The Gospel According to Macklemore: Otherside

The summer after I graduated high school, additional adult responsibility crashed upon me like raucous ocean waves upon a rocky shore. I spread my energy between a retail sales job, being a cattle ranch-hand, running my neighborhood lawn care service, volunteering with music and small group community life with my church, and squeezing in precious summer memories with friends. With the approaching autumn season, I anticipated the great changes my life would face upon starting my collegiate career. This would be the big-time, the real deal.

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There were a few occasions to break the routine, to seize final opportunities with valuable people of my home town before I was whisked away in the grip of adulthood. One such respite was a week-long venture to Milwaukee, Wisconsin with my church’s youth group to participate in a missions trip called PowerPlant. PowerPlant is designed to give students scriptural understanding of the kingdom of God by engaging them in church planting, which some say is the most effective form of evangelism and discipleship across the globe. Church planting seemed so mysterious and foreign, even for those of us who had grown up in evangelical Christian circles. So a couple dozen of us went to Milwaukee to learn and to serve with some of the young, start-up churches.

My friend Nate had told a few of us about PowerPlant when he signed up to be on the traveling staff team for the organization that ran the event. I tended to trust Nate’s opinion, as he and I had grown in friendship during my junior and senior years through our shared interests in guitar, hardcore music, and late night theological discussions. He often asked honest, visionary questions and commented on topics with references from books he had read, or leaders in ministry he admired. During that time, I dove into reading books and magazine articles like I never had before, a whole new world of knowledge and wisdom offered for my digestion.

Crossing Paths

The week of PowerPlant was eye-opening. Who knew that such a “new, cool” way of ministry like church planting could thrive in cities all over the nation? As we discovered through the teaching sessions, planting churches was actually an ancient, biblical necessity for the early Church to multiply itself, to live and serve with Jesus, on mission, loving the city and loving God.

One of the staff team members in Milwaukee’s PowerPlant was Josh Martin, a guitar-slinging worship leader from Texas who eagerly spoke of his love for Jesus and the Church. Josh’s inclination for leadership and music reminded me of Nate, so it was natural to look up to him. Josh and I chatted and played a few chords on guitar together. He told me to keep playing music. I admired his affection for Jesus. I was challenged by his love for the Church. I admired the way he led students in a worship experience, using his voice and lone guitar to craft the melodies with which we responded to God’s grace and truth. I got the sense that he was really a leader, a visionary of sorts. Perhaps I could learn more from him, perhaps we would cross paths again in the future. I befriended him on Facebook as soon as I got home.

Under the influence of both Nate and Josh, the three summers after I went to Milwaukee, I signed on to be a worship leader with PowerPlant. That autumn, I joined Nate and the leadership team for a church plant in Minneapolis. Last spring, I visited the church plant for which Josh is the worship pastor, in Pullman, Washington. I only see Nate and Josh a couple times a year now, but I keep up with them via social media or phone conversations. Last summer, I joined Nate and my bestest of friends for his wedding in Salt Lake City. Yesterday, I joined Josh’s Kickstarter project to fund the publishing of the book he just wrote. Influencers like these have been of great value to my personal story.

The Privilege of Influence

The truth is, we all brush up against people or ideas which influence us; the barrage is nearly constant. It’s often difficult to avoid outside influences. The best way to respond is to effectively filter the influences vying for our allegiance. We can filter the types of people we allow access to our time and relational depth. We can filter our sources of information and ideas so as not to “major on the minors” or get distracted with unnecessary minutiae. People like Nate and Josh play vital roles in our lives, whether in proximity and routine, or in brief seasons. The way in which we select such influences have the power to change the trajectory and depth of our lives.

photo credit: Ryan Lewis Productions

In the same way, Seattle hip hop visionary Macklemore understands that especially his role as a musical artist is one of great influence, as manifested in his track , “Otherside.” Watch the music video/short film of the “Otherside” remix featuring Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Fences here.

Us as rappers underestimate the power
And the effects that we have on these kids
Blunt passed, ash in a tin,
Pack being pushed, harassed by the feds
The fact of it is most people that rap like this
Talkin’ about some $#%* they haven’t lived
Surprise, you know the drill
Trapped in a box, to climb 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, hit an eighth a day will leave you broke
Depressed, and emotionally vacant
Despite how Lil Wayne lives
It’s not conducive to being creative
And I know ’cause he’s my favorite
And I know ’cause I was off that same mix
Rationalize the $#%* that I’d try after I listen to dedication
But he’s an alien, I’d sip that $#%*, pass out or play Playstation
Months later I’m in the same place
No music made, feeling like a failure
And trust me it’s not dope to be 25
And move back to your parent’s basement

Thinkin’ I would never do that, not that drug
And growing up, nobody ever does
Until your stuck, lookin’ in the mirror
Like I can’t believe what I’ve become
Swore I was goin’ to be someone
And growing up everyone always does
We sell our dreams and our potential
To escape through that buzz
Just keep me up, keep me up
Hollywood here we come

Shadows of Truth

  • Macklemore not only recognizes his position of inherited influence, as a rapper and artist, but uses it to question the abuse of influence by others in the drug-tainted sectors of urban music. “Us as rappers underestimate the power and the effects that we have on these kids.”
  • Always communicating with the priority of authenticity, Mac isn’t afraid to call out the deceitful facade rappers can fall into, even involuntarily. When we open ourselves unwisely to destructive influences, we place ourselves in a position to fail. “The fact of it is most people that rap like this, talkin’ about some $#%* they haven’t lived.”
  • Giving way to other influences can result in the devolution or destruction of our identity. Without conviction to hold to personal mission, who we are can be lost in a group or system to which we bind ourselves. Jesus even says that when we sin, we become slaves to sin, exchanging our identity for personal gain or temporary pleasure. “Follow the formula violence, drugs, and, sex sells, so we try to sound like someone else.”
  • Especially with drug abuse, Macklemore warns of that which impacted him deeply: the inability to create. When idols invade the whole of our lives, we lose our time and energy and relationships to productive pursuits through which we find meaning. “It’s not conducive to being creative…Months later I’m in the same place, no music made, feeling like a failure.”
  • It’s been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Dreams and casting vision for yourself is highly important for personal productivity and achievement, but without unwavering steadfastness, other influences (people, or even impulses within ourselves) can draw us away from our intentions, bit by bit. That’s why even small erosions must be guarded against. “Swore I was goin’ to be someone and growing up everyone always does. We sell our dreams and our potential to escape through that buzz.”


What influencers do you allow access to your life? Who or what drives your intentions?


Read more on The Gospel According to Macklemore:

White Privilege.
The Town.
Life Is Cinema.
Make The Money.


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