Hip hop has been searching for a new superhero, and rapper Macklemore and producer sidekick Ryan Lewis, have responded. Like a good hero team should, they put their complementary skills together and pull off The Heist with incredible execution.
The 15-track album is blunt, honest and authentic, with Macklemore’s raw emotional delivery perfect for tackling the big issues at the heart of Western society. To quote him, “they say it’s so refreshing to hear somebody on records/No guns, no drugs, no sex, just truth”. It definitely is, and while his rhymes may not flow as smoothly as they could, it’s all about the deep and meaningful messages he conveys.
The innocent desire to own the latest Nike Airs in ‘Wing$’ points out the flaws of the materialistic, consumerism driven society we live in as well as how our identities are shaped and maintained: “I’m an individual, yeah, but I’m part of a movement/My movement told me to be a consumer and I consumed it”.
Ultimately, it is Macklemore’s self-awareness and perceptive commentary on humanity that sets him apart. In ‘A Wake’ (featuring Evan Roman), he questions whether as a white guy he can join the discussion on racism: “My subconscious tellin’ me stop it/This is an issue that you shouldn’t get involved in/Don’t even tweet, ‘R.I.P Trayvon Martin’…White privilege, White guilt, at the same damn time/So we just party like it’s 1999/Celebrate the ignorance while these kids keep dying”. As on every track, the artist singing the hook is well chosen to reflect the song’s mood.
Macklemore is not hammering social and political messages all the time, and is simultaneously humorous. ‘Thrift Shop’ (featuring Wanz) is an upbeat and super catchy satirical track all the hipsters can relate to: “I wear your granddad’s clothes/ I look incredible”. In ‘White Walls’, (featuring Hollis and Schoolboy Q), they brag about driving pimped out Cadillacs while the rest of Seattle is driving Honda Civics.
Lewis’ soulful multilayered production is simple yet effective and makes the songs come alive. Like most of the songs on the debut album, ‘BomBom’ is piano heavy with a bit of percussion and horn. As the only instrumental track, this is Lewis’ moment to shine and he doesn’t disappoint.
Their dynamic versatility was on display from track one to 15, but perhaps it was just too versatile, and 15 tracks felt laboured. A couple of songs (like ‘Cowboy Boots’) could easily have been left off the album to leave a tighter and more exciting finished product.
For those lamenting the current state of superficial hip hop, Macklemore’s poignant lyrics and Lewis’ catchy beats are a force to be reckoned with.
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