The latest album by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, The Unruly Mess I Made, was released on February 26th, 2016, the highly anticipated follow-up album to 2012’s hugely successful The Heist. The album promotion was aided by the help of two huge singles that were not only well-received, but also touched on some very personal issues.
“Kevin” featuring Leon Bridges, sheds light on the dangerous effects and outcomes of the pharmaceutical business, while “White Privilege II” that features Jamila Woods, focuses on the elephant in the room which Macklemore does a great job of addressing. That elephant being White privilege in America, and the song helps explain the difference in opportunities and equal treatment the impact this has had on race in America. As Macklemore points out in the second verse, “The DIY underdog, so independent/ But the one thing the American dream fails to mention/Is I was many steps ahead to begin with/My skin matches the hero, likeness, the image/ America feels safe with my music in their systems/ And it’s suited me perfect, the role, I’ve fulfilled it/ And if I’m the hero, you know who gets cast as the villain/ White supremacy isn’t just a white dude in Idaho/ White supremacy protects the privilege I hold.” These two songs do a perfect job of showcasing just how truthful and honest Macklemore can be on this album, while the third single from the album, “Downtown”, takes a little more light hearted approach and finds him in similar territory to his hit smash “Thrift Shop.”
The album keeps it short with only 12 songs and only two tracks having more than a five-minute run time. The condensed track listing leaves little room for filler songs and every track definitely has some substance or a meaning behind it. Conceptually, the album title plays off of the mess Macklemore has made of fame and how the path has shaped him has a person. On “Light Tunnels”, Macklemore speaks on what it was like to win the Grammy for Rap Album of the Year and the pressures of even attending an event of such magnitude. In terms of features, Macklemore enlists some pretty huge names and uses them very well. On “BuckShot”, the legendary KRS-One blesses Macklemore with an authentic rap legend verse and both come through and deliver for a great combination. “Need to Know” features one of the best up and coming hip-hop talents in Chance the Rapper and speaks on some more heavy substantial topics and ideas. On “Dance Off” Macklemore enlists some more young talent in Anderson Pakk and Idris Elba, for another fun light hearted dance track, similar to the hilarious song titled “And We Danced”. To finish the album off, Macklemore returns once again to the substantial messages in his songs and speaks on the troubles of healthy eating and how easy it is to give in to bad habits. Then he brings in YG for another great song in “Bolo Tie” and the amazing voice of Carla Morrison for the chorus of “The Train”.
The Unruly Mess I Made was a fantastic follow-up to their highly successful debut album and that’s no easy thing to do. When the expectation is set to such a high level, some artist crack under the pressure. Whether you like Macklemore or not, you can’t deny his powerful presence in not only hip-hop but music in general and its effect on the public perception. Check out the powerful visuals for “Kevin” below and buy the album on iTunes.