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Macklemore releases anticipated album

Justice Contributing Writer

Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 00:10


Christopher Dube/MCT

DYNAMITE DUO: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis perform together at the 2011 Sasquatch! Music Festival in George, Washington.

Ben Haggerty, who assumes the moniker Macklemore, is in many ways the ideal indie rapper. He has the troubled past and promising future that we all love in our performers. He is not afraid to inject autobiography into his rhymes, bringing truth and grit to his music. His voice is ear candy and his lyrics are close to genius. To top it all off, he’s working with Ryan Lewis, a disc jockey who intuitively knows how to elevate syntax and diction through perfect beats. The Heist, released Oct. 9, is less a debut album than it is a culmination; Macklemore has been working on the album itself for two straight years and has been releasing mixtapes and performing since 2005. The Heist doesn’t sound like the beginning of a promising career; it sounds like the fulfillment of a promise Macklemore made to himself over half a decade ago.

And what a fulfillment it is. The album’s beats alone are enough to sustain an hour’s worth of listening time. Lewis’ knowledgeable navigation of hip-hop sounds gives The Heist a diverse array of tracks. “Thrift Shop,” arguably the album’s best track, hearkens back to the brash horns of the Beastie Boys with an entrancing sax riff. “Can’t Hold Us” and “White Walls” build electric anthems with Kanye-esque pulsating percussion. The humble piano of “Same Love” is reminiscent of primo Atmosphere tracks. Macklemore leaves the scene entirely in the instrumental break “Bombom,” allowing Lewis to build a luscious track of swelling piano and drum that bursts into horns.

Macklemore deserves no less than Ryan Lewis as a DJ, seeing as his own musical pallet is equally diverse. No subject matter appears to be out of Macklemore’s incredible reach. He shifts frenetically from heavy introspection to light-hearted party fodder, making seamless transitions between alternating roles as a rapper. It almost seems like there are two Macklemores battling each other for the microphone, one who’s being torn apart by inner demons and the other who just wants to get silly on the dance floor.

This duality of purpose could tear a weaker album apart, but on The Heist the contrast between dance party and pity party is actually what holds the album together. “Thrift Shop,” a song about buying broken keyboards and Velcro shoes, is so undeniably self-aware that its silliness and cockiness just heighten the track to danceable perfection. “Thrift Shop” stabs at the duality of nature persistent within the core of Macklemore—a rapper who wants to have fun but knows when to be serious. Macklemore wrote “Thrift Shop,” but he also wrote “Starting Over,” in which he narrates his struggle abusing cough syrup.

“Same Love” will inevitably be the centerpiece of the “Macklemore is a serious rapper who raps seriously and who should be taken seriously as a rapper” discussion. While not the darkest or most personal track on The Heist, “Same Love” is an introspective and eloquent tribute to gay rights by a rapper. “If I was gay, I would think hip hop hates me,” raps Macklemore on the track. He manages to be remorseful without being apologetic, socially critical without being arrogant and bold without being brash. “Same Love” is a significant moment in hip-hop, and hopefully it will motivate conversation about homosexuality in popular music. 

However, the song that cements Macklemore as a serious rapper comes six tracks after “Same Love.” It is a biting piece of social commentary on the nature of capitalist consumerism called “Wings,” in which Macklemore reflects on how basketball shoes signified social status when he was in high school.

It’s an anti-rap that rails against the consumption that other rappers glorify. The agony and resentment that echoes in Macklemore’s throat when he screams “I listened to what that swoosh said” embodies the personal and social inspection that elevate The Heist in its most serious tracks.

Interestingly enough, “Wings” and “Thrift Shop” are both songs about consuming clothing that take diametrically opposed stances. “Wings” displays Macklemore’s inner feelings on the nature of consumption, which in turn means that the consumption of “Thrift Shop” was satirical. “Thrift Shop” reveals itself to be another anti-rap song that parodies the Gucci bandanas and favorite brands of other popular artists by bragging about buying cheap coats. In this way, Macklemore’s duality of purpose elevates The Heist, making it an excellent album. 

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