Macklemore has quickly become one of the most polarizing names in hip-hop. Much of that turning tide followed his Grammy win for Best Rap Album, beating out the obvious (and deserving) choice good kid, m.a.a.d city, not to mention the ease of his success as a white male recording a predominately black genre.
In his defense, he is well aware of his privilege, and he put forth every effort to ensure we know it too. Prior to the release of This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, Macklemore and his production partner Ryan Lewis dropped White Privilege II, a nearly-nine-minute monologue that acknowledges his privileges as a white male stealing black culture while having the luxury of staying silent on issues of racial inequality as he questions the actions he should be making. It’s a bold recording and one that has gotten a lot of attention – perhaps rightfully so.
Macklemore is ambitious as a rapper. Admirable on the surface, it’s also one of his weaknesses. He tackles a lot of issues on this record. The pharmaceutical industry on Kevin, drug addiction and capitalism on Need To Know, mass media on Bolo Tie, and mainstream culture, fame, and his own career on Lights Tunnels, which is all about his account of attending the Grammys.
Macklemore is the musical equivalent of that friend who never fails to announce to everyone within five minutes of first meeting that they’re vegan.
But he also goes with the Thrift Shop-like humorous side that made him a household name in the first place as he raps this time about mopeds on Downtown, his love of food and the challenges of sticking to a diet on Let’s Eat, graffiti as a hobby on Buckshot, and pretending to be Brad Pitt’s cousin on, yep, Brad Pitt’s Cousin.
Sounds more like a Weird Al medley than a Macklemore record.
It’s an odd mix that doesn’t have a solid balance. Meanwhile, in the middle, he gets introspective as he raps about the difficulty of juggling fame and family relationships on The Train, while Growing Up, a song he wrote for his newborn daughter, plays like a distant-second Just The Two Of Us, a song in itself pure cheese – albeit a good cheese.
This Unruly Mess I’ve Made does little to show off anything about Macklemore & Ryan Lewis we weren’t already aware of. The duo clearly have talent, and are clearly well-intentioned, but it’s also being made apparently clear that they’re a one-trick-pony and the era of Macklemore was merely a phase.
1. Light Tunnels [featuring Mike Slap]
2. Downtown [featuring Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, and Grandmaster Caz]
3. Brad Pitt’s Cousin [featuring Xperience]
4. Buckshot [featuring KRS-One and DJ Premier]
5. Growing Up [featuring Ed Sheeran]
6. Kevin [featuring Leon Bridges]
7. St. Ides
8. Need To Know [featuring Chance the Rapper]
9. Dance Off [featuring Idris Elba and Anderson.Paak]
10. Let’s Eat [featuring Xperience]
11. Bolo Tie [featuring YG]
12. The Train [featuring Carla Morrison]
13. White Privilege II [featuring Jamila Woods]