Two words: thrift shop. Vintage clothing has taken over the fashion scene as kids are digging out old jean jackets and high-waisted pants from 99-cent boxes at the local Goodwill. Parents and store owners can thank Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for this generation’s newfound love for used discounted clothing. Macklemore has become a household name and a high contender on the Billboard Charts with his song “Thrift Shop,” mixed by beat master Ryan Lewis. Together the duo have released two EPs from their parents’ basements and hit gold with their unsigned rap album, The Heist.
Typically I tend to skip the hip-hop stations on the radio and can never find an entire rap song worth listening to, let alone an album. I guess I just can’t relate to hitting up the clubs or having girls with big butts grind on me. Though Drake, Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj all seem like worthy artists of the genre, Macklemore stands out for his creativity, raw honesty, and his notable passion for the art of rap.
“Thrift Shop” is a fun, hysterical take on shopping for vintage clothing, but it is not the highlight of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ work. After I replayed the track and watched the music video a thousand times, I decided to give this album a full listen and was surprised at the depth and intensity of the lyrics that absorbed me into the production. Unlike typical rap songs, this record holds substance and intelligence, with the premier track (“Ten Thousand Hours”) giving a nod to author Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of the “10,000-Hour Rule” that states that a respective craft must first spend at least ten years being perfected. This rule is true for Macklemore, who has been in the music industry since 2000, putting out popular EPs and his highly anticipated first album. “Can’t Hold Us” is a track that shows his true dedication, while “Jimmy Iovine” is a look into the music industry at how producers take away from the art of rap with business.
From the beginning, The Heist is powerful, uplifting and authentic. A few of the softer tracks dig deep into the heart, with lyrics that embrace social issues and showcase a love story coming to an end. One of my favorite tracks is “Thin Line,” which is a heartbreak lullaby showcasing the story of being in love vs. being an artist, where the love for music comes first. There is nothing typical, poetic or cute, and the lyrics are real and sincere. “Same Love” conveys the subject of same-sex marriage rights in a calm tone, with a soft piano background featuring Mary Lambert, whose sweet voice carries the chorus. It is in these heartfelt lines that the rapper captivates listeners into his heart and in “Starting Over” he opens up about his past alcohol addiction, further expanding the true intensity of his words.
One of my only problems with this album, if I have to be picky, would be the irony of some of his lyrics. After listening to it on repeat for the last few months, I have come to the consensus that Macklemore stands out as a talented rap artist who is bringing the originality back to the genre. However, along with his deep, serious singles are songs with typical, comedic verses like, “walk up to the club, like ‘what up! I got a big cock!’” and “long wong-dong in a soft hand / and a ping-pong pink schlong, let’s all dance!” that are silly and nothing close to the aptitude he is capable of.
Though you may be tired of hearing “Thrift Shop” overplayed on the radio, do not judge Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for this popular single. This song is just one of the catchy melodies in a collection of deeper tracks that explore genre boundaries. The Heist tells the story of personal struggles, artistic control and an ongoing love for music. Loud bass and repetitive choruses overshadow today’s hip-hop culture, but this album challenges the typical sounds we hear. Instead of whiny verses about sex and drugs, Macklemore’s soft tone tells stories of heartbreak, social inequality and the struggle to make music in the industry, accompanied by the beats of Ryan Lewis that make The Heist a musical masterpiece and a record worth listening to.