I feel like Macklemore is a rapper that has been unfairly criticized over the years. I have always enjoyed his music and appreciated the fact that he is independently making his albums. I do not love any of his stuff, I think The Heist is a bit of a messy album, and the whole controversy with him and Kendrick Lamar did look bad for him but I do not think he is a bad guy nor do I think his music is anything to be trashed.
Going into This Unruly Mess I’ve Made I had no expectations, only listening to the single “Downtown” which I liked more than I probably should have. The album starts off with the song, “Light Tunnels” which details Macklemore’s experience at the Grammys was a very honest look at the discomfort that comes with being thrown into the spotlight. He raps many truths about the industry and shows a fiercer side that he does not show often. After hearing this, I thought I was in for a treat.
“Downtown” did nothing to make me think anything different. The song which is a great follow-up to “Thrift Shop,” highlights all the beauty that comes with doing something cheap and seemingly unexciting. In this case, it’s riding with a girl downtown on a moped. It is a fun track that might eventually get old but for now I really like it.
After this, the songs vary drastically in tone and quality. It seemed clear that Macklemore did not have much of an idea of where he wanted to take this project and just took all his ideas and put them in here.
One of the better tracks in this sloppy middle is the Ed Sheeran collaboration “Growing Up (Sloane’s Song)” which is a letter to Macklemore’s daughter. It is a little cheesy and does not do anything we haven’t heard from songs like this before but it has so much heart in it that it is hard not to appreciate it. It also is nice seeing Macklemore being honest in admitting he has growing to do too. The horns that play at the end of this track are also great and work with Sheeran’s passionate delivery.
Another song that clearly has meaning to Macklemore is “Kevin” which is next in the track list. The track details a personal tragedy that struck Macklemore when his friend Kevin overdosed on prescription drugs. Considering his own struggle with drug addiction, Macklemore is able to add personal insight in the struggle of overcoming addiction. Leon Bridges also inserts extra soul into the song.
Tracks like “St. Ides” and “Need to Know” are both alright but had very little impact on me. Chance the Rapper has a solid verse on the latter of these tracks but besides that they are fairly standard songs about fame. The same goes for “Bolo Tie” and “The Train.” Macklemore’s verses are sincere but forgettable and he is overshadowed by his guests. YG has a great verse about how he is only respected because he was shot and he feels used for views.
These songs are inoffensive and still have redeeming qualities, something I find it hard to say about the songs “Dance Off” and “Let’s Eat.” The first of these songs literally has Idris Elba challenging Macklemore to a dance off. There is nothing deep about the lyrics, which is obviously intentional, and gets by on being kinda fun if you are into this kind of novelty music. Anderson .Paak has a nice part but it is short lived and is not enough to save this. “Let’s Eat” is easily the worst track here where we see Macklemore talking about all the food he enjoys eating…just riveting.
This album saves its way in a big way on the final track “White Privilege II.” This is not only the best song on the album, but my favorite hip-hop song of 2016. The track starts with Macklemore confused about whether or not he should be at a Black Lives Matter protest. As an artist who has received criticism for his race, Macklemore sees this as his chance to show he will not steal black culture, in his situation hip-hop, and then ignore the problems in the black community. The nearly 9-minute song is an incredibly cinematic way to get an uncomfortable but important message across. I love this song and recommend it to anyone, even those who do not like Macklemore. This is a real and honest song about serious problems that are going on and anyone who is not ignorant of these problems will get something out of this.
As disjointed as this projected is, the good outweighs the bad meaning this is another messy but above average album from Macklemore. I am still very much a fan of him and hope that he is able to take his next album in a more cohesive direction because when he is focused, great things come.
Best Tracks: Light Tunnels, Downtown, Growing Up (Sloane’s Song), Kevin, White Privilege II
Worst Track: Let’s Eat