Album Review: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis—”The Heist”

By Emily Scherzinger

I’ve been a rabid fan of Macklemore ever since I heard “The Town,” off of The Unplanned Mixtape, his 10-song mixtape of solid gold that was released in 2009. There was something between the addicting beats and the mix of poetic lyrics with comedic songs that had me hooked immediately. He quickly became one of my favourite contemporary musicians at a time when I only listened to indie rock.

Now, I’m not going to lie – sometimes I feel a little stupid, being a white girl listening to rap and hip-hop music that clearly isn’t directed at me. I don’t always know how to feel when I hear rappers talking about sleeping with strippers or “holdin’ more drugs than a pharmacy” (“Brooklyn’s Finest” by Jay-Z feat. Notorious B.I.G.). This may come as a shock, but I just can’t relate.

I don’t feel that way while listening to The Heist. Macklemore teamed up with Ryan Lewis, an indie producer and DJ, to make his first full-length album, which is not your average hip-hop record; it is unabashedly personal one minute, with songs that openly discuss Macklemore’s opinions on gay marriage (“Same Love”), consumerism (“Wing$”), and racism (“A Wake”), and then without notice will take a turn to the absolutely ridiculous, with a song like “Thrift Shop” that threatens to steal your grandpa’s style.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis make a great team – they know when to break out typical hip-hop beats to liven up the album and when to let their vulnerable sides show. Macklemore said in an interview for Respect Mag, “I use vulnerability as a tool to express my truth.” To be honest, I think the vulnerability that Macklemore uses is what drew me into his music in the first place. In a world where hip-hop and rap is all about being tough, Macklemore openly and unashamedly writes about sentimental topics, such as soul-searching (“Make the Money”) and nostalgia for childhood (“My Oh My”), that anyone can relate to.

What makes this album more impressive is that it was recorded and produced completely independently, and it made it to number one on the iTunes chart within a day of its release. This couldn’t have been done without the support of a dedicated fanbase, and perhaps what I love most about the Macklemore team is that they recognize this. Macklemore speaks to his fans throughout the album, blatantly attempting to thank us and trying to return the favour with some earnest songs, relentlessly catchy music, and beautiful lyrics, the most notable situation being in “Make the Money”: “See life’s a beautiful struggle, I record it/Hope it helps you maneuvering through yours.”

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