The duo behind the left-field Hot 100 smash "Thrift Shop" talk to EW about their unexpected success, impressing Ellen DeGeneres, and repping their hometown of Seattle. I wanted to bring it to the forefront in a way that wasn't attacking that ignorance, but humanizing it."

By Grady Smith
Updated January 18, 2013 at 05:00 AM EST

1 They know ”Thrift Shop” is not a typical pop hit

”It’s kind of polar opposite to what’s out there on the radio,” says Macklemore (a.k.a. Ben Haggerty), 29, of his ode to rocking grandpa-style swag from Goodwill. ”But the beat is infectious, and the subject matter is different than what everyone else in hip-hop is talking about right now.” Also different? The song’s loopy DIY video. Says Haggerty: ”It has some — I don’t know if this is even a word — ‘viralability.”’

2 The pair met on Myspace (Hey! It was 2006)

”I was, like, 17, and I friend-requested him,” says Lewis, now 24, who worked primarily as Haggerty’s photographer and creative consultant before becoming his full-time producing partner. ”He had this crazy work ethic,” says Haggerty. ”I thought he was completely jacked up on Adderall and caffeine.”

3 They’re proud of their Seattle roots

”The beards and indie folk definitely are plentiful,” says Haggerty of his hometown, ”but there’s always been a really eclectic scene. You have Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones all the way to Nirvana and Sir Mix-A-Lot.” Turns out the ”Baby Got Back” rapper is a fan: ”I actually brought him out on stage a couple years ago, and he passed me the fictional Seattle torch of hip-hop. He was one of the only people of his generation to put out records independently, so he’s definitely someone that I’ve learned a lot from.”

4 They’re not afraid to tackle more serious stuff

Haggerty is open about his past substance abuse and current sobriety. ”The first time I drank alcohol,” he remembers, ”I was by myself on a school night and took 12 shots. Like, ‘Oh! This feels good. I’m gonna keep going until I’m throwing up at a McDonald’s bathroom.’ I was just one of those type of kids.” And he drew readily from personal experience for his marriage-equality anthem ”Same Love,” which moved Ellen DeGeneres to call the pair ”my new heroes” when she brought them on her show last fall. Says the rapper, who has two gay uncles: ”Hip-hop has held on to this homophobia for so long without being accountable; you can still say, ‘That’s gay’ and get away with it…. I wanted to bring it to the forefront in a way that wasn’t attacking that ignorance, but humanizing it.”

5 Their newfound fame won’t keep them from thrifting

”I’m probably more of an antiquer,” admits Lewis, ”but I think Ben hit a thrift shop in at least 25 cities, which made the back of the tour bus literally into his closet. This trench coat, it’s all denim, and it has red fringe, and it’s just so creepy. Once every three weeks he pulls it out, and it’s like, ‘Dude, that’s never gonna work. Burn that.”’