Riddled with controversy, a white rapper trying to make it in a predominantly black industry, Ben Haggerty or Macklemore as he’s more commonly known is back with the highly anticipated follow up album to Grammy winning debut ‘The Heist’. His success was far from immediate and it took until the music video for smash hit ‘Thrift Shop’ was released for Macklemore to be recognised across the music industry which is bizarre given that the song had already been out for a couple of months before this. After this success appeared came perhaps the most shocking Grammy win anyone had ever seen, as Macklemore and his protégé Ryan Lewis beat Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar to the Best Rap Album award in 2014. This sparked major controversy and even came as a shock to Macklemore himself, as he admitted that Kendrick should have won. This modesty was admired by some but seen as a publicity stunt by others, either way it got people talking and made Macklemore & Ryan Lewis credible musicians that couldn’t be ignored. So can the pair replicate the monumental success of ‘The Heist’ with their latest project ‘This Unruly Mess I’ve Made’? Let’s find out.
Light Tunnels (feat Mike Slap)- 9.5/10
Passionate lyrics with a message of fame and the issue of remaining relevant. Very catchy chorus with connotations of success being the “light tunnel” that everybody can see, only issue being that only certain people make it. Outrage at the media in the second verse, blaming them for extravagant fashion and insecurities. Name drops Kanye West, Britney Spears and Madonna within this seeming rant. Third verse about his Grammy that caused major controversy and how he felt so out of place. Recites a speech and thanks everyone. Accusing award ceremonies of being glitz and glamour, “forgot what this art’s for.” Claims that the award was one of the worst things to happen to him, seems very depressed towards the end when discussing it, calling it an “unruly mess” that he made (album title). As far as I’m concerned it’s a fantastic introduction to the album, ticking all the boxes necessary of a song like this.
Downtown (feat Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee & Eric Nally)- 9/10
As cool and groovy as it gets. Tells a great and comical story about mopeds within the song with an infectious beat behind it. Yet more name dropping with Birdman and DJ Khaled, saying they’ve all got Bugatti’s while he’s buying mopeds. Another brilliant chorus that is very difficult to resist. If you’re looking for meaningful and emotional lyrics then steer clear of this song because it’s borderline comedy, but as far as catchy and upbeat songs go, it’s as good as it gets.
Brad Pitt’s Cousin (feat XP)- 6/10
Name dropping. wow. Again, really? Stark contrast to Downtown in that these comical lyrics really don’t work, talking about his pure fame and how people “go to the barber shop and ask for the Macklemore haircut” which just isn’t true. Very egotistical but backs up his talk with a good flow, despite the horrendous lyrics. HE MENTIONS DEEZ NUTS SO THE SONG BECOMES A PURE FARCE INSTANTLY.
Buckshot (feat KRS-One & DJ Premier)- 5.5/10
Used to work in Subway apparently. Says he has always dreamed of being a successful rapper but after those lines the verse becomes silly again. Feels like he’s filling gaps with these lyrics so says literally anything. Second verse is better but still not amazing and the chorus is hardly something worth shouting about. Feature verse is good, definitely the best on the track and puts Macklemore to shame but that wasn’t really difficult. It saves this song from being an absolute flop but it’s still a poor track.
Growing Up (feat Ed Sheeran)- 8.5/10
Complete change of scenery for Macklemore, softer side to him where he questions real life issues. A real frailty to him here as he questions his importance on this earth and how much he wants to be a dad. Also shows his desperation to see his unborn daughter more as she grows up but wants to have a career to be proud of. First verse is about having a daughter and the second verse is advice for a son. Tells his son to study David Bowie and Tupac, perhaps wants him to take up music. “You’re only young once my loved one this is your chance.” Ed Sheeran returns from his hiatus of music to appear on the chorus of this song and he doesn’t disappoint. Fantastic vocal with meaningful and relatable lyrics of growing up and learning from mistakes. Great track and a pleasant surprise to see this side of Macklemore.
Kevin (feat. Leon Bridges)- 8/10
Raps about the joy of life and how precious it is. Refers to a friend of his who died at 21 years old, calling it too soon and that “nobody is going to cure this pain.” Soulful chorus with next to no music and all emphasis on the vocal of Leon Bridges which is brilliant. Change in tone for second verse as he preaches about the dangers of drugs and how they take too many lives away. States about an emotional issue going deeper than what a doctor can cure, showing the true effects drugs have on people.
St Ides- 7/10
Laid back style as Macklemore appears to take more of a back seat as he raps about all that’s going on around him. Proclaiming his love for his city and that he would never leave no matter how “over populated” it got. Not really a memorable track but worthy of being on the album definitely and has some meaning behind it.
Need to Know (feat Chance The Rapper)- 7.5/10
Shoots at the current generation and how society has destroyed people. Talks about instagramming Jordan trainers and taking drugs rather than actually going out and wanting to achieve in life. Chance the Rapper’s feature is soulful but not what we are used to from him. As his name says, Chance the Rapper should be a rapper but his vocal on this track is a singing style on the chorus. Name drops “Yeezy” again before quickly stating that white people overuse the n word and that “white girls” call him it at his shows. Seems very preachy but does send out a very positive message that is refreshing and will go down well. Good track but wanted a bit more from Chance.
Dance Off (feat Idris Elba & Anderson .Paak)- 7/10
Starts as it means to go on. Afrobeat style that is without doubt the work of actor turned DJ Idris Elba. Silly sex oriented lyrics again but you feel that they weren’t the primary intention of this song. Heavy beat that would go down a hit in a club. As the song title suggests, they want to create an atmosphere for dancing and that’s exactly what is achieved. Can’t really say a lot about this track other than it’s enjoyable to an extent and would go down a treat on a night out.
Let’s Eat (feat XP)- 6.5/10
Body shames himself? Name drops Hugh Jackman, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (it’s getting boring and annoying now). Praises the food he eats and how much he enjoys it but also mentions that it’s the reason he isn’t as fit as he would like. “My girl got a body like a bottle of Coke, me? I’ve got a body like a bottle of nope”. Steady piano instrumental in the background compliments the vocal well. Comical lyrics that will make you laugh at times but seems a bit strange for a Grammy winner to rap lyrics like that?
Bolo Tie (feat YG)- 6.5/10
Lyrics that go from relevant to completely meaningless in a matter of moments. Aggressive tone to his rap shows a frustration at people who don’t rate him. Feature of YG is strong and mixes well with Macklemore’s vocal. As well as this YG brings up the issue of him being shot, claiming people only showed him attention for views online. Okay but nothing more really.
The Train (feat Carla Morrison)- 7/10
Foreign feature by Carla Morrison which translates to “other city, other life” epitomises the motive behind this song as Macklemore uses many different connotations of trains and incorporates his idea on life within it. Calls life a journey and that he doesn’t want to get off. Also links being in a tunnel so not having signal to feeling alone and having nobody to turn to. Quite an emotional song but I don’t see it as a major track from this album. Certainly has its place in the track list, however.
White Privilege II (feat Jamila Woods)- 9.5/10
8 minutes and 46 seconds of preaching about being white and how it’s affected him in the industry, people telling him he doesn’t understand racism but can’t sit back and watch it happen. First verse is a vicious attack at the police and their reputation for shooting innocent black males. The mentioning of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign will be sure to go down well but there is a hint of tongue in cheek in its delivery. Second verse is in reference to him being white and being in the hip hop industry, “You’re Miley, you’re Elvis, you’re Ifgy Azalea.” Third verse is calmer with a mellow piano in the background and told in the perspective of a mother who is happy with the message Macklemore sends. Mentioning of the song ‘One Love’ from the debut album and it’s positivity towards the LGBT community to demonstrate the positive approach to all communities that we very rarely see in hip hop. Fourth verse preaches about the poor state of America with its racism. There are so many memorable and incredibly moving lyrics within this song that so many people can learn from. “We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives?” “White supremacy is my lineage” just to name a few. This truly magnificent and moving song is made even better by the sound bites of interviews during the Black Lives Matter campaign, again questioning the legitimacy of the police force and begging for racism to become a thing of the past. A soulful feature by Jamila Woods at the end puts the icing on top of the cake for this memorable song that will cause shock waves all over America.
Had so much promise, started absolutely incredibly with opening two tracks that are some of the best of the year but after that it faded massively. A few highlights to this album beyond those opening two, Growing Up, Kevin and Need To Know are good songs with very good features, perhaps why those songs are so strong? Comical, sometimes ludicrous lyrics but that’s to be expected by Macklemore. Seems a lot more honest than The Heist as he recognises his new found fame and uses that to preach and send positive messages to people who look up to him. The name dropping in every song does become a bit petty and irritating however. Towards he end it did feel as though I was forcing myself to listen to it as opposed to enjoy it, probably why he put White Privilege II at the end in an attempt to end on a high.