It’s been a compelling career journey for Macklemore, who in the space of five years has gone from the “Thrift Shop” to the summit of the Billboard Hot 100 and performing to almost 80,000 rugby fans Down Under.
But there’s more to the tale than bright lights, brisk sales and the big stage. There’s a feel-good story which got its full debut overnight.
Travis Thompson, one of the rappers joining Macklemore on Wednesday night’s edition of The Tonight Show, graduated through a residency program that the hip-hop star and his regular collaborator Ryan Lewis launched in Seattle in July 2015. The initiative, dubbed The Residency, mentors young artists from low-income families to help them acquire the skills and knowledge needed to carve out a living in the arts.
Through the project, aspirating artists get to participate in a vocal or production track, try their hand at writing original songs, record in a professional studio and perform in a Seattle venue. Or in the case of Thompson, you perform in front of a television audience of millions.
The 21-year-old rapper teamed with Macklemore, Dave B and DJ Premier for a late-night performance of “Corner Store,” lifted from the veteran artist’s second solo album Gemini, which hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and led the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Top Rap Albums charts.
“Ryan Lewis and I helped launch The Residency so that young aspiring hip-hop artists in Seattle have a chance to pursue their passions in music,” Macklemore tells Billboard. “Travis was a standout in the first year of the program, came back in a leadership role the next year, and it’s been incredible to watch him grow as an artist over the last three years.”
Collaborating with Thompson on “Corner Store” and hitting the road with the young talent on the U.S. leg of the Gemini World Tour was “really dope,” Macklemore adds. The next run starts Dec. 22 for the first of two shows in Macklemore’s hometown before he embarks on a tour of Australia and New Zealand in February 2018.
Watch the performance below.