Macklemore and Ryan Lewis: Self-Made Music Kings in a Sea of Manufactured

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"This huge label guy came to Montana for a show to meet us. It was right when 'The Heist' had come out and like, you know, things were starting," Lewis said. "And I remember one of the things he said was, 'A label would have messed this whole thing up.'"

Michael Wansely, better known now by his stage name, Wanz, is the man with the pipes behind "Thrift Shop." The endlessly friendly, 51-year-old breakout singer dreamed about a music career but gave up hope years ago and went to work for Microsoft. Then, Macklemore called.

"For me, this is rarified air," Wansley said. "This is dream-come-true stuff. I am living a dream that I have had literally since 1968."

The band's second chart-topping single, "Can't Hold Us," features a 23-year-old gospel choir singer named Ray Dalton who wouldn't join the guys unless his grandmother approved.

"My grandma loves Ben," Dalton said. "She likes his words."

Tricia Davis, Haggerty's fiance, longtime confidante and tour manager, said she knew from day 1 that Macklemore's astronomical success was possible.

"When you fall in love with a drug addict, totally can't-afford-anything guy, and your mom is asking you what the heck you're doing, I mean, there is a reason why you're-- I knew from the first time I saw him perform I was like, 'He has that potential,'" Davis said.

Today, the money, the requests, the attention, all of it is rolling in like an avalanche -- a lifetime of dreams all at once. And this time, it's the music industry on the outside looking in.

"We have the leverage," Haggerty said. "We have control of our music. Why would we want to give that to somebody else? If we would have signed to a label, I can almost guarantee you we wouldn't have had the success with 'Thrift Shop' and with 'Can't Hold Us' and with 'The Heist,' in general."

The rapper is a writer -- Haggerty said what's next for him is either a book or another album -- and he is still trying to figure out stardom, finding himself suddenly longing for times he can drive the old Caddy that once symbolized the pinnacle of success.

Macklemore is living the American dream -- self-made in a sea of the manufactured.

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