Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis- The Heist (2012)

Why did I review the album? My sister asked me about a song named “Same Love” and I loved it so I listened to the whole album
Did I like it? It’s either my favorite or second favorite album since 2012
Will I listen again? I will listen to this one forever
The two sides of Macklemore the funny guy and serious Mack. Both are on display in this album.
The crowning achievement of this album is Macklemore’s ability to step in the shoes of the person in that situation. He does it multiple times in songs like Same Love, Neon Cathedrals and Wing$. The reason I love JoJo is her ability to accomplish this. It’s also the reason I was somewhat critical of Love Marriage and Divorce, the lyrics were there, but I didn’t feel the emotion that I felt necessary. This is the first time I’ve noticed a rapper achieving the same feat. It makes the music stronger because the audience notices how deeply the artist feels about the issue, so every lyric carries more weight and significance.
I constantly complain that “fun” music tends to force me to “turn my brain off” in order to enjoy it. This isn’t the case with Macklemore. Like Gaga he manages to have fun, but maintain a level of seriousness. Considering the pulverizing nature of some of his other work, it’s interesting that he can pull off “fun” so well. It proves that he is truthfully versatile and can handle both radio worthy tracks and thought provoking material.   
My only complaint is that the track listing could have been organized a bit better. Towards the end, there were about five fun songs in a row without a thought provoking song to balance out the silliness and I found my patience waning. It’s a small complaint and something that would only hurt the album when comparing it to my favorites.
There’s something here for everyone. There’s more than enough “fun” for people to enjoy, but also has some material that might make you think about the stances you hold concerning certain topics. It’s an album that touches on many different topics and shares it’s opinion without apologizing. It’s a versatile album from a strong artist that can hold its own against many of my favorite albums and is one of my favorite albums in recent memory.
My Favs
3.  Thrift Shop
b. Badaboom
2.  Same Love
1. Neon Cathedral
Overall Rating: 5/5 Spins 

Ten Thousand Hours- I don’t know how everyone else feels about this, but I like self-congratulatory songs if the artist is doing more than bragging.  I believe that anyone who has worked hard and wants to acknowledge it should be allowed to do so. In this case Macklemore does more than congratulate himself.  The hidden message in this song is that if you do what you love and work hard to become great at that skill, your work will be recognized. Beyond that, people should do work that fulfills them. That’s a sentiment that I largely agree with. How does he know this attitude works? Well, he is an example. He started out as a man with passion, but no following then managed to pay his rent making music. Now he and Lewis are major recording artist.
The second half features a beat switch. This one is interesting because it creeps in subtly at first then slowly takes over the entire song. It’s a true transition because in many cases, one beat ends and another begins, but this one takes the time to show one section of the first beat fading out. Then the first part of the second beat takes its place, so at that point they merge and eventually the first part fades out entirely, completely replaced by both parts of the second beat.
Along with the beat switch, a new message is introduced. We should work in any field that interests us and we should do it now because once we let a moment pass we can never reuse it. This message is beautifully delivered using the allegory of the crowd asking for an encore
Beyond the inspirational message, he manages to touch on many of his struggles and various thoughts about American society 5/5
Can’t Hold Us- I should hate this song because it woke me up every morning last summer (the football team used it to work out and I live about five feet from the practice facility). Since I heard it so many times, I had a chance to dissect the lyrics thoroughly. That’s the beauty of this song, it manages to be fun AND cram loads of content at the same time.
Macklemore’s got the determination of a boxer (Cassius and Rocky ), but knows how to make jokes like Bill Cosby too. This line stuck out to me because this sentiment is evident in the album. He can make song like Wing$, Same Love, and Neon Cathedrals, but he can also make lighter songs like Cowboy Boots and My,Oh My. Add either of those two together and what do we have? A well-rounded artist and a seemingly chill dude. Essentially he’s a renaissance man; he can do it all.
He also pays homage to artist influential during his youth. Thanks his fans for their support because that has allowed him to experience many different things. He is able to live comfortably and travel the world. These new experiences will turn into music for upcoming work. So, it’s give and take relationship.
The song is full of one liners that allude to other subjects. If you’ve only listened to this as a “fun” song I challenge you to listen again and see if you can catch some of the content. 5/5          
Thrift Shop- I avoided listening to this song because I thought it was going to be a really stupid song. So, I avoided it for six months then finally listened. Well, I’ve never been this excited about making the wrong assumption. This song is HILARIOUS.  I don’t think I’ve ever laughed this hard from a song.
Lets look at the beginning of the first verse.  Now, Walk up in the club like, what up? I got a big c***! First off, that’s a completely ridiculous statement to make especially to someone he doesn’t know.  Then he follows with Nah, I’m just pumped up from some s*** I got from the thrift shop.  That tells us he would never say something ridiculous like that and it’s a pretty effective double entendre.
I like the fact that he is able to make fun of himself. Most of the time rappers are too interested in telling people how gangster they are to poke fun at themselves. Well, Macklemore does with great effect. He even calls himself a cold a** honkey (a chill white guy). By doing this he diffuses the info that could be used against him. Yes he is a white man that likes to rap and shops at thrift shops to find the best deal. So what? He’s essentially telling anyone that would try to use this info to hurt him that: 
1.       He’s not ashamed of what he does
2.       By letting everyone know that he shops at these places it becomes common knowledge and less shocking and effective if used against him
3.       He is okay with his race
I added number two because I thought of the beef between Rick Ross and 50 Cent and remember how 50 tried to end Ross’ career by outing him as a police officer.
I added three because the only other white rapper that has achieved extreme success is Eminem. Even Eminem had troubles gaining acceptance as a rapper due to his race. It was an interesting case of reverse discrimination. When he released Infinite in 1996 no one listened to it. And those who did mainly had two reactions, they claimed it wasn’t an album. Those that did believe it was an album belittled him by calling him a carbon copy of AZ. To me the real problem was his race. Rap apparently wasn’t ready for it. It’s actually a really good album, he sounds like a conventional rapper and through that album I got to see a young Eminem grow into the behemoth he turned out to be. I’ve got to imagine that the adverse reaction he received played a role in his crazy rapping style I grew to love. Since the rap game slapped him in the face for being white he decided to face the issue and give the rap game what it wanted. In his mind the rap game thought that a white guy was “not one of us” and a bit crazy. So with Slim Shady LP he gave them exactly that and the new Eminem was born. In it he makes countless remarks about his race. By confronting it and acknowledging it, it became less of an issue and he achieved steps 2 and 3.
Macklemore skillfully pokes fun at American society and (in his mind) the stupidity of Amercan’s obsession with name brands and generally materialistic ways. An interesting idea takes root in this song. When people do not have excess money, shopping for deals is seen as savvy and is generally applauded. But as you economic status grows your inclination toward name brands (aka the best clothes) is seen as  an indication of how “trendy” you are. This speaks to the difference in mindset between classes and the widening economic gap in the U.S.   5/5 
Thin Line- This is the only song I could not justify giving a four star rating. It’s a song that talks about the struggles of juggling his love for rap and the relationships in his life. It’s a nice song, but one that has been done many times. This one doesn’t offer any new twist on the idea. 3/5
Same Love- This is the song that made me listen to the rest of the album and exposed me to Macklemore.  I could write a book about this song and parse lyrics, but I’ll stick to one point. Above all, this song is a story of tolerance. The greatest part is that the message is coming from someone that has no skin in the game. If we looked in the past for people that have fought for rights, it’s usually the people that suffer the injustice that take the strongest stand. With this song Macklemore and his crew make their opinion known. It doesn’t affect him, but that does not matter.  (To him) Wrong is wrong and should be corrected whether he is feeling the effects of the injustice or not. 
This is the type of song that classic albums are made of because it handles an issue of our time and does so without obliterating the other side.
Normally a track like this would be my favorite, but this album is so good that there is one that’s equally amazing 5/5
Make the Money- This is a weaker version of Ten Thousand Hours. The reason? It’s too deliberate. It’s clear that’s he’s trying to motivate kids (and I respect that), but on the opening track, he found a way to do it without a big sign that says “I’M TRYING TO MOTIVATE YOU.”
Still, I’ll never crush a man that’s trying to motivate kids to find their passion.
To be fair, he talks about other interesting material. It’s a good song, but one that’s too deliberate to earn a five 4/5
Neon Cathedrals- This song is on a short list of my favorite songs of the last two years; it’s probably my favorite. It’s amazing the way he is able to toy with the idea of church and religion. I don’t agree with the conclusion he’s come to, but that doesn’t matter. The takeaway is that he’s able to create a scenario and use it to discuss a sensitive topic.
If you are not familiar with Macklemore’s work, this is the perfect song to try. It lets you know that he is not afraid to touch upon polarizing material. At the same time, he’ll give you his opinion without belittling the other side. Even though he performs serious material, he’s still has a sense of humor that he can rely on at any moment. 5/5
Bombom- When I first heard this track I had no idea what it was doing on the album, but if you think about it the song makes perfect sense. Drake often gives shoutouts to his main producer Noah “40” Shebib. With this track Macklemore is doing the same thing, but much more. This a bit different from what Drake does because as much as Drake gives credit to Sebib (to my knowledge)  he has never given him a track to showcase his creative genius. Macklemore completely removes himself from the track to do just that. The result? We are awarded with this stroke of orchestral genius. 5/5
White Walls- This one manages to have fun with itself. It’s funny, slightly raunchy, and very enjoyable.  4/5
Jimmy Iovine- I trashed Mariah Carey for doing something similar, but I’m going to give Macklemore a free pass. The reason is that I believe Mariah’s song served no purpose other than to humiliate someone.
In this case I do believe Mack wants to get back at him for slighting him during his experience, but this song serves two functions, it trashes this man and chronicles his experience trying to sign a deal. This second point is what separates the song from being a carbon copy of Mariah’s track.
He starts off with preconceived notions of grandeur concerning the music business.  In a word, he’s naïve. But as the song matures his naiveté and ignorance is traded for experience. By the end of the song he realizes that the music industry is a business; nothing like the fairytale he concocted for himself. The song is bit too mean-spirited for me to enjoy it enough to earn a 5, but it is a solid track. 4.5/5 
White Walls- This is a nice funny song that lightens the mood after Jimmy Iovine. 4/5
Wing$- This song is about the effects of consumerism and Nike is the scapegoat. Although I agree with his end goal and thought process I believe he’s missing a key factor. In order for the consumerism to take place. The buyers have to buy the message that this (name any good/service here) is worth my time and money. So, the companies aren’t the only ones to blame for the current system. To me, the companies are sending out a message, if people are receiving it well, that means the marketers have done their job properly. Still, I understand the message he was trying to send and I agree with it, but he only rebukes half the people at fault (you could argue that by saying that they are just a pair of shoes he’s rebuking them. I agree, but the language against one is far stronger than the other). 5/5
A Wake- Macklemore is all over the place in this song, similar to pre-album Drake. I’m always afraid when rappers do this because it either works very well or the song fails miserably. In this case it works very well because he touches on so many issues that one of them is bound to interest you. Because he doesn’t delve into any of these subjects I can’t justify giving the song a five. 4.5/5
Gold- Another fun song that’s easy to listen to.
One thing he said stood out to me though. When everything is gold who cares about the carats? It’s an interesting comment that probably true. It sounds stupid, but it made me realize that things are only valuable because we place value upon them. 4/5   
Starting Over- Macklemore talks about his temporary relapse and the effects it has on his relationships with different sets of people. It’s interesting that he spends a majority of the song berating himself, but finally realizes that it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. More than Macklemore’s struggles with sobriety, this song is about the idea of prospective. At first he’s angry and sees the result of his lost sobriety as a failure of his character, willpower and a defining moment in his life. But, after some time to process his failure and think rationally, he sees his failure as another chance to rebuild the relationship he’s damaged, regain the trust he’s lost, become the hope for other addicts, and a chance to become the man he’d be proud of. He truthfully humbled himself and as a result the audience has gotten a look at the mind of Macklemore. 5/5
Cowboy Boots- This is another example of Macklemore pulling me (and his music) out of my comfort zone and allowing himself to experiment. I don’t think anyone else could have made me enjoy this song. The sound is a bit different, but every other aspect is kept the same, so I enjoyed it despite my prejudices. 4/5
Castle-More lighthearted fun. 4/5
My Oh My-With this song Mack pays homage to his hometown. I probably like this song a bit more than I should because it uses sport as a medium to connect a city. People that study sport claim that sport has the ability to bring people together and would likely champion this song as a prime example.
This song also serves as a tribute to David Niehaus, the longtime broadcaster for Seattle Mariners games. The name of the song is one of his favorite taglines. I’ve heard him use it a few times (Ichiro Suzuki is my favorite batter, so I used to tune into his games every once in a while)
He also tries some new things with this track. He added part of a broadcast to his track; something I believe was very risky, but worked nonetheless. If you listen closely, he talks about the winning run that created a win for the Mariners, them immediately plays a broadcast that reiterates that same event. It’s almost word for word. It works for me because rapping and broadcasting have the same aim; to tell a story. How each medium does this is very different and that is why this experiment works. We may be hearing the same content, but the delivery is different and therefore my interest was still piqued. 5/5

Victory Lap- This song is a tribute to his hard work and a thank you to those that helped make it happen. A solid close to the album. 4/5                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             


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