This Unruly Mess I’ve Made

Spencer Wilkins, Staff Writer

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ second studio album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, finds itself too conflicted to become great.

The Seattle-based duo has been creating its own brand of hip-hop since its inception in 2008. Ryan Lewis composes each track with live instrumentation over programmed sounds. This led him to pair with Ben Haggerty (better known as Macklemore), whose skills for candid storytelling creates a unique side to the genre. The collaborators reached widespread success back in 2012 with their mega hit “Thrift Shop.” But the very apparent attempt to recreate this song’s magic ultimately makes the album directionless and at times frustrating.

The album gets off to a powerful start with the song “Light Tunnels” featuring Mike Slap. It showcases the thought provoking and ear pleasing music that surfaces several times throughout the record. In this song, Macklemore recounts in great detail the night he won athe Grammys for Bbest Rrap Aalbum:, “She covers up my freckles, concealer on my chin/I look orange but she swears it looks natural with my skin.”  Behind Lewis’ mix of orchestral strings and chorus vocals, the song is equal parts captivating and revealing.

However, immediately after the album’s first peak, we get its first low point with the song “Downtown.” The verses Iin this song, the verses are backed by a very slick G-Funk beat and a ’90’s Wwest Ccoast style of production, while the chorus switches to a huge ’80’s glam rock style –  complete with Eric Nelly doing his best Freddie Mercury impression. The problem lies in Macklemore’s desperately absurd lyrics. Throughout the entire song Macklemore raps about mopeds. He talks about comparing prices for mopeds, driving downtown oin his moped, and picking up women oin his moped. The song is clearly being strange just for the sake of buzz, and this wasn’t Macklemore’s only attempt at creating this effect. The album shifts between infantile and impactful, solely dependent on Macklemore’s lyrics, and he has room to be strange in many songs, such as “Brad Pitt’s Cousin,
which is about (you guessed it) being Brad Pitt’s cousin.

British actor Idris Elba performs the lazily written hook—another obvious play to stir buzz. On the other hand, in tracks such as, like “Buckshot,” which features rap legends KRS-One and DJ Premier, Macklemore dives deep and gives the listener a thoughtful message. The narrative of spray painting is handled well, and Macklemore tackles the subject with a wit and clever punch lines.

The album closes out on the 9-minute epic, “White Privilege II.” Here Macklemore goes into his personal experience with the Black Lives Matter campaign,n and his relationship with and views of race as a white rapper in America. While I might not agree with everything Macklemore says, this song is certainly a thought provoking closer that left me longing for more. Macklemore has the ability to become one the greatest artists of our generation. B, but until he can take himself seriously, nobody else will.

Final Grade: B