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Macklemore And Ryan Lewis - This Unruly Mess I've Made (Album Review)

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

Macklemore catches a lot of hate for a guy who’s so excruciatingly harmless. To be specific, most of the criticism surrounding his latest collaboration with Ryan Lewis, ‘This Unruly Mess I’ve Made’, has revolved around one track, White Privilege II.

Even though it’s at the tail end of the record, what you think of the single – which is ultimately little more than his take on supporting rather than exploiting black culture – will likely inform your entire perception of it.

The online commotion has been deafening, with some questioning why a white, mainstream rapper feels he can offer patronising points about racial equality and exploiting hip hop culture.

Others have been more supportive, suggesting that he’s using his position to highlight a cause greater than himself. Neither are wrong. As much as that seems like a cop-out answer, it’d be unfair to suggest that Macklemore entirely lacks self-awareness. His motivations on this album are sound. It’s his execution that’s off.

Opening up the album with Light Tunnels, Lewis amps up the drama with strings and gospel style vocals as Macklemore delivers an articulate critique on the commercialised music industry and awards culture. It’s a gripping opener that would feel profound if it wasn’t immediately followed by the obnoxious Downtown, a puffed-up Uptown Funk rip-off that celebrates mindless consumerism without a hint of irony.

This is a trap he falls into repeatedly, fluctuating between overly earnest observations on universal themes and goofy comedy. Growing Up, for example, sees Macklemore recruit the insipid Ed Sheeran to help him present the equivalent of an inspiring Facebook meme, advising his offspring to “do yoga” and “listen to teachers”. Elsewhere, on Brad Pitt’s Cousin he makes a ‘deez nuts’ joke. Even ignoring the inconsistent messages, both tracks are corny at best and vomit-inducing at worst.  

It’s hard to say whether Macklemore feels he’s fulfilling an obligation to his suburban fan base with these tracks, especially considering his attempts to sufficiently represent or support hip hop culture elsewhere. On Buckshot, which features KRS-One and an old-school DJ Premier beat, he promotes graffiti art and, in fact, with the exception of the offensively bad ‘party’ track Dance Off, many of the remaining cuts have merit. 

Macklemore can clearly rap well and has a decent partner in Lewis, even if some of the instrumentals feel overly processed or ostentatious. In terms of flow and delivery, he’s actually relatively coherent. The problem lies in trying to be everything for everyone.

White Privilege II, in particular, shows more than just a white rapper tackling a big topic; it epitomises his limitations as an artist. As cringeworthy as it was observing his public shaming after beating Kendrick Lamar to a Grammy award, what it did highlight was his deep-seated aspiration to emulate Kendrick’s artistic accomplishments.

Where Lamar’s work is conceptual and powerful, Macklemore’s is melodramatic and attention seeking. Where Kendrick subtly paints images, Macklemore preaches and tells off his listeners. He means well, which is why hating him outright feels unfair, but his content is still far too watered down to be taken seriously.  

Macklemore And Ryan Lewis Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue April 12 2016 - MANCHESTER Arena
Wed April 13 2016 - GLASGOW SSE Hydro
Fri April 15 2016 - DUBLIN 3Arena
Sat April 16 2016 - DUBLIN 3Arena
Sun April 17 2016 - DUBLIN 3Arena
Thu April 21 2016 - BELFAST SSE Arena Belfast
Fri April 22 2016 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Metro Radio Arena
Sat April 23 2016 - LEEDS first direct Arena
Sun April 24 2016 - NOTTINGHAM Motorpoint Arena Nottingham
Tue April 26 2016 - BIRMINGHAM Barclaycard Arena
Wed April 27 2016 - LONDON O2 Arena

Click here to compare & buy Macklemore And Ryan Lewis Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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