The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (Macklemore LLC, 2012. 61 minutes)
Macklemore is the moniker for Seattle-based rapper, Ben Haggerty. Macklemore has worked closely with his producer, Ryan Lewis, to release 2 full length albums and 3 EPs. Macklemore’s latest album, The Heist, debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200.
Call Me Never
Never a big fan of Top 40 radio, you can often hear snarky comments and extensive criticism from me whenever the radio is on. Most often, my critique falls sharply on menial lyrics. The songwriters behind the biggest hits know how to write music. Sadly, they also realize the average listener requires no challenge from the lyrics.
Take, for example, the current hit, “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. The intoxicating chorus proclaims:
“Hey / I just met you / And this is crazy / But here’s my number / So call me maybe”
While we get a sense of setting in this song, there’s nothing poetic or introspective about these lyrics. Forget double entendre, “Call Me Maybe” states the obvious in the scenario and expects you to fall in love with the hook and the beat of the song.
Call me crazy, but I need more depth in my lyrics. I have and will continue to maintain a position where I don’t mind the music but I utterly loathe the lyrics of most Top 40 songs.
For this reason, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ The Heist is unbelievably refreshing.
The music behind this record is 100% formulaic. Each song includes rapped verses and catchy hooks in the choruses. The beats are infectious and standard, similar to many hip hop records.
Macklemore’s lyrics are bare, honest, and profoundly deep.
The first single, “Same Love” perhaps best signifies Macklemore’s conscious rapping style. Released in support of Washington State’s Referendum 74 on gay marriage, Macklemore addresses the argument from a personal, cultural, and institutional level.
In perhaps the most biting verse, Macklemore calls out hip hop culture.
“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 / A culture founded from oppression / Yet we don’t have acceptance for ‘em / Call each other f@&*^ts behind the keys of a message board / A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it”
With melodic piano as the foundation and Mary Lambert providing a beautiful hook, “Same Love” strikes a chord.
“Same Love” isn’t the only heartfelt song on the album. In “Jimmy Iovine”, Macklemore uses burglar imagery and sleight of hand to make the listener think he rhymes about burgling a building when in reality, he’s just going to a meeting with a corporate record executive who’s trying to steal the group’s money.
Likewise, “Starting Over” presents a heartbreaking look at sobriety. Once lauded as an example of being clean, “Starting Over” deals directly with relapse.
“If they call on me I’m passing, if they talk to me I’m booking out that door / But before I can make it somebody stops me and says, ‘Are you Macklemore?’ / Maybe this isn’t the place or time / I just wanted to say that if it wasn’t for Other Side I wouldn’t have made it / I just look down at the ground and say, ‘Thank you’ / She tells me she has 9 months and that she’s so grateful / Tears in her eyes, looking like she’s gonna cry.. f*ck! / I barely got 48 hours, treated like I’m some wise monk / I wanna tell her I relapsed but I can’t / I just shake her hand and tell her ‘Congrats’”
Such focused imagery makes you feel like you’re in the room. But even under such weight, Macklemore inspires.
“If I can be an example of getting sober / Then I can be an example of starting over”
The Devil of Consumerism
On the other side of The Heist lies precise criticisms of capitalism and consumerism. With “Wing$”, Macklemore sharpens his teeth on the myth of Nike and its grasp on hip hop culture.
Along the same lines but with more humor, “Thrift Shop” utilizes irony to critique the business of fashion.
“Fifty dollars for a T-shirt—that’s just some ignorant bitch sh*t / I call that getting swindled and pimped sh*t / I call that getting tricked by a business”
Steal a Good Time
Even with well-produced but typical music stylings, The Heist shines through its lyrics. Whether a heartfelt look at deep topics such as homosexuality and sobriety or a critique of consumerism, Macklemore crafts his lyrics with the utmost care. The Heist defies the mindlessness of Top 40 music. I overwhelmingly support Macklemore’s rise into stardom and I look forward to what he does next. No matter your musical taste, I recommend you grab this record.
Verdict: 5 out of 5