Review Summary: A statement on the world we live in today and the problem with living that way. This sophomore effort from the Seattle duo isn't afraid to tackle taboo subjects and making those topic comfortable to listen to, with help from an amazing producer in Ryan Le
In 2013, the mainstream allowed at least one indie act to squeeze into the public view: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, with their single “Thrift Shop” being the biggest song of the year. Since then, the public has been able to see what they are capable of. Songs like “Can’t Hold Us” and “Thrift Shop” showed they can be an exciting group that can make a great party anthem. However, the latter brings up my other point of why this album is amazing. The previously mentioned “Thrift Shop”, has a great message of instead of spending a *** ton of money on designer close, you should wear whatever you want. Lines like “They be like, "Oh, that Gucci - that's hella tight./"I'm like, "Yo - that's fifty dollars for a T-shirt/Limited edition, let's do some simple addition/Fifty dollars for a T-shirt - that's just some ignorant bitch”. Songs like “Neon Cathedral”, “Wing$”, and “Same Love” are bold enough to tackle themes most rappers won’t even touch like alcoholism, materialism, and same-sex marriage. Lines like, “White privilege, white guilt, at the same damn time/so we just party like it’s 1999/celebrate the ignorance while these kids keep dyin'.” and, “This dream that they sold to you/For a hundred dollars and some change/Consumption is in the veins/And now I see it's just another pair of shoes”, and, “The right wing conservatives think it's a decision/And you can be cured with some treatment and religion” shows they business. Being able to proficiently talk about subjects like this makes Mack one the most forward-thinking artists in mainstream music.
However, the group is called Macklemore AND Ryan Lewis. Adding Lewis to the main crediting was one of the best things Mack could've done. Lewis is able to create beats from a diverse range of styles, from “Thrift Shop” dirty sax, to “Cowboy Boots” country-themed tune, to 80’s synth in “Neon Cathedral”. However, if you want to hear Lewis at his best, “Bombom” is where you’ll want to check. What is the message of this song? Ryan Lewis is amazing and here’s why. The way the song evolves from a beautiful piano intro to a Rio-inspired beat, horns, drums and all the other good stuff, and eventually leaves with a soft outro combining both of the sounds. Another personal favorite of mine is “Jimmy Iovine”, with its beat making it the most bass-filled and intense songs in the album. Along with one of Macklemore’s better performances, this song is kickass. Then there’s Macklemore. He is the less interesting part of the duo on a technical standpoint. While he is an amazing songwriter, he isn’t the most spectacular rapper out the. He has good flow, but nothing really tries to show he can take anyone out. Also, he occasionally decides to ditch rhyming and pairs lines that, while sounding well in context, don’t technically rhyme. But what he’s rapping about is truly the main focus in this record, so a screw up or two can be looked over.
While the high points are indeed amazing, there are a few slip-ups. “White Walls” goes against everything “Thrift Shop” and “Wing$” was all about, making this the worst of the album. Since, I’m not to much of a fan of country “Cowboy Boots” beat didn’t interest me that much, but country fans would probably like this. While “Gold” has the least to say and treads the line of “White Walls”, it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. However, the good easily trumps the bad. Besides, it’d be hard to discuss 15 controversial topics without sounding preachy.
The Heist is a gem that ponders about how people in the modern day live, and tries to flip that on its side. It’s progressive, thought-provoking, and knows how to treat touchy subjects with a certain care that can be respected. But that doesn’t mean that all this album is serious and unenergetic, as Ryan Lewis is the man behind the scenes bring great tracks that can raise the roof, but he still has that subtly to make beats that compliment every track to make the lyrics and the music one and the same. I will now close this review with a quote from one of their songs that I feel captures their careers in one line,” The TV told me something different I didn't believe it/ I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea/I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential”
Can’t Hold Us