I would usually reserve an album review for an artist that I know well, because I can compare to their past works and give a fans perspective. But a few weeks ago I heard “Thrift Shop” by Mackelmore. I listened to nothing else for 2 or 3 days. It’s a brilliant song about consumerism and the clothes industry, but the lyrics are hysterical. It’s got flow with a sick saxophone rhythm that is catchy as anything. I thought this was one of those one-hit-wonder artists all over the radio. But then I started listening to his other tracks and yesterday I listened to his new album, which is #1 on Itunes right now. I’ve lost faith in the music world occasionally when I’ve looked at the top ten lists of Itunes, but I’m happy to say I didn’t this time. I’ve never heard of him before this, but I’m a big fan now.
This is a new face that gives Rap a good name. There is a a lot of awful rap from repetitive artists with lame beats, typical lyrics, and overdosed bass. I cannot compare his combined style to any artist I’ve heard before. Rap started as poetry that rose from grassroots people in poverty and urban settings, and today most rap couldn’t be farther from that. To be good in the noise you either have to be the very best of that noise or you have to rise above that to another level.
Mackelmore is an artist that rises above the usual noise with creative and meaningful melodies. His lyrics are powerful throughout his songs on The Heist and from what I’ve heard of previous works. He has raps about gay rights, drug and alcohol abuse and his sobriety, corporate greed, consumerism, the broken music industry, human values, you name it. It’s an album that can honestly make better people out of its listeners. But most of the songs are just plain fun, and the deep songs are so chill that you could ignore the lyrics and love them the same. This isn’t the lame CD you pick up at Warped tour from someone dying to get into the game, writing anything to get it into vinyl. Macklemore has his soul poured into every song and beat and you can hear it. The album was a 3 year process and it shows. It’s clear how intensely sculpted these songs were until he thought they were the best he could put out.
Every song is different in its own way and each avoids the title of filler. “Cowboy boots” has a chorus that’s like an Irish drinking song. The deluxe edition of the album includes some songs like “My Oh My” and “Victory Lap” that hint to a childhood love of baseball. Some songs like “White Walls” and “Castle” are like “And We Danced”, an earlier work, and are satirical and fun. The guest artists on this album are fantastic and add a huge kick to the replay value of each song. Personal favorites so far of mine are “Thrift Shop”, “Same Love”, “Ten Thousand Hours”, “Thin Line”, “Neon Cathedral” and “White Walls”. I cannot imagine anyone listening to this album and being disappointed. This is the freshest thing I’ve heard in the genre in a long while.
I can see some artists sitting at their computers, rubbing their hands with a glee because of all the money they are making. But this is a record you know how proud Macklemore is of his work, and how humble and down to earth he will be about his current and future success.
I give it a 9.5/10