Macklemore is in dad mode.
It was one of the first things I realized when I spent some time with him in Seattle last week.
As we approached his doorstep early on Tuesday, July 28, it was about 15 minutes before our scheduled meeting time of 8 a.m., and the team and I were weary about knocking on the front door too early. But then we heard cries from a baby and we were quickly reminded of what should have been obvious: The new parents inside had probably been up since before the sun.
We spent the early part of that morning walking around the rapper's Seattle neighborhood, with two-month old baby Sloane strapped to his front. He was still a platinum-selling rapper, but in this moment he was just Proud Poppa Ben, strolling cheerfully down the quiet Seattle streets just minutes from where he himself grew up.
Macklemore is also in album mode.
This is something we've known since he first hinted at it last year, and something that also became clear in our time spent together, as he previewed a handful of tracks he and partner Ryan Lewis have been hard at work on in recent months (and that their fans have been restlessly awaiting for longer than that).
It's these two realities merging -- Ben The Dad and Macklemore The Rapper -- that incubated the creation of "Growing Up (Sloane's Song)," a track that he released on Wednesday (Aug. 5).
The track -- which is the first the duo has released in almost three years and features Ed Sheeran -- is an honest and personal moment reminiscent of album favorites like "Same Love" and "Starting Over" in tone, but distinct, of course, in its fatherhood-focused content. It's written like a letter of advice to the newborn.
The writing process happened before Sloane was born, and Ryan helped push Ben to get the track where it needed to be.
"He was like, 'I feel like it's missing some vulnerability. I feel like it's missing a piece of you. Where are you at right now'," Macklemore said during our conversation. "I immediately was just like, Where am I at right now? I'm so scared to be a dad. I don't know what kind of dad I'm gonna be. I don't know if I'm going to let my addiction get in the way of being a good father."
Once he channeled those feelings, as he put pen to pad, lyrics -- and emotions -- started pouring out.
"I wrote the words, 'They say boys don't cry, but your dad has shed a lot of tears,'" he recalled, referencing the track's opening lines, "and immediately just welled up, and it just kind of came."
The verses offer knowing words of wisdom in the form of fatherly advice, while Ed's chorus captures Ben's sentiments of uncertainty: "Times are changing, I know/ But who am I, if I'm the person you become/ If I'm still growing up?"
When it all came together -- Ryan's colorfully melodic and delicate production, Ed's powerful hook, and Macklemore's pointed rhymes -- the result was a point of pride.
"Sloane is a piece of my mom" he said. "And the things that she taught me, I'm gonna pass on to Sloane. And to be able to put that into music in a way that I felt like I captured it is -- it's one of my favorite songs I've ever written."