[Written By// @K1ngEljay]
This review is strictly based on the music. Rejoice.
Most reviews seem to get away from that angle for some reason and start to focus on the politics behind the music, if the artists in question are truly independent, if the artist’s are truly committed to the cause, and a bunch of other factors that, in other situations, could very well be important to the quality of the music. I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are some serious factors here that needs to be addressed when dealing with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ music.
That’s later, however. This review, again, is strictly based on the music; This Unruly Mess I’ve Made is as self-aware of an album as can be, but it’s from a different viewpoint this time around. Only great artists can take the current point in their lives, make it music, and make us care. Macklemore pulled it off with The Heist, but one of the biggest things going for that album was the fact it came out of nowhere. Mack’s underdog status was matched by the receipts he left on YouTube in the forms of incredible visuals and singles like “Wings” and “The Otherside” (outside of “And We Danced”…because….I don’t know what that was), and it was hard to slander the music unless you just didn’t like the dude.
The biggest difference between This Unruly Mess and The Heist is that, unlike the latter, the element of surprise is gone. Can he strike again with content, a surprising fun video out of nowhere, and layer that with a flowing project without sounding too preachy? Not to spoil it for you, but… no, not to that degree. The good news is that the music is still incredibly dope, regardless of how many times the album stumbles on its own honesty.
Unruly’s biggest strength is how the project flows. Heist was great, but it also came off like a compilation of older YouTube singles that he had put out as well (which wasn’t exactly the case), making it sound a bit up and down. Unruly starts at a point and ends resoundingly; the entire project has a purpose, and every song here has one as well, even when you can tell there’s fun mixed in for good measure (such as “Brad Pitt’s Cousin” which is hilarious, and “Let’s Eat”, which has a humorous tongue-in-cheek message laced within the soundbites). Granted, you have your singles like “Downtown” – which is slept on, even though Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz and Kool Moe Dee are actually featured – and songs that most listeners will gravitate to (such as Chance The Rapper’s standout verse on “Need To Know” and YG’s flamethrower on “Bolo Tie”). There’s also songs that just don’t resonate at all in certain situations; “Growing Up” has horrible life advice for the most part, while “St. Ides” is a vibe-heavy song that fails to leave a strong impression.
That being said however, the biggest issues with the project aren’t the safe bets like the ones mentioned above; it’s the times Macklemore swings for the fences to make a statement. “Light Tunnels” is a scathing tell-all concerning the carnival that is The Grammys from his first-person view (he probably won’t win it again after this). “Kevin” channels the story of his brother while taking aim at the pharmaceutical side of America and it’s addiction to, well, addictions. And “White Privilege II”? Let’s just say a significant portion of
White America might not like that one because of the honesty (editor’s note: DON’T CARE).
The times where Mack goes all in are either refreshingly adventurous or perilously awkward, and there is no in-between whatsoever. It’s not like we haven’t said that before about his music; he is a polarizing figure because of him being White in a predominantly Black culture, and that’s not going to change. As Macklemore continues to disrupt the system with his music, I’m praying that his goals doesn’t shift as well. Contrary to what some may think, the different voices in rap are needed right now, and with This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, Macklemore is establishing his voice whether you like it or not.
- “Bolo Tie” (feat. YG)
- “Need To Know” (feat. Chance The Rapper)
- “Downtown” (feat. Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, and Eric Nally)
- “Kevin” (feat. Leon Bridges)
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