Review Summary: "Change the game, don't let the game change you."
Seattle hip-hop artist Macklemore
has always been a man of principals. Independently releasing his own music since 2000, he has always been lyrically true to heart. The same can't be said about mainstream rap though. You commonly hear rappers discussing the merits of popping pills, drinking liquor, having anonymous sex, and even something called swerve. The genre has been almost completely commercialized, stolen from its roots by money and greed. Don't judge ”The Heist”
by its gator-skin cover though, it has much more to offer than simple swag. Sure, ”The Heist”
is smooth with polished production and catchy hooks, but it has bigger plans. It wants to steal hip-hop back from the mainstream.
Of course Macklemore
couldn't have done this without his producer Ryan Lewis
. Together they maintained their vision of returning hip-hop to its humble beginnings. The emcee, or personality, has always been the focal point of the genre but don't let this mislead you. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
both play an equal part in the making of ”The Heist”
, hence why it includes both their names on the gaudy cover. Under the vision of Lewis
, there are an assortment of live instrumental samples ranging from piano to strings to even horns. Most of the beats have a very organic feel to them which really compliment Macklemore's
quirky yet heartfelt lyricism. The track ”Thrift Shop”
is one example of Ryan Lewis'
masterful production. It sports a bass line dripping with funk and a punchy horn section that demands cranial movement. The production is perhaps best illustrated by the instrumental track ”BomBom"
, which comes off as very Beastie Boys ”The Mix-Up”
The other successful half of ”The Heist”
lyricism. He certainly doesn't hold back on rapping about hot topics, ranging from gay marriage, consumerism, and even hip-hop itself. On the track ”Make the Money”
tells us “Make the money, don't let the money make you. Change the game, don't let the game change you.” While this may come across as a little cliché, Macklemore is walking talking proof of these words. He also discusses buying shoes from Nike on the track ”Wings”
, with children singing the chorus “I want to fly, can you take me far away" Give me a star to reach for, tell me what it takes and I'll go so high. I'll go so high my feet won't touch the ground. Stitch my wings and pull the strings. I bought these dreams that all fall down.” Often times the message is simple and powerful and that has always been Macklemore's
appeal. The tone isn't always so serious though, with tracks like ”Thrift Shop”
talking about Seattle's favorite fashion trend: buying second-hand clothes.
In the end, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
don't execute ”The Heist”
as the album title implies. While the beats and lyricism are certainly great, ultimately it's the choruses that pull the listener in for more. The vast assortment of guest artists provide the perfect hooks for each song. Whether it is Wanz'
silly baritone hook on ”Thrift Shop”
where he proclaims wearing second-hand clothing is “fu
cking awesome” or Mary Lambert's
heart warming words “my love, she keeps me warm” on "Same Love"
, the result in nothing short of sensational. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
certainly aren't the first emcee-producer duo to keep it real, so to speak. What really sets ”The Heist”
apart from the pack isn't the heart felt lyricism or live instrumental sampling, no, it's the combination of those with the all too familiar mainstream song structure. In reality, ”The Heist”
steals our ears by pretending to be mainstream and it's all the better because of it. Well, rapping about gay marriage isn't mainstream, or at least not yet.