Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The Heist

Posted October 24, 2012

Seattle duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have released their highly-anticipated debut album, The Heist. Featuring standout singles "Same Love" and "Thrift Shop," The Heist features the same blend of honest introspection and fearless fun that fans have come to expect.

Produced entirely by Ryan Lewis, The Heist feature vocals from guest artists Allen Stone, Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, Eighty4 Fly and more. In addition, fans can catch the duo live during their Heist World Tour.

The Heist Album Review

The Internet has changed so much about our lives – how we keep in touch with other people, how we shop, how we watch porn – but it’s absolutely re-written the way we discover new music. Back in the day, let’s say 1995, there were only two ways you found out about new music. One, the media (i.e. radio, MTV back when MTV played music, etc.). And two, your friend saying, “Oh, you don’t know about [insert artist name here]? You’ve got to hear him, I’ll make you a tape.” Mass media and word of mouth, that was it. If radio didn’t play it or your friend didn’t tell you about it, there’s was approximately a snowball’s chance in hell you’d ever hear it.

In 2012 though you can be sitting in a Manhattan high rise and listening to new music from Sao Paulo to Sydney, San Francisco to San Antonio, in a matter of seconds. So I’d like to take a moment to virtually high-five the Internet for introducing me to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. If this was 1995 I know I wouldn’t have heard the Seattle duo on the radio, and considering I grew up in Boston, I frankly doubt a friend would have passed me a tape. More likely than not, I would have spent my entire life without knowing there was an album like The Heist out there in the world, and that would have been a goddamn shame.

It’d be easy to call Macklemore a “niche” artist and by extension The Heist a niche album, and to some extend that’s true; it certainly wasn’t crafted to appeal to everyone and their momma. (Although, come to think of it, Heist would probably appeal to my momma.) But another great thing the Internet has shown us is that these “niches” are a whole lot bigger than anyone previously thought. Do you like rocking Thrift Store gear? Have you ever struggled with substance abuse? If your iPod filled with as much Allen Stone as ScHoolboy Q? You might think you’re the only one, but it turns out you’re one of thousands. In that sense Macklemore’s music is as much about connecting fans to him as it is about connecting fans to each other.

Just take the excellent Neon Cathedrals, featuring soul-drenched vocals from the aforementioned Allen Stone and intensely personal lyrics from Macklemore that once again delve into his now well-documented struggle with addiction. I’d say it’s one of the more fearlessly honest songs I’ve heard in a long time if it weren’t for Starting Over, which brings that struggle full circle as Macklemore admits to a relapse: “Made my sobriety so public there’s no fu**king privacy.” Whether or not you can relate specifically, and if you can it’s extraordinary to hear your story in a hip-hop record, we can all relate to shame of disappointing those we care about. Same Love may cover a completely different struggle than Neon Cathedrals and Starting Over, the struggle for marriage equality, but it shares a willingness to say what so many others are too afraid to. It shouldn’t be remarkable for a rapper to say something so simple as “no freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it”, but at its core hip-hop has always been about giving a voice to those society tried to quiet, and while Same Love is far from the end, at least it’s a start. Ultimately, these songs and all of the songs on the album are stories, and to call Macklemore a storytelling rapper would be an understatement. He only tells stories, most often his own, it just turns out he’s the kind of gifted storyteller that can keep you listening.

While it obviously has its moments of darkness, The Heist is far from a dark album. Along with the catharsis comes plenty of release, most notably in the form of the impossibly catchy Can’t Stop Us, which finds Ryan Lewis layering percussion on top of percussion into an automatic party starter. Joining in on the good times is Thrift Shop, which finds Macklemore taking a more laid back but equally catchy beat he milks for all the comic potential he can find. If you’re looking for an antidote to Kanye and Jay’s super-uber-luxury rap, here it is. And if that’s still not enough lightness to balance out the dark for you, might I recommend Gold and the riding White Walls? Sorry, not sure why I phrased that like a rhetorical question – I’d recommend Gold and White Walls.

In so many ways the Internet has disconnected us, given us the false impression that liking a friend’s Facebook post is the same as sitting down and talking to our friend, allowed us to hide behind an endless array of screens from the other people in line at the bank. But it’s also made possible connections that wouldn’t have been impossible even a decade ago, and The Heist has connected with me. Call it a testament to the power of powerful music to transcend even the limits of life in the digital age.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

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Posted October 24, 2012
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