Every so often you come across something special; something that reminds you of your first love: Hip Hop. I just recently came across an album that reminded me of why I love Hip Hop and the reasons why I love this outstanding artistry.
The album was: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.” At my first couple of listens I knew that this album was a great follow up to the extremely popular “The Heist” (Which was an amazing album in its own right).
As what was so evident in “The Heist”, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” continued a retrospection that only these two Seattle hit-makers can do. A retrospection that allows the audience to follow the mental journeys of Macklemore though his well crafted lyrics and Ryan Lewis’ mood setting melodies and production.
Now, you can’t talk about a Hip Hop album without talking about the production. As you may have come to expect from a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis album, there are so many sounds that are reminisces of the past as well as sounds of the future. Listening to the various tracks that were created and used for this project, you get a sense that Ryan Lewis a fan of various types of music which inspires his own sounds and methods of production on an album. Every single beat that was created for this album was molded perfectly to the tone of the song, which impacted the entire mood of the album.
Songs like “Buckshot” (Featuring KRS-One and DJ Premier) had a great hint of old school Hip Hop that you would hear in the early years of the musical genre. The song was fun loving and an easy listen to a true Hip Hop fan. I especially loved the use of the classic record scratching that we rarely hear in the genre anymore.
Now, I don’t want to overlook the production of the album because production is so crucial to a successful album. The beats that are used set the mood for the song and the album. If the beat gets people dancing, then the audience will further enjoy the lyrics to the song. If the instrumental allows the listener to become retrospective, then they will be lead to a place of self discovery. When it comes to “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” the work that Ryan Lewis and the rest of the team put in shows and it all fits so well. When the audience is asked to party and have fun, the music leads them through the process. With the deep thinking songs, the instrumentals perfectly complemented the words of the songs, setting the tone for the entire album.
As Macklemore has already proven that he a very lyrical emcee who is not afraid to discuss inspective topics as well as topics that should get people talking. I truly believe that Macklemore is a deep thinker and that shines through on the lyrics of this album. One of the examples of Macklemore’s lyrical gifting is “Growing up” which is a song that he and Ryan Lewis did with the help of Ed Sheeran. The song is a soft sounding dedication to Macklemore’s children and his desire to raise them properly.
“I’ll be patient, one more month
You'll wrap your fingers 'round my thumb
Times are changing, I know, but who am I if
I'm the person you become
If I'm still growing up, up, up, up
If I'm still growing up, up, up, up
I'm still growing up”
The hook of “Growing up” is a great example of the questions that may go through a new father’s mind. It follow the thought process that parents are still human’s that are growing and learning as they get older. Evidently when you become a parent, you realize that the person that you are acting as is the person that your child is going to soon become. Macklemore thinks that through a step further by asking: Who am I if I’m the person you become if I’m still growing up?
Along with Macklemore’s ability and willingness to dig deep into his mind and look into topics of heavy discussion, he has also shown that he is very creative as well as humorous with his lyrics. With songs like “Downtown ” (Featuring Melle Mel, Grandmaster Cas, Kool Moe Dee and Eric Nally) where he explains his desire to buy a moped and ride through downtown causing chaos and turning heads. The song has an old school Hip Hop sound of horns and group chants. It’s a fun song to listen to while walking or driving through the city streets.
As one journeys through Macklemore’s in depth tales, the intent listener will be faced with a plethora of challenging questions and concepts that should not only be asked, but conversed about with a variety of people from numerous backgrounds. Topics such as the seemingly unlawful treatment of patients and the abuse of prescription drugs to Hollywood’s insatiable desire to glorify themselves through award shows and the fashion industry. These thought provoking songs allow the audience to gather information from Macklemore’s vault of knowledge and begin a conversation that may challenge their own thoughts and opinions.
This thought provoking ability couldn’t be more evident than the closing statements of the album, “White Privilege II”. This song takes a look at current day racism in America. Throughout the song you get a sense of Macklemore’s desire to stand for something bigger than himself and his music mixed with the internal struggle of his motive. It seems that Macklemore struggles with his popularity and how that impacts generations after him as he either stands up for equality or lets it go past. This is a topic that I feel can easily get swept under the rug and many times, it does.
“You speak about equality, but do you really mean it?
Are you marching for freedom, or when it's convenient?
You want people to like you, want to be accepted
That's probably why you are out here protesting.
Don't think for a second you don't have incentive.
Is this about you, well, then what's your intention?”
This quote raises a great discussion of a person’s motive of why they get involved in any sort of politically or social injustice. I believe that we have to ask ourselves if we are getting involved only to fulfill our own intention or to make us feel a sense of holy or righteous.
As a man of faith listening to this album I am faced with a variety of heavy topics of discussion that need to be discussed by all types of people. Throughout this album I ponder on our culture’s stance on these topics and how my mind has been shaped over the years to fit a specific mold. Now, I am challenged to discuss, tackle and grow of the various topics.
Whether Macklemore is making the audience think deeply about societal subjects or making feel good funny music that gets or heading nodding, it’s clear that he and his production partner Ryan Lewis are a team that will be around for many years to come. It’s evident that they will continue to entertain the masses as well as get them thinking. As a Hip Hop fan, it is refreshing to hear an album that brings back the fun loving music that made this genre so popular along with the loaded discussions that we need to discuss.
Good Hip-Hop is hard to find at times. Here's what I have found!