Album Review: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
“I never set out to be an underground rapper. I hate that term. My intention was to make music that spoke to people. And not like 40 people… Like millions of people.” With the release of their debut studio album, The Heist, Seattle hip-hop duo, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are one step closer to reaching that goal.
Macklemore’s career has been a roller coaster since he first entered the hip-hop world in 2000 with his EP, Open Your Eyes. However, he didn’t obtain a serious following until his first critically acclaimed album, The Language of My World in 2005. After his first full-length album, Macklemore became non-existent, putting out minimal work up until 2009. This was due to his addiction to the street drug, “syrup,” along with oxycontin. Macklemore finally became clean in 2008, about a year after he met Ryan Lewis, who at the time was his personal photographer. The two began to work together musically by the end of 2008, just before Macklemore put out his mixtape, The Unplanned Mixtape, which put him back on the map in Seattle hip-hop. Songs such as “The Town” and “And We Danced” gave Macklemore a small national following. Shortly after, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released their first EP, The VS. EP, which had been in the works since 2008. Each song contained a sample from some contemporary artist. Most notably was the song “Otherside,” which contained a Red Hot Chili Peppers sample, and was about Macklemore overcoming his addiction. The success of the EP led to The VS. Redux, which had remixes of each song by different producers. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis began touring the country after the EPs and at the same time, releasing singles from 2010 until 2012 from their three-year project, The Heist. And let me tell you; it was definitely worth the wait.
The Heist was produced, recorded and released completely independently by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Quickly after it’s release on October 12th, it shot up to Number 1, on the ITunes charts, making it the first entirely self released album to do so since The Eagles in 2007.
The album begins with, “Ten Thousand Hours,” a phenomenally produced song, with Macklemore rapping about his hard-work and perseverance. While I felt the hook didn’t compliment the energy of the song as well as it could’ve, the song as a whole is a great way to start of an epic album. The next song, “Can’t Hold Us”, which was released as a single in 2011, is Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at their finest. The song shows Macklemore’s true rapping skills, with the fast tempo and slick word play about getting where he is on his own. On top of this the extremely talented Ray Dalton lays down a powerful chorus. “Thrift Shop,” the radio friendly song of the album, shows the side of Macklemore people forget about. Macklemore wants the listener to see a new side of him, while mocking consumerism in our society. This is followed by the weakest song of the album, “Thin Line,” where Macklemore tries to sound vulnerable through a past relationship but falls short due to the lack of originality. Luckily, “Same Love” is the exact opposite, and provides the most original song of the year. The song is beautifully produced, accompanied with my favorite hook of the album, song by Mary Lambert. It’s the only song in music that will get straight people to sing about being gay. The next song “Make The Money,” is my favorite song of the album, because of the power it brings both through it’s lyrics and production. “Make the money don’t let the money make you,” should be a motto everyone carries with them.
READ THE REST BELOW
“Neon Cathedral” follows as Macklemore’s most honest song of the album. He raps about his alcohol addiction getting in the way of his faith, accompanied by a smooth hook sung by Allen Stone. Ryan Lewis’s masterpiece “Bombom follows, with one of the best instrumentals in recent years. “White Walls” featuring Black Hippie’s, Schoolboy Q, is a toast to the good life, with a relaxing feel. I was slightly disappointed by Schoolboy’s verse however overall another solid song from the album. “Jimmy Iovine,” does not sound like a song Macklemore would ever be on, however it somehow works with Ab-Sol on the hook, and stellar vocal changes by Mr. Haggerty. If you haven’t heard “Wing$,” listen to it now. It is one of the best songs in hip-hop over the last five years, with Macklemore bashing consumerism, and being assisted vocally by a girl’s choir in the chorus.
“Awake” and “Starting Over” follow, and are both focused on the mistakes of society and Macklemore himself. “Starting Over” is one of the strongest songs on the album, with content similar to his hit “Otherside,” and another excellent production from Ryan Lewis. The feel good song of the album “Gold,” is another song ready for radio, with Macklemore comparing his life to gold. It is one of my favorite songs of the album because every time you hear it I guarantee it’ll make you dance. “Cowboy Boots,” comes next as one of the most interesting songs on the album, because of the production. You will either love it or hate it, but personally I think it’s brilliant. “Castle,” a song extremely similar to “And We Dance,” shows Macklemore completely goofing around with lines such as “Who wants to eat a coyote,” however it’s the most fun song on The Heist. The album ends with two songs that have been out for a while, “My Oh My,” and “Victory Lap.” Both songs show Ryan Lewis at his finest, and are great songs to end this debut album.
Overall, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis prove that they are a force to be reckoned with in hip-hop. Newcomer Ryan Lewis is able to out do Macklemore on this album, with some of the best production in recent years. This being said, Macklemore’s lyrical content is still ahead of most rappers in the game and he doesn’t disappoint lyrically in any songs. While there are a few moments in the album that I feel could’ve had the power that lead singles, “Make The Money,” and “Wing$” contained, it can’t overshadow the masterpiece that these this duo has put before us. Enjoy.