Album Review: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – This Unruly Mess I’ve Made

The pair tackle white privilege, the Kenrick Lamar snub and the #BlackLivesMatter movement in their latest album

Photo: Album Artwork

Photo: Album Artwork

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Never ones to avoid controversy, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are back with a new album, full of complicated messages and powerful beats. Not only is each song unique in its sound and message, but the range of featured artists in each makes this yet another album full of spectacular collaborations. Where The Heist had Mary Lambert and Wanz, this one has Idris Elba, Chance The Rapper, and Ed Sheeran. It seems that the duo is pulling in an even more diverse pool of artists for this, and boy does it pay off. They even managed to get the legendary KRS-One and DJ Premiere for a track. While this album is another reflective piece about himself, Macklemore moves on from his struggles with himself, and takes on society as a whole.

The album opens with a lengthy track (‘Light Tunnels’) about his experience at the 2014 Grammy Awards where The Heist won Best Rap Album over Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. His win was one of the most controversial snubs of the year. At the time, Ben Haggerty (a.k.a. Macklemore) started his speech with a huge apology, and afterwards reached out to make a heartfelt claim that the award was rightfully Kendrick’s. It’s an interesting album starter, and it fits well with the theme of the album – his controversial position in the industry.

As a white rapper, Ben has been constantly accused of crossing the line, appropriating black culture, and thus taking a stage which isn’t “rightfully” his. Of course, Ben understands this, and fires back with ‘White Privilege II’. The song itself may not be catchy, but that’s not what the song was made for. It’s a bit of an unruly mess musically, but it’s easy to listen to and keeps you interested for a full 8 minutes and 45 seconds. Ben didn’t write this song for a Grammy, he wrote it because he knows the power he holds – the ears of the white middle class. He talks about his position in the #BlackLivesMatter argument and how “it seems we’re more concerned of being called racist, than we actually are with racism.” It’s masterfully structured and Ben puts down a well-thought out argument.

Songs like ‘Dance-Off’ and ‘Downtown’ show the duo is still happy to write up-beat, base-y floor-fillers, but like I’ve said, that’s not really what This Unruly Mess I’ve Made is about. The powerful monologue of ‘White Priviledge II’ might just be the biggest political statement in music form of the decade.

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