on October 9, 2012
I'll admit, I'm a new fan, but I'm completely hooked.
Last week, two different friends shared the hooky "Thrift Shop" and heartfelt "Same Love" and either one alone might not have been enough for me to look into the rest of their tracks, but combined, I was intrigued enough to figure out what this guy was about. From there, the counter-culture-of-consumption messages in "Wing$" and hometown pride in "My Oh My" hit me and I was a confirmed fan. "Can't Hold Us" is addictive. I want to play "Starting Over" for everyone I know who's ever stumbled.
I was excited not just to listen to the album all the way through, but to pay money for it and hope Macklemore and Ryan Lewis get to keep making a living doing what they love for a long, long time.
on October 10, 2012
This album is fantastic. But I feel completely cheated by Amazon because nothing on this page indicated that I was purchasing the watered down, edited version of this album. Make sure you order the version called The Heist [Explicit] if you want to hear all of the songs in the form they were intended to be heard.
on January 25, 2013
Too much rap today is repetitive, narcissistic, inane, untruthful. Where is the edge? Where is the story telling? Where is the truth? (Even in the 2pac era, rapping about money was really about the *desire* for power and money at a time when such things were inaccessible to black youth, and seemed to be intended as a stark contrast to the crack epidemic that was decimating inner city neighborhoods. The 'money' story line is now 20 years old, and has morphed to become less relevant, less truthful, more vain, more narcissistic, and boringly ubiquitous.). Maybe I had just outgrown rap....
Enter the Heist. I was sent a link to the NPR "Tiny Desk" concert performed by Macklemore and was blown away. Here was Macklemore challenging the homophobic culture of hip hop, while examining his own assumptions about what it meant to be gay. In the next song challenging the narrative about money by professing his love for "your Grandpa's clothes" that he could pick up in a thrift shop. (About designer t-shirts: "That shirt's hella dough; And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don't!") Story telling! An edge! Something novel! Hallelujah!
The message is all well and good, but to be honest I probably wouldn't have made it that far if the music didn't sound good. But it does. Banging bass. Melody. Great vocals. A trumpet loads the songs with energy; the songs are interlaced with samples from '90s era hip hop. The songs actually progress and develop. Macklemore changes his tempo and phrasing. Good stuff.
My best advice: Check out Macklemore's 'NPR Tiny Desk' concert. If you're not blown away, then this isn't the CD for you. And.... I'm not sure you're a fan of the best that rap can be.
Macklemore is the next rap star in the making. In a way, a throwback. But also an evolution. And just in time.
on October 9, 2012
I am a college student, and being tight for money I do not buy anything I don't need. With that said, I pre-ordered this CD in early September and have been waiting for it since. It is the first physical CD I have bought in my life, and I am proud of that fact. Macklemore (real name Ben Haggerty) has continually evolved, but kept true to his poetic roots such as "The End" from the Language of My World Album. He is making huge gains not only in the hip hop/rap world, but by allowing strong social commentary to be passed to our younger generations (such as college students)that wouldn't otherwise reach us. I have been following him since 2010 when I was first introduced to him, and I have seen him go from "Macklemore? Who is that? to "Oh yea, I recognize him" to "THRIFT SHOP LOVE THIS SONG BRO!" He is gaining popularity by the second. His music continues to be deep, making commentary about materialism (wings), appearance and stereotypes, freedom of choice (including gay marriage obviously with same love, and many other current day issues that should be addressed in music. His music is catchy enough for people to want to listen to, and advanced and complex enough to keep people listening rather than just being a party jam. The album itself is absolutely spectacular, and you can see the effort Ben and Ryan put into the album, as well as the effort they put into their personal lives with songs such as Thin Line. This inspiring story of rising up in the hip hop world contrasts his earlier albums where he talks about a lot of drug problems (otherside)and obstacles that he had to overcome to pursue his dream. The music has catchy songs such as Can't Hold Us, Thrift Shop, slower simpler songs like Same Love and Neon Cathedral, and takes oldschool music influences and creates a newschool sound.
I'm proud to be a supporter of Mr. Haggerty and Mr. Lewis. They are taking hip hop back to its roots, telling stories with their music, as well as developing it by inputting strong direct social commentary that makes people think. With our current generation being bombarded by half naked women in music videos, loud electronic beats, and alcohol as the forerunners powering the music industry it is reassuring for me to hear people blasting thrift shop, even if they aren't fully aware of the meaning behind it in regards to our spending habits. In order for my generation to stay grounded we need to put some thought into our lives, where pop culture is driving us, and if we really need all the technology that is continually coming out. I'm just a normal guy, not some social activist, not a frat bro, not a gaming nerd. Macklemore's album has made me realize that the statement I just made is false. I have friends from each of those "groups" and at heart they are all just normal people. We need to do something to get rid of stereotypes, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have risked years of work on this album, straying from the typical popular rap path, in order to do something about the problems in this world like stereotyping. If you would like to see rap change, if you would like to listen to thought provoking and moving music, if you would like to hear what it sounds like when drums, trumpets, chimes, guitar, and passion comes together, then I suggest you buy this album and support Macklemore. They care about their music and their fans and will not disappoint, just as this album has not.
p.s. if you are looking for more music similar to this check out Common Market and Blue Scholars let YouTube guide you from there.
on October 9, 2012
Transcends what? Age, race, socioeconomic class, you pick. It doesn't get much better than this... incredibly solid flow, amazing production and a strange kind of synergy that's hard to explain. It really feels like these two are going to end up being one of *those* partnerships where something magic happens when they work together; RL's production is innovative, and full of risks that pay off over and over, and most importantly, it feels like M's voice and flow were specially engineered to fit these beats. There's a line (a great line) in one of the songs that laments how Otherside (a previously released, amazing song) wasn't written by M it was "written by God." He may not be able to see it yet, but I have a feeling that in five years from now some of these songs are going to seem that same way to him..
on December 19, 2012
I bought this album because I liked Thrift Shop; I checked out some videos online and was absolutely blown away. I know the videos add a lot to each song, but simply listening to this album every day to and from work, I am completely blown away. I've contemplated buying it as a gift for a number of people that I know; today a young co-worker told me she was struggling with drinking and I immediately thought of the second to last track which talks about Macklemore's struggles with the same issue and I think his song could help her. This album is a blast to listen to but still focuses on real life. It's helped me.
There are a number of tracks that I have found to be powerful, both in their musical construction and their lyrical content. I play through new albums slowly, listening to each track multiple times before moving on, and some tracks are worthy of an album purchase all on their own. I have big hopes for this artist and would absolutely buy a follow-up album if it is similar.
There is however one huge blemish on this otherwise amazing record: Schoolboy Q's lyrics on the song White Walls. These are counter to everything Mackelmore seems to be about - they glorify "white hoes in the back seat snorting coke", stealing liquor, and having unprotected sex. This album is largely about Mackelmore's struggles with alcohol and drug abuse and the importance of humility and non-materialism. Schoolboy, go back to school - if you're going to rap, learn some rhetoric. I absolutely hate that part of that song. If I had heard this song first instead of Thrift Shop, I would have avoided this album entirely.
on January 15, 2013
I have grown up on rap. I like the beats and I like the rawness. However, as a mother of three daughters and an aging fan, I don't respect or like much of mainstream rap that is over produced, sexist, and stupid. Then walks in Macklemore and Lewis. Hooking fans with songs like "Thrift Shop" and then keeping them with songs like "Same Love" or "Starting Over". It is obvious through the subjects of the songs that Macklemore is thoughtful, intelligent, and seasoned. I started contemplating his age when he was dropping lines about Reaganomics and R. Kelley that many of my students would never catch. He is almost 30, still quite young, but old enough to have some life experiences to guide and inspire his writing. With Ryan Lewis working with him to drop hooks with haunting vocals, such as Evan Roman's in "A Wake" the combination provokes a feeling of nostalgia and hope. It is rare that I buy an entire album with the option to buy the one or two songs that are good on a CD. But I purchased this entire album and listen to it over and over again and I don't have to wait for my daughters to leave the car to do it.
on November 14, 2012
Wow. WOW! I've been a fan of Macklemore since I first heard and saw him perform here in Eugene. I didn't know who he was when I met him at his merch table (he opened for Blue Scholars) but if I could go back to that night I'd at least give him a handshake and preferably a hug. His words, combined with the spectacular musical abilities of Ryan Lewis, are genius, and I don't use that word lightly. This might be one of those Joshua Tree albums of hip-hop.
WATCH THE VIDEO FOR "SAME LOVE"! I cry every time I see it or hear the song and I know for a fact I'm not alone. The end of the video will really get you. The video for "Wing$" re-defines music videos as an art form and is so good you'd think Scorsese made it. The message of anti-materialism is especially important when you consider that a large part of Macklemore's demographic is teenagers.
One of the amazing things about Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is how they can be so humorous and lighthearted in one song and so inspirational and deep in the next. The song "Thrift Shop" on this album is humorous and quite enjoyable (the video especially), but "Same Love" and "Ten Thousand Hours" and "Neon Cathedral" are so intensely inspirational and from the heart that they make you want to just hug the album. The latter, "Neon Cathedral," and also "Starting Over," really hit those of us who have dealt with addictions, and it's songs like that which give us inspiration and a drive to become better people; they connect us with the artists in a way that is rare, especially if one has listened only to radio hip-hop.
The first song, "Ten Thousand Hours," is largely about the almost spiritual satisfaction that comes from putting in the effort to learn something to the utmost and ignore the common desire to just settle for something easy. I'm a very ambitious, self-motivated person myself so I'm no stranger to that but the hook "Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands / ten thousand hands, to carry me" really put it in a different perspective: every hour I've spent learning my craft isn't a struggle, it's a small, subtle push in the right direction. It's this way of looking at things and providing a beautifully loving perspective that makes Macklemore so unique. I'm a huge fan of Atmosphere (of course), especially their last three albums, but one of the things I like more about Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is that they mix humor and fun into their often heavy and serious songs.
PLEASE buy the album, don't download it. I am PROUD to support Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and every dollar they earn from their art, real art, is well-deserved and worth it.
Seattle rapper Macklemore (Ben Haggerty) and producer Ryan Lewis release one of 2012's surprise smashes in The Heist [Explicit], an album expected to debut near the top of the Billboard 200 Chart. It was single "Thrift Shop" featuring Wanz that helped to propel The Heist to its lofty visibility during it debut week (released October 10, 2012). All in all, The Heist is worth the hype, delivering solid rhymes from Mackelmore and superb production from Lewis.
"Ten Thousand Hours" opens the effort solidly with solid production from Ryan Lewis (dusty drums, synths, inclusion of piano) and capable rhymes from Macklemore ("This is my world, this is my arena/the TV told me something different, I didn't believe it"). Followed up by an ethnic, manic production on "Can't Hold Us," Macklemore delivers agile, quick-paced rhymes over Lewis's busy arrangement. Ray Dalton contributes vocals on the hook, while some additional sounds via trumpet, trombone, and violin prove to be nice.
"Thrift Shop" proceeds, intact with Wanz's silly, though endearing vocal hook ("I'm gonna pop some tags/only got twenty dollars in my pocket/I'm, I'm, I'm hunting, looking for a come up/this is ____ awesome"). Lewis's production is superb, blending contemporary ideas with old-school sensibility - very much in underground sensibility. Macklemore makes rhyming about a thrift shop incredibly enthralling ("Walk into the club like what up...Nah I'm just pumped up off some ___ from the thrift shop...").
"Thin Line" features Buffalo Madonna covering the hook. "Thin Line" keeps the momentum going, which is expanded on the excellent, gospel-oriented "Same Love." "Same Love" features Mary Lambert delivering a powerful hook ("And I can't change/even if I tried/even if I wanted to...My love, my love, my love, she keeps me warm..."). Macklemore dives right into social issues on this cut, keeping the tone serious and the message meaningful.
"Make The Money" makes fine use of violin and trumpet once more (performed by Andrew Joslyn and Owuor Arunga). The production is old-school with soul leaning drum programming. Macklemore delivers another worthy hook: "Make the money, don't let the money make you/change the game/don't let the game change you...forget about the fame..."
"Neon Cathedral" brings in soul standout Allen Stone to deliver the chorus. Wurlitzer is prominent here while the Seattle Rock Orchestra provides strings. The main quibble of "Neon Cathedral" is that despite being beautiful, it is a bit `sleepy.' Lyrically, it is well penned. "Bom Bom," an instrumental cut proceeds featuring The Teaching. Musically, it is quite interesting and enjoyable. Whether it fits the scheme of the album or not is up for debate. At nearly five minutes in duration, it is a bit lengthy for an instrumental.
"White Walls" restores any ceded momentum on The Heist (if there was any lost), featuring Schoolboy Q and Hollis. Ryan Lewis's production is amongst his most interesting of the album, contrasting previous cuts easily. Hollis handles the hook while Schoolboy Q raps on the third verse. As always, Macklemore is on his game, delivering excellent rhymes with quite a capable flow. "Jimmy Iovine" featuring Ab-Soul concedes none of "White Wall's" momentum, continuing in excellence as Macklemore criticizes the music exec in regards to potential royalties. ("Along with a third of the money you make when you're out doing your shows/manager gets 20, booking agent gets 10/so ___ after taxes you and Ryan have 7% to split...") Wonder if Jimmy I has heard it?
"Wing$" is another fine cut, featuring choir vocals from the Denny Middle School Choir, which adds a different dimension. "A Wake," featuring Evan Roman isn't bad, featuring a military-like snare drum and some more notable lyrics from Macklemore. "Gold," featuring Eighty4 Fly possesses a nice optimism about it, without ultimately being exceptional. "Staring Over," featuring Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses is average while "Cowboy Boots" ends the album interestingly, featuring banjo of all instruments.
Overall, The Heist [Explicit] is a solid album. It's not perfect, but there are plenty of notable moments. Macklemore delivers solid rhymes/lyrics and Ryan Lewis delivers fine production. The guests and role players definitely contribute their share as well. Quite enjoyable is the verdict.
on December 10, 2012
While living in Seattle I saw with my own eyes how many, if not all, of the area's successful music releases find their legs in the Emerald City. It's simple: release a great record in Seattle and your local listeners will support you. People in the Sea-Tac genuinely love the arts and, probably more than any other city in the U.S., there is a huge record collector culture. And, of course, a vibrant live music culture. So I wasn't at all surprised to see a new release from Seattle's own Ben "Macklemore" Haggerty heavily promoted in a recent Best Buy ad. The record, titled The Heist, is a neu hip-hop gem featuring Mack on vocals and Ryan Lewis on production. The record, which features a number of already-beloved Seattle hip-hop classics from the duo's past local releases, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling an impressive 78,000 copies during its first week of release. Not bad for an album that hasn't even yet been added to the Metacritic or Allmusic databases. And not too big of a surprise, really, when you consider that there are well over 3.5 million people currently living in Seattle metropolitan area.
At first glance The Heist could be hastily written off as a neu rap take on the Atmosphere model. A white emcee and a white producer framed in a hipster-meets-classicist-hip-hop veneer. A thrift shop emcee. Simple beats, a simple rhyme style and a lot of big, memorable hooks. And sure, that's fair enough, but there's more going on here than phoned-in impersonation. Mack playfully emulates Slug's style in the same near-Xerox manner in which Action Bronson takes on the Ghostface vibe. Like Bronson, Macklemore is, at the moment at least, a much harder working emcee than his inspiration. He's recording a whole lot of songs and putting an incredible amount of thought into his lyrics, performances and releases. So much so that I feel safe saying that Mack is maybe already more of a songwriter than Slug has ever been - if only because he clearly works harder on his writing. Slug came first, and when he's on, he's superior, but Mack has much to offer on The Heist's 15 tracks, and he's lucky to have found the perfect producer for his laid-back, storytelling style.
Ryan Lewis, whom, like most hip-hop producers, I can't find a while lot of information about, is much more musical in his approach than his Atmosphere equivalent, Ant, was for the first 10 years of his career. But unlike Mack, Lewis doesn't take a whole lot from Atmosphere. His compositions, to my ears, sort of feel like a hip-hop equivalent to Spoon or even Wire. Lewis makes big productions in a smart, minimalist way that beg me to believe that he's either (A) a clear-headed visionary, or (B) a very good self-editor. Lewis never once falls into the safety zone of break beat-riding, nor the jazz riff pit of obviousness. He's a key-based producer whose compositions seem like the perfect fit for the kind of indie rock listener who, from time to time, likes to really dig in on a hip-hop record. The sound is big when it needs to be and sweet and subtle the rest of the time. It's a great fit for Mack, whose presence is quite obviously the center of attention on The Heist.
Lead single "Same Love," backed by a snazzy video and a Mary Lambert-sung hook, has crossover written all over it, Macklemore talking about equality in a way you probably haven't heard in hip-hop music. The song is simple - a piano loop, a whole lot of rap-talk words, a horn lick here and there and, of course, an enormous R&B hook that's held high by a notably epic handclap/drum arrangement. A great track. That said, "White Walls," is frustrating. There's are great things about the song, like the oddly catchy production, and some wholly tasteless moments, like the Hollis-sung hook and the guest verse from ScHoolBoy. I could pick apart everyone song on The Heist in such a fashion, but what would get boring. What you need to know is that: (1) Macklemore is an interesting emcee who, if listeners can get stomach his similarities to Slug, just might be a Next Big Thing candidate; (2) Ryan Lewis is the rare producer who makes neu-style hip-hop that doesn't feel cheep and tinny; (3) This is a good enough record that's maybe a little too long and has, ohh, about nine too many guests; (4) If you like indie music, you'll probably have a good time picking apart and getting to know Lewis' oft-brilliant backdrops. We suggest you get the record, rip it to your computer, cut the stinkers and spin this fun, solid national debut from Seattle hip-hop heroes Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
Read more of my music and film writing at ZeCatalist.com.