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Can’t Hold Them: Meet the Voices Behind Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Hits

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photo: Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images

There's more to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' magnetic appeal than just the talents of the rapper and the beatmaker. Major props are owed to the three big voices behind the dynamic hip hop duo's smashes "Thrift Shop," "Same Love" and "Can't Hold Us."

Michael "Wanz" Wansley is the man behind the deep, guttural "I'm gonna pop some tags" chorus on Macklemore's breakthrough hit "Thrift Shop." Wanz has been singing since he was 5, and for the last 30 years has performed and recorded with a number of bands in the Seattle area. After the success of "Thrift Shop," the first song from an independent artist to reach No. 1 in 20 years, he quit his job as a software engineer. He has worked for Microsoft, Adapx and Volt.

Macklemore's "The Heist" was released last year on Oct. 9, his 51st birthday. He was moved to tears when he downloaded the album while at work. "I'm sitting at my desk at 9:30 in the morning. I couldn't stop crying," he told Daniel Mogg in an interview. "I had to leave and go to the bathroom."

Later that month, he gave his resignation. The song was doing so well and the tour dates were mounting. Wanz felt bad about having to make an abrupt departure, but he could not miss an opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream of touring.

"I feel sorry, but you don't ask me the question, 'Are you coming back?' the night after I played at a sold out show at the Fillmore, not to guys like me who've been in the music since they can remember."

Wanz just released a solo recording of "The Christmas Song."

Mary Lambert's serene, emotive vocals on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' gay rights anthem "Same Love" helped the group snag the VMA Best Video with a Social Message award in August. Lambert's sincerity feels so genuine because she can relate to the song's storyline.

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photo: Theo Wargo, WireImage

The Seattle-based singer, who is openly gay, said being invited to write and sing the song's chorus helped her find peace with her sexuality and faith. "For years, and especially at 23, I had been processing my seemingly contradictory life: 'The Christian' and 'the Queen,' all the while battling a history of sexual abuse and manic-depression," she wrote.

She hopes the song's message of love resonates with all listeners, gay and straight.

The talented artist, who won the Seattle Poetry Slam in 2011, published the poetry book "500 Tips for Fat Girls" and appeared on HBO's Brave New Voices International Poetry Competition, was also wise enough to create her own "Same Love" spinoff, "She Keeps Me Warm," that lifts its name from the chorus of the original.

Ryan Lewis reached out to Ray Dalton via Facebook after hearing the gospel and R&B singer on a song. Their first collaboration was the group's 2011 "Wings," but the recording that brought Dalton national acclaim was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Can't Hold Us."

Dalton's vocal runs and elongated notes when strumming "Can't hold ussssssss" made the song even more enjoyable to sing.

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photo: Kevin Mazur, WireImage

The 22-year-old Seattle singer raised on Fleetwood Mac, Missy Elliott, Amy Winehouse and Kanye West also performs with the city's Total Experience Gospel Choir.

In April 2012, Dalton released "So Emotional," a gospel song and first single from his solo project, "The Dalton Show."

As "Can't Hold Us" began to build momentum, Dalton put on hold his work as a tennis instructor.

Tune in to Yahoo Screen on Friday, Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT for a live stream of iHeartRadio's Jingle Ball live at Madison Square Garden, where Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, Pitbull, Selena Gomez, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and more performers will take the stage. Download the Yahoo Screen app to catch the show. 

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