The rap game is much like the battle Hercules had with the Hydra. You cut one down and then two more sprout up. White kids that know how to talk fast think they are the next Eminem when, in reality, they come across as a poor man’s Asher Roth. Rap, like any genre, is filled with a lot of acts that are mediocre at best. Mastering the flow and being able to sound different from all the other greats before you is a lot harder than any average fan thinks. You have to be as different as possible. If you’re not, then what are you? It’s label heavy hitters such as Roc Nation and YMCMB that understand this to such a high degree that they have become the life and blood of the rap game. Not being a part of these rap stalwarts connotes that you still have work to do to garner that larger following, but is this really true? Tell that to Seattle bred MC, Macklemore. This past week he did something that a rapper not under a major label could only dream of, debuting at #2 on the Billboard Albums chart. It may have just fallen short at reaching the summit, but this is huge news for (rap) music. It further delineates that majors are not the be-all and end-all.
Macklemore isn’t a young gun that stumbled into getting lucky. He’s actually in his late 20’s and his maturity shows in his newly released album, produced by Ryan Lewis, titled, The Heist. His sound isn’t mainstream. His songs probably won’t receive any major airplay. That said, however, he knows what he is and The Heist is an archetype for that.
The opening track, titled “Ten Thousand hours” is a strong choice to open the album. Playing off the idea that it takes ten thousand hours to become a master at a particular craft, Macklemore is not afraid to let the world know that he feels his time is now. It’s a song that sets the tone, highlighting who he is as both a rapper and person. From the internal struggles of wondering if he has what it takes to the necessary cockiness that all legitimate rappers have—in believing that he has a profound message—he’s here to put the critics to rest. His words hit a nerve when they hit your eardrum, sparking that inner voice that we all have. Macklemore writes:
“Now, now, now
This is my world, this is my arena
The TV told me something different. I didn’t believe it
I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
And I know that one day I’mma be him
Put the gloves on, sparring with my ego.”
In this verse, he begs us to answer that question we ask ourselves on a reoccurring basis: “Are we really on a path to becoming who we want to be?” It’s as if Macklemore understands life’s precious gift better than most and is cognizant of the fact that you can only be truly happy doing something you have a passion for. We all have our struggles, but if we want it bad enough, nothing will stand in our way. It may be somewhat cliché to the casual listener, but rings true for those who really take those words to heart.
Riding a different musical wave, “Same Love” is one of those tracks that just feels like something that you would hear if your life was a movie. The opening has a very Atmosphere feel with a short, yet catchy piano progression. Wind chimes make a brief appearance if only for a moment, symbolizing the pure nature of this song. Macklemore writes about things that have an impact on our thoughts: “For those who like the same sex had the characteristics/The right-wing conservatives think it’s a decision, and you can be cured with some treatment and religion/Man-made, rewiring of a pre-disposition.” These words bear a weight that only a person devoid of real emotions couldn’t feel. It’s as much a damning about this old way of thinking as it is about how bigots think they know the true reason someone may like a person of the same sex. As Macklemore states, it’s not religion and politics to necessarily blame, but people’s narrow minded thinking.
What makes this song resonate is how its theme is rather melancholic in tone, but the production implies an optimism that cannot be ignored. The lyrics, from beginning to end are not thrown around aimlessly, but thought out line for line. There is a respect that Macklemore has in each word he pens, an intrinsic characteristic for any real artist trying to strike a chord with his audience.
Overall, this is one of those few special rap albums that come out only a few times a year, if that. There really isn’t a bad song on the album. Other favorites include: “Thrift Shop” (which I heard on the radio last night!), “Make The Money,” “A Wake,” and “Starting Over.” No matter the mood, Macklemore has something for you that can ease the pain or trigger that lost ambition. Do yourself a favor and check out Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “The Heist.” You won’t be disappointed. Until then Druggernauts!