Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

The Heist - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

The Heist album cover by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Even hipsters need rap music. This might be the first thought that comes to mind when hearing some of the lyrics from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis‘ collaborative record The Heist. Moving beyond that thought comes the idea that they aren’t trying to differ from the mainstream but instead share thoughts and experiences through music in an authentically raw way. Think folk for rappers.

Despite the sound of the popular first single Thrift Shop, The Heist is a pretty serious record politically though it doesn’t talk straight-up politics; rather, the lyrics focus on socials issues and consumerism, materialism and capitalism. The hit Thrift Shop takes that idea and pinpoints one aspect of the buying culture wrapped up in a catchy melody that is sure to make second-hand shopping a trend in itself, though not for reasons they might like. They drive a hard bargain though. Who wants to show up at the club with the same shirt as six other people who all paid $50 when you could find an original for pennies?

The Heist itself is a contemplative record that promotes self-reevaluation through storytelling without sounding preachy or even too judgemental. It’s truly an album with a message and beliefs to back it up, even if one doesn’t necessary agree with the message, one can’t help but admire that this album is respectfully done.

Rapper Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis create an admirable record because of how it differs from the expected norm. It’s a rap album, yes; but it doesn’t stick within the boundaries of most rap albums. On one hand, Macklemore himself sounds a lot like B.o.B, who has also ventured outside of the traditional with his own albums at times. But he takes it beyond what B.o.B has done and brings in more old-school influences and contemplative music to back up his raps. On the other hand, the album differs even moreso from most both with the songs themselves and how they’re presented. For one, it contains an instrumental track, which is rare for a rap record. The track sits at the halfway point for the record so as to provide a break from the lyrical tracks and allow for some thought before the second half begins.

Another notable difference on the record is that it’s purely an independent venture, even with the featured artists; and most of the songs do contain one. There’s no recognizable name on here. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis feature non-popular artists to do the hooks and the guest verses on here and the evidence show that being known isn’t an indicator of sounding real, professional and good. Mary Lambert‘s chorus on Same Love, for example, is vulnerable yet determined and convincing.

And finally, the subject matter serves as the album’s boldest contrast. While many rap artists boast about brands, money and what they own, Macklemore consistently points out the flaws in this thinking as being one of society’s root problems. Meanwhile, the most impressive song on here is Same Love, an ode to the acceptance of same-sex relationships. Rap music is often considered to be homophobic and this song straight-up calls out the genre for this distinction. “If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me/Have you read the YouTube comments lately?”
The song sounds like one recorded for a service announcement rather than to fit on a rap album but its simplistic production brings a greater focus to the lyrics and subject. While it’ll likely never get radio airplay, its music video has already gotten more than 12 million views on YouTube and has been passed around through social media making it a success with its message and presentation.

The Heist is thought provoking and doesn’t let the message get buried in the music, which is often minimal and reflective. Macklemore might make a name for himself with Thrift Shop, which would scream one-hit-wonder if it wasn’t for the context of the rest of the album that makes it fit in. Thrift Shop sounds like a novelty song but it should be the gateway for listeners to check out the rest of this album. At best, Macklemore could serve as the soundtrack for many a revolution and petition. At worst, second-hand stores will be trendy this season. Four stars

1. Ten Thousand Hours
2. Can’t Hold Is [featuring Ray Dalton]
3. Thrift Shop [featuring Wanz]
4. Thin Line [featuring Buffalo Madonna]
5. Same Love [featuring Mary Lambert]
6. Make The Money
7. Neon Cathedral [featuring Allen Stone]
8. BomBom [featuring The Teaching]
9. White Walls [featuring ScHoolBoy Q & Hollis]
10. Jimmy Iovine [featuring Ab-Soul]
11. Wing$
12. A Wake [featuring Evan Roman]
13. Gold [featuring Eighty4 Fly]
14. Starting Over [featuring Ben Bridwell]
15. Cowboy Boots

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