Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were a little-known rap duo from Seattle with an album that sold beyond modest expectations a year ago.
As 2014 opens, Macklemore and Lewis are the focal point of the Grammy Awards — and few are more surprised than them.
"I never thought I'd be at Grammy week nominated for a Grammy Award," Macklemore told a crowd of 1,500 at a concert put on by T-Mobile at the Belasco Theatre. "I definitely never thought that I would be nominated for seven of them."
Macklemore and Lewis are up for three major awards — album, song and best new artist of the year — and will perform at Sunday's Grammy Awards. They aren't the top nominee — that honor belongs to Jay Z — but they've been the focal point of these Grammys and pop music for much of the last 12 months.
Thursday night's show was the official kickoff of their week in Los Angeles. They'll perform on Sunday at the Staples Center, and most expect them to carry home at least one trophy after a sensational year with hits like "Thrift Shop," ''Can't Hold Us" and the nominated gay rights anthem "Same Love" that helped moved them from rooms with a few hundred people to arenas with thousands rapping right along.
"It's crazy," Lewis said in an interview before Thursday night's show. "To wrap your head around the Grammys is a hard thing to do. Now I think we're both just hitting a point where you can stop and reflect on 2013. There was an amazing number of shows and events. You couldn't have imagined it. You couldn't have thought it up. It all just sort of happened. We're both very grateful to even be nominated or let in the building to go to the Grammys, and if we end up walking out with anything, I think it's a dream come true."
Should The Recording Academy choose not to recognize Lewis and Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, there will still be plenty of memories.
Haggerty said the craziest was the call they got from a certain rapper with a few pop hits of his own.
"Dinner with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett and their son Jaden, and then later joined by Willow — that was pretty cool," Haggerty said. "The fact that they wanted to have dinner with us was just surreal."