativity,


Macklemore Talks Arts Education, Dad Life and His Return to the Studio (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight. (2019, March 14).

Perpetua, M. (2013, May 3). Macklemore Raps About Being Inspired By Basquiat. BuzzFeed.

Lamarre, C. L. (2014, July 14). Macklemore Shows Off His Graffiti Skills – XXL. XXL Mag.

Macklemore Talks About Bringing Art Back to Schools. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2023, from

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