The new album by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made,” dropped recently and I don’t really like it. Since I really enjoyed “The Heist,” I had to try and pin down exactly *why* I don’t like their newest work.
I would not call myself a fan of hip-hop, not by a long shot. Some of the gems of the genre appeal to me, but most of it I could take or leave. Maybe I just don’t “get it,” maybe I haven’t been exposed to enough of it, who knows?
One notable exception to this in recent years was “The Heist” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, released back in 2012. It was catchy, both musically and conceptually. What originally got into your head because of a nice beat or melody, stuck around and left its mark because of the message and lyrics. Stellar album, no doubt about it.
Fast forward to the release of “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made,” the latest album by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. I was really excited to hear it, mostly because “The Heist” was so good and the single “Downtown” was fantastic. When I finally got my hands on the album, I was disappointed. Not devastated, since I accept any new release by any artist could be terrible, no matter how good their previous work might be. Still, I expected better.
“Downtown” is still great, and “Let’s Eat” is both funny and catchy. The rest of the album just let me down. While listening to the last track of the album, “White Privilege II,” it became clear why I wasn’t a fan.
A line from “White Privilege II” goes, “Hip-hop has always been political.” This, I will not deny. As a genre of music, hip-hop is undeniably political. However, having a political message does not excuse an artist from producing music lacking in melody, beat, or whatever non-lyrical backbone the song has. In much the same way that contemporary Christian artists make songs with great messages and terrible instrumental qualities, Macklemore’s newest album has a lot of tracks with undeniably political and enthralling lyrics, but none of the catchy beats and tunes he had on “The Heist.”
Again, maybe I just don’t get hip-hop. Maybe I came into this album with higher expectations than I should’ve had. Either way, it’s mediocre at best. None of the beats are good, many I’d even describe as annoying. The lyrics are good, sure, but I’d probably rather read them than hear them in the form that they exist.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are white guys, yeah, and now it feels like they’re apologizing for being white. I don’t know what I expected, being released in a genre that is predominantly black, but it’s out now and I’m sure they’ll make millions off the album. White Privilege is a hot topic, and the stance they took will get them praise from every Social Justice Warrior in the world.
As for any future music from Macklemore, I hope that he focuses on making solid music and injects his personal agenda as an afterthought. Some people might care that you’re a white guy breaking into a black genre, but I do not. Eminem did it, and he didn’t make a big deal about it.
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