Macklemore’s breakout success continues to grow, with the Seattle rapper’s hit single, “Thrift Shop,” topping the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in a row. The song was also recently certified double platinum status, with digital sales at 2.3 million copies and counting.

While Macklemore and his producer, Ryan Lewis, have become stars on the back of the song’s enormous success, there’s been little information on Wanz, the 51-year-old software engineer who sings the song’s instantly recognizable refrain – until now.

It was July 2012 when Wanz connected with Macklemore and Lewis through D-Sane, the owner of Seattle indie hip-hop label Street Level Records. The rapper was looking for someone who could emulate late hip-hop vocalist Nate Dogg, famous for singing the melodic hooks behind hits from such rappers as Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre and Eminem.

“For a decade, I’ve been known as the Nate Dogg of North End in Seattle in that little circle of underground hip-hop,” Wanz recently told Billboard. “He called me back like five minutes later and said they want to bring you in. So 45 minutes later I’m at the studio and meeting Ben and Ryan for the first time and talking about what my history is.

“Ben showed me the hook for ‘Thrift Shop’ and said ‘Sort of like this,’” Wanz continued regarding the fateful recording session. “I sang a line to him and he said ‘Yeah, like that.’ I go in and get levels and 45 minutes later, I’m going home. Pretty quick, quicker than anybody imagined.”

Appearing in the “Thrift Shop” video (which is currently approaching a remarkable 80 million views), Wanz recently performed the song with Macklemore and Lewis on Late Night with David Letterman. Having put music on the back burner after landing employment “making really good money” as a software test engineer, the singer is using this opportunity to make music a full-time pursuit.

“My game plan right now is to first and foremost get myself branded so that I have something,” Wanz said of his immediate future plans. “I have a six-song EP that I’m working on, it’s at the mixing stage, and I’m trying to get it all done so that I have it on a site where people can buy it by the time we go to Australia in February. I just can’t put all this attention and just sit at home, not when I’ve been dreaming the dreams I’ve had for all my life.”

Watch Wanz in Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” video here.

-Scott T. Sterling, CBS Radio


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