Macklemore & Ryan Lewis may have just released their debut album together earlier this month, but the momentum behind the Seattle-area duo has been building for years. With only a single 2010 EP to their name as a collaborative act, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have walked a unique path within the music industry, building a fanbase through single releases, constant touring, and a dedication to their craft that separates them from the major-label crowd.
As an independent release, The Heist is validation for musicians everywhere that the do-it-yourself esthetic is alive and well in 2012. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have successfully leveraged years of self-promotion and creativity and distilled their art into one of the finest, most well-rounded Hip Hop albums I have heard in years.
The album is a culmination of years of hustle, struggle, heartaches and pain. Not only does the raw emotion of Macklemore’s writing style deliver a positive message to listeners, it also reveals the true story of the man Ben Haggerty himself, who’s wisdom is borne out of an intense battle with his own personal demons.
Propelled by the diverse production of Ryan Lewis, Macklemore touches on consumerism, addiction, equality and a number of other important issues that rarely find themselves under a rapper’s spotlight. When the album threatens to get “too” serious, The Heist shifts to blend together a mix of light-hearted singles that give balance to what is otherwise a heavy album.
The Heist begins with ‘Ten Thousand Hours’ and ‘Can’t Hold Us’, a pair of uplifting tracks that reflect the drive behind Macklemore’s music. Once warmed up, listeners are assaulted by the cacophony of sounds on ‘Thrift Shop’, all revolving around a horn loop that will resonate every time listeners hit the Goodwill. An affront to consumerism, Thrift Shop gracefully demonstrates the beautiful blend of consonant sounds with strong sentiment that is consistent throughout The Heist.
Heavy tracks like ‘Same Love’ and ‘Neon Cathedral’ are beautifully balanced by ‘BomBom’, a five-minute instrumental that gives producer Ryan Lewis the space to roam free alone in the spotlight. Orchestrating the musical influences of The Teaching, Ryan Lewis creates a rambling sound that allows listeners to melt into the arrangement rather than attentively following Macklemore’s message.
After a short lyrical break, Macklemore returns on the latter half of The Heist with track after track of well-crafted rhymes that seem endless. The Deluxe Edition of The Heist consists of 18 tracks, giving fans a chance to appreciate previous releases like ‘Wing$’, ‘My Oh My’, and ‘Victory Lap’ while encountering new experiments like ‘Cowboy Boots’, which samples a banjo riff as Macklemore reminisces over the happy-go-lucky days of youth.
‘Victory Lap’ appropriately closes The Heist, sending off listeners with the same type of uplifting storytelling that the album began with. And while the track title may be slightly presumptuous, the release of The Heist is itself is indeed a major victory; not just for a hip-hop duo from Seattle, but for every independent musician who strives to creative something of their own.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis emerge as hip-hop heavyweights with their self-released debut album, and have done so without the help of Jimmy Iovine and other record label giants. The Heist not only validates the duo, but simultaneously dares musicians everywhere to be so bold, forever raising the bar for independent music.
Words by Kevin Vanstone