As a resident of Washington State, I have watched the rise of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis since the early days. It was surreal for me to see “Thrift Shop” skyrocket to fame, mainly because…that wasn’t even Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at their best. However, “Thrift Shop” became the stepping stone that brought The Heist to the masses and the music world was made better for it. The Heist was something special, but it did leave people like me wondering if Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ worldwide fame was going to fade as quickly as it showed up?
This Unruly Mess I’ve Made is without a doubt the most important album that the duo will ever release for several reasons. One of those reasons is that it inevitably proves whether they have staying power as a headlining act or not. Another of those reasons is the subject material, as the Seattleites tackle their new found fame, the industry, white privilege, pharmaceutical companies, prescriptions, and yes….even dieting.
The debut single off of the album, “Downtown” is without a doubt the most radio friendly track and it keeps with the Macklemore tradition of being the kind of hip-hop you let your kids listen to. With that said, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis didn’t let that “tradition” pigeon hole them into being a gimmick with this release. Another song that has gained some attention recently is the final song on the album, “White Privilege II” where even they question the thought process of why their lighter approach to hip-hop is more acceptable in all communities, as well as other issues regarding racism and hip-hop culture.
Perhaps one of the stronger tracks is one that will also hit you pretty hard emotionally. “Kevin” tells the story of a boy who struggled with prescription medication addiction until he lost his life. They get a little help from one of the best voices out there right now in Leon Bridges who questions modern healthcare with lines like “Doctor, your medicine and your methods can’t cure my disease without killing me, you’re killing me, you’re killing me“.
Not every track carries such a heavy message though as Macklemore and Lewis lighten the mood with tracks like “Brad Pitt’s Cousin” (f/ XP), “Dance Off” (f/ Idris Elba & Anderson .Paak) and “Let’s Eat” (f/ XP).
This Unruly Mess I’ve Made is a little more traditional than The Heist when it comes to the genre. Although it lacks a bit of the magic that “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” provided us, that had more to do the whirlwind of fame they caused. Believe it or not, personally, I actually have to say that This Unruly Mess I’ve Made is actually even better than The Heist.
I have no idea whether Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will ever be completely accepted as a legitimate hip-hop act, but what I do know is that they make some damn good music. This Unruly Mess I’ve Made could have easily been…well….a mess, but instead, they just continue to improve.
Editor in Chief of Lemonade Magazine
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