Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – The Heist

I wish I’d never listened to ‘Thrift Shop’.

It’s a good song, to be sure; it didn’t reach #1 around the world and top the Hottest 100 for nothing. But it’s not a patch on the rest of The Heist, the debut album from Seattle duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

I was expecting an album more or less in the same vein as its best-known single; that is, a collection of catchy beats with suitably inane lyrics. In short, a lettuce album: an album laden with crunch but lacking in substance. Instead, I marvelled at the depth of rapper Macklemore’s lyrics and the lush quality of producer Ryan Lewis’ rhythms – a veritable feast for the ears. Together, they’re far more than the sum of their parts.

Macklemore is a man of our times: erudite, socially aware and not afraid to bare his soul on a record. His lyrical lack of emotional inihibition is one of the standout features of the album. It’s little wonder ‘Same Love,’ a demand for marriage equality, is gaining traction as one of the finer political protest songs of recent years. It’s also a killer track, with Mary Lambert’s guest vocals providing a point of contrast to Macklemore’s brusque raps.

Many of Macklemore’s other demons, including (but not limited to) urban poverty, alcoholism and an extended stint in rehab, make an appearance on the record. In the hands of less talented rappers, such heavy material would result in the album feeling dense or unapproachable. Yet Macklemore manages to strike a balance between introspection and populism. The first half of the album is certainly peppier, and I get the impression it’s aimed at a broader audience, while the second half is unashamed old-school hip-hop.

While The Heist is very much a case of social commentary first and slick beats second, Ryan Lewis has done a masterful job of complementing Macklemore’s vocals. The production values on this album are top-notch and truly a delight to my ears. Who knew dynamic range was still a happening thing?

If you’ve stayed away from The Heist based on your impressions of ‘Thrift Shop’, do give it another chance. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are a duo to watch, with plenty to say and nothing to hide, and this album serves as an excellent introduction to their quirks and talents.