Hip hop chart toppers deliver a divisive release that goes off with a whimper rather than a bang.
Just as Kendrick Lamar is the golden child of Hip Hop who can do no wrong in the eyes of many, Macklemore is the polar opposite: a man that receives a lot of flack and whose name has become a punchline of sorts. It’s not hard to see why considering the track record of white rappers that have come before as well as the argument that he’s capitalising on the music of blacks, whom which are losing out on recognition in place of him.
This no doubt explains the return to a more confrontational Macklemore on This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, the second studio album he has released alongside producer Ryan Lewis, that will have those who enjoyed The Heist feeling a bit conflicted.
Not to make Macklemore out as some kind of victim but TUMIM for the most part perfectly illustrates the harmlessness of the Seattle rapper. Tracks like Let’s Eat have him spitting out lines like “my girl shaped like a bottle of Coke, I’m shaped like a bottle of nope” where it’s perfectly clear that he doesn’t take himself too seriously at all and is even willing to deliver corny lines as such.
This doesn’t mean that Macklemore is going all goofy and Weird Al on this LP as his aforementioned confrontational nature provides the best moments. Right off the bat, Light Tunnels acts as a wonderful introduction for the listener, addressing the illegitimate nature of award ceremonies as well as the backlash he received after the release of The Heist. “Wanted to throw up the roc, wanted to be Hova” shows that whilst Macklemore may have watered down Hip Hop with his last album, his intentions weren’t morally askew.
Macklemore hasn’t shied away from discussing his past concerning his addiction to prescription drugs so it isn’t totally shocking when Kevin shows up, a tribute to a friend of his who sadly died of an overdose. It’s tracks like these where Macklemore’s potential as a rapper is all too clear, showing great passion for a cause and saying something worth saying which will be sure to help mend his broken image.
However, TUMIM is plagued by its inconsistency in tone. Following up Light Tunnels is Brad Pitt’s Ugly Cousin, a track that a sub par hook about “all my Angelina’s” that is slightly enjoyable at best and painful to listen to at worst. Having this tongue in cheek track follow up such a brilliant opening track seems like a sin, not least due to the quality of the song itself.
It’s impossible to review this record without addressing the elephant in the room which comes in the form of White Privilege II. This is a song that Macklemore himself was conflicted over, saying in an interview with Rolling Stone that “it’s easier, as a white person, to be silent about racial injustice. It’s easier. On paper. But it’s not easier on the whole, because injustice affects all of us, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not.”
Not that it’s an absolutely abhorrent track by any means but the execution is pretty rough. The track lasts over seven minutes and by the end of it, it feels like the song is just full of air rather than providing anything meaningful. In a cruel twist of fate, White Privilege II takes the mic away from black artists and gives it to the very man who himself has an advantage due to his privilege.
.When all is said and done, TUMIM is not a terrible album. It’ll turn off those who came into it expecting the same pop drenched tunes like last time around, Downtown is one of the only tracks on here with that potential, and the confrontational nature of Macklemore will no doubt put some off.
In addition to some of these tracks being absolutely repulsive, the Idris Elba featuring Dance Off is sickeningly inadequate, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have went in with great intentions but have came out with poor results.
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