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Macklemore Unveils Vulnerable Side of Hip Hop

If you are at all versed in the hip hop world, then you have heard of the rising star Macklemore. Macklemore, formally known as Ben Haggerty, just released his newest album on Oct. 9, named The Heist. After my first run-through of the album I was absolutely blown away. I can assure you that if you have a soft spot for rap and hip hop then you will experience a wide array of emotions when giving this album a listen. There is no single aspect that I can point out that makes The Heist so exceptional. Whether it be Macklemore’s powerful messages in his lyrics to Ryan Lewis’ unique and eclectic production style that is visible in every track, the album simply culminates into something of a masterpiece.

There is no better track to start the album off than “Ten Thousand Hours.” In this song Macklemore humbly gets his listeners to sympathize with him and his long journey leading up to the release of The Heist. There is mention of Macklemore’s past struggles with drugs (his already released single “Otherside,” which samples a Red Hot Chili Peppers song of the same title, backgrounds his substance abuse); towards the end of the track he proclaims that his “only rehabilitation was the sweat, tears and blood when up in the booth,” referring to his dedication to change himself as a person and to do so by pursuing his musical career. This opening track is truly inspirational and does a great job setting the tone for the rest of the tracks.

Macklemore tackles relevant issues that we, as Americans, can personally relate to and sympathize with in multiple tracks. His attack on American consumerism is seen in the unforgettable track “Thrift Shop” in which he proves that you can still live the good life on a thrift store budget: “I’m diggin I’m diggin I’m searchin right through that luggage/one man’s trash that’s another man’s come up.” He also bashes consumerism and the need to possess material wealth in “Wings”: “I’m an individual, yeah, but I’m part of a movement/my movement told me be a consumer and I consumed it/they told me to just do it/I listened to what that swoosh said.” Throughout the song “Wings,” Macklemore rightfully argues that it has nothing to do with what you wear or what material possessions you have in life. It is what you do with what you already have.

Macklemore’s story is heard through his many subjective and self-reflecting tracks on the album. He takes you through his drug addiction to the grind of being a hip hop artist to relapsing and everything in between. Very rarely do artists in Macklemore’s genre allow their listeners to hear the truth and real emotions associated with the life that they live, but Macklemore does this beautifully. In fact, it seems that those emotions are the driving force behind his music. During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Macklemore said, “I think it’s about being a human. It’s about being relatable. It’s about being vulnerable and sharing who you are on records.” Macklemore’s story clearly is one that listeners are interested in based on his sudden success, and one could hint that his vulnerability strategy didn’t hurt that success.

The Heist not only takes you through Macklemore’s story, but also takes you through somewhat of a story of hip hop as well. Beginning with “Thrift Shop,” you can take away that it is clearly a parody in which Macklemore bashes the messages that recent hip hop artists and rappers have been conveying to their listeners regarding wealth and living the “good life.” Then in the song “Same Love,” a very powerful song about Macklemore’s support for same sex marriage with background piano that might make you want to shed a tear, serves as a “shame on you” message from Macklemore to the hip hop community for its excessive use of homophobic remarks. Macklemore does not seem to be pleased with the hip hop world that we see today, and The Heist is his way of venting his concerns which he does beautifully.

An album review of The Heist would not be complete without mention of Ryan Lewis’ production style. Teaming up in October 2010, Lewis and Macklemore began their success journey as a very creative and collaborative pair. Ryan Lewis accompanies Macklemore’s rhymes with instruments from genres rarely ever mixed with hip hop. Lewis’ range of beats make listening to the album somewhat of a journey in itself. From beginning to end there is something new and exciting to keep your head bobbing all the way through. Lewis’ old-school style is met with banjos, piano, violin, trumpets and countless other instruments to make a very unique style of hip hop. Kudos to Lewis; this album definitely serves as proof that he is a force not to be ignored in the hip hop community.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ debut album The Heist is a must-buy. Even if you are not interested in hip hop or rap, I can assure that you will be after giving this album a listen. The duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis is far from done producing masterpieces for hip hop fans, but The Heist is surely an impressive start for them.

Critic’s Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

Dan Banks can be reached at daniel.banks@spartans.ut.edu.

1 Comment on Macklemore Unveils Vulnerable Side of Hip Hop

  1. Ned Shneibly // October 13, 2012 at 11:52 am //

    This right here is a phenomenal piece of writing. It made me want to listen to Macklemore and I never thought I had a soft spot for rap. Great work critic.

    Like

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