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If I'd had done it for the money I'd have been a f***ing lawyer"
Ben Haggerty, better known by his alias Macklemore is a rapper hailing from Seattle in Washington. He has released a mix tape, three eps and two albums but none of these were released on a major record label. He has gained greater success and following after teaming up with producer and long time friend Ryan Lewis . The result of this was their debut studio album, The Heist. The album was released independently in October 2012.
The album itself
This album is classified in the genre of hip hop. Unlike a lot of modern hip hop it has thoughtful verses and lyrics and covers quite topical subject matter. It reached number 1 in the itunes chart upon release and sold 78000 copies in the first week of release.In this review I will outline some of the top/key tracks in my opinion and give an opinion of the album overall.
The opening track and introduction to the album is "ten thousand hours" where he outlines his struggles and the importance of hard work in being successful. The 10000 hours he mentions in this song is a reference from a book (Outliers) written by Malcom Gladwell in which he states the key to success in any field is to practice a specific task for around 10000 hours.
"Take that system, what did you expect?
Generation of kids choosing love over a desk
Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is"
The next two tracks are the most well known and the big hits of the album. Thrift shop is a track which describes Macklemore's interest in buying from stores selling second hand discounted clothing. It goes against the grain of most hip hop which is all about designer labels and following trends. He explained the meaning of the song in an interview :" Rappers talk about, oh I buy this and I buy that, and I spend this much money and I make it rain, and this type of champagne and painting the club, and this is the kind of record that's the exact opposite," It is about being frugal and saving money. There is a feature from a pretty unknown singer by the name of Wanz who sings the hook.
"I wear your granddads clothes,
I look incredible
I'm in this big a** coat
From the thrift shop down the road"
The song has proven to be a real hit and currently has well over 350 million hits on Youtube. The video is pretty funny as well and was filmed in a number of thrift shops in Seattle. It is a catchy song which appeals to the mainstream as well as the hip hop crowd.
Can't hold us is another top hit. The song combines the fast raps and verses of Macklemore with the strong vocals and chorus by relative newcomer Ray Dalton. This is another catchy track which you can nod your head and stomp your feet along to.
"Here we go back, this is the moment
Tonight is the night, we'll fight till it's over
So we put our hands up like the ceiling can't hold us
like the ceiling can't hold us"
Wings is another top track which addresses the issue of materialism and consumerism. He outlines his love of his Nike Air Jordans which he got when he was 7. He describes being able to touch the net and it being the best day of his life. Later he sees them as just another pair of shoes and insignificant after a friends cousin was murdered for their shoes. There is also a poignant chorus sung by a group of kids.
We want what we can't have, commodity makes us want it
So expensive, damn, I just got to flaunt it Got to show 'em, so exclusive, this that new sh**
A hundred dollars for a pair of shoes I would never hoop in . "
Make the money is another song outlining his struggles and also explaining how he is doing something he loves regardless of money. He states that he would have become a lawyer if he really wanted the money. He is content with spreading a message. He has shunned major music labels and the album was released independently .
"Make the money, don't make the money make you, change the game, don't let the game change you"
Same Love is a track which supports the idea of same sex marriage. The inspiration for this track came from his two uncles who were in a gay relationship. The lyrics by Macklemore are complemented well by the strong vocals of Mary Lambert. A track on the idea of legalising same sex marriage by a straight hip hop artist is certainly something refreshing. Macklemore explains that "Misogyny and homophobia are the two acceptable means of oppression in hip hop culture." This song was also performed on the Ellen Degeneres show which helped him gain a fair few more followers. This is a truly beautiful song and also has a very good video.
"If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
"Man, that's gay" gets dropped on the daily
We become so numb to what we're saying."
Starting over is the penultimate track and is about him getting sober after drug addiction.
"If I can be an example of being sober, then I can be an example of starting over."
Macklemore is now 30 and has been around quite a while with quite limited mainstream success. He also has had trouble with drugs which almost curtailed his music career. Since 2010 his career has taken off and he seems thankful to be able to spread his message in this collaboration with Ryan Lewis. The production by Lewis is on point throughout the album. He gets to show this off on one particular track Bom Bom which is an instrumental with no lyrics .The guest singers on the tracks are also worth noting as they add to the quality of the album.
There are some fun party style tracks but also slightly more serious rap ballads. They are able to appeal to the mainstream with catchy beats (props to Lewis) and thoughtful lyrics. Macklemore doesn't tend to preach but instead tends to give his own point of view. He is a white rapper so comparisons can be made with Eminem. He is similar in some regards combining silly songs such as thrift shop to more serious ones such as wings and same love. From what I have heard he has the potential to be a big star but he will probably find it hard to emulate the huge success of Eminem. A collaboration between the two would be great. Regardless, this is a top album which I would recommend highly. The duo of Ryan Lewis and Macklemore have produced an album that provokes thought but also gives you music to dance to. It is classified as hip hop but it is also has a pop feel to it in places. My favourite tracks are Can't hold us, Same Love and Wings. I am going to give this album 5 stars despite there being a couple of slightly below par tracks, the majority are very good. It is definitely one of the (if not) the best album of 2012-13.