Sometimes, if you dig deep enough, a person’s opinion on Macklemore (usually through his collaborations with Ryan Lewis, as few have bothered listening to his solo material) is often in and of itself a statement of some kind. It’s a meaningful one that describes more than just one’s taste in music as art or distraction. Hip-hop purists decry the Mack Daddy as an example of white privilege, that a mediocre rapper by any other standard has the advantage of not scaring mainstream audiences: “The Eminem Benefit.” Others position him as the perfect poster boy for hip-hop that can bring it to a wider audience. But will that wider audience dig any deeper?
This Unruly Mess I’ve Made is at the very least an enjoyable listen, but like many sophomore efforts it faces an uphill struggle to reach the standards the duo set for themselves with The Heist. Like their first effort, there is a mix of upbeat and serious efforts on this album, although the more pop-oriented tracks feel like they are trying a little too hard to get radio play. “Downtown” is especially irritating. I’ll give “Brad Pitt’s Cousin” and “Dance Off” a pass, as they are a little more authentic in their silliness.
Macklemore’s self awareness has always been one of his strengths, although his Kendrick text incident shows that it can often delve into a sea of corniness and grandstanding. When he gets introspective and serious, like on “Light Tunnels” or the Atmosphere-influenced “Growing Up,” Macklemore is at his best.
On purely technical terms however, Macklemore often falls back into a monotone and boring delivery, more talking lines at you than rapping. An exception, and perhaps one of my favourite moments on the album, comes during his second verse on “White Privilege II.” There he is energetic, passionate, and actually uses an original and entertaining flow.
Overall, what can I say? The lows are boring and the highs are meaningful, but only because of the platform they’re presented on. This Unruly Mess I’ve Made is a solid effort, but not groundbreaking. It’s exactly what you might expect from Macklemore.