Now I know I go MIA for long stretches but forget all of that because I'm back after taking a listen to the latest project from Macklemore and Ryan lewis, "This Unruly Mess I've Made" which has gotten considerably less press and radio play than his first album which spawned several major hits. I do remember the first single being dropped but it did little to create the same buzz as "Thrift Shop". Now I don't recall ever fully listening to the last album, but this new record is more than solid and deserves more press and attention from mainstream and underground hip-hop publications because it represents what we like to claim we ask for from our artists.
The album opens with "Light Tunnels" which has Macklemore ruminating over the fame and results from his previous acclaim. He talks about the struggles of keeping up appearances and the expectations thrust upon him when he just wants to chill and be a more regular guy. He also talks about the "media" desires for moments that they can market at the expense of artists. So the lead single was "Downtown" which features Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee and Eric Nalley. The song is alright I guess, the flavor of the track might be too old school for modern radio in reality and I didn't care for the hook, but what he did do, was show his bonafides by including some pioneers which most artists these days don't do. He follows that up with "Buckshot" which features KRS One and Premier and he talks about growing up listening to hip-hop, specifically grimey Boot Camp Clik style hip-hop.
"Growing Up" featuring Ed Sheeran is about just that. Macklemore as a father and trying to be a man, especially one that has to go on the road and earn a living to provide for his daughter. "Kevin" with Leon Bridges is about the loss of a loved one due to addiction and drug use. "Need to Know" is another song where Macklemore gets caught up in the trappings of fame and it features Chance The Rapper.
Now one of the strongest songs I think would be great for top 40 features Anderson.Paak and Idris Elba, called "Dance Off". The track has crazy rhythm and bounce to it. Idris brings a Euro dance club vibe to it when he talks over the track. "St. Ides" is a throwback track again where Macklemore ruminates on the past and where he would kind of like to go back to. "Brad Pitt's Cousin" which features XP on hook duties is a fun little song that kind of tries to trap and update that Thrift shop vibe where he also makes some fun of himself. This is another one I could have seen being a single.
"Let's Eat" also features XP and it's about enjoying his life before he has to go and get fit and the whole lifestyle change. It's a fun little song that isn't too serious. "Bolo Tie" and "The Train" are decent little songs, but the album is truly caped off by the Jamilah Woods assisted "White Privilege II" where Macklemore gets in depth about his place and that of other white artists in what is a black musical genre of rap music. In the face of the Black Live Matter Movement, it is a great song that delves into his own personal issues and what his place is or should be. It was one of the most important songs of the past year.
Look, Macklemore I think is slept on because a lot of people felt he was gimmicky when it comes to black rap listeners. Many had a problem or issue with "Same Love" which really took him to the next level and some homophobia showed as a lot of people took the promotion of this song as the thing that made him an establishment favorite, and indeed it played apart along with race but what it showed was that maybe some other subject matters should be explored within hip-hop in some form or fashion and only this white artist has really explored in some manner. He covers the well traveled ground of trying to deal with fame and he unlike most took time off for himself after a crazy touring schedule. He came back with a solid album, and while it doesn't have the big epic singles built in, there are several solid songs that deserve both radio play and attention from real hip-hop fans.