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Review of The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Macklemore: the dude that you hear talking about moccasins someone else has been walkin' in. But look beyond the coat that smells like R Kelley’s sheets and you’ll find a dude that can actually spit and do it with some solid subject matter. I mean, damn, just watch the freestyle at the end of this interview on Power 105.1!!
But let’s get to the review.
Album of discussion: The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
The Heist is the debut album from Seattle-based rapper Macklemore, along with accompanying producer Ryan Lewis. It’s a “Started From the Bottom” type story about a guy with a dream, that does what he loves for a living. The meaning behind the album’s name is revealed in a song named after Interscope Records president Jimmy Iovine, but I’ll explain that later. Anyway, let me give you a song-by-song rundown of this 15-song artistic masterpiece, which gets a score from me of:
Track 1: Ten Thousand Hours
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis give an explosive entrance on to the album circuit with a track that is filled with emotion, and is flat out fun. Ten Thousand Hours is a track about Macklemore’s moment of relief as he realizes, “damn, I made it.” This song is killer. One of my favorite songs on the album.
“Ten thousand hours I’m so damn close I can taste it
On some Malcolm Gladwell, David Bowie meets Kanye shit
This is dedication. A life lived for art is never a life wasted”
“No child left behind, that’s the American scheme
I make my living off of words
And do what I love for work
And got around 980 on my SATs
Take that system”
“See, I observed Escher, I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring, you see I studied art
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot”
Track 2: Can’t Hold Us feat. Ray Dalton
This track, while not what I would call deep, would probably be a radio hit if it wasn’t in the shadow of Thrift Shop. A great single that came out long before the album was ever released, Can’t Hold Us is a song that you can’t help but sing along with. Macklemore shows a little bit of speed in the verses and gets Ray Dalton (who?!) to sing a chorus that has so much soul. Two songs in to the album, Macklemore has already given to really fun, really bump-able songs.
“Throne music, I shed my skin and put my bones into everything I record to it
And yet I’m on”
“Nah sing a song and it goes like
Raise those hands, this is our party
We came here to live life like nobody was watching”
Track 3: Thrift Shop feat. Wanz
Quite possibly the most overplayed song in recent radio history, Thrift Shop is nonetheless such a loveable song. It does absolutely everything right, and Macklemore, in my opinion, embarrasses every song that has ever followed it on the radio. Here’s why:
THIS IS FUCKING AWESOMEEEE
This song has a hook by Wanz (who?!) that you can’t help but sing along with, and a groovy saxophone-based instrumental that will make her dance about as well as bandz a. Not to mention, Macklemore has some pretty unforgettable lines in the song, like the aforementioned one about R. Kelley.
This song, while a SMASH radio hit, still has a theme that deserves recognition. The song isn’t just about being goofy and shopping at thrift shops. It’s actually bashing materialistic people that spend 50 dollars for a t-shirt.
Doesn’t forget his roots
If you watched the interview I posted at the beginning of the interview of Macklemore on Power 105.1, you’d know that Mackelmore used to go to thrift shops when he was a teenager and buy goofy clothes. One night, he got drunk, bought clothes at a thrift shop, and named himself “Professor Macklemore,” which is how he got his stage name. This song goes a little deeper than you thought, huh?
And there you have it. Thrift Shop, while annoyingly overplayed, is without a doubt, a very respectable song with unmatched solidity.
“They be like ‘Oh that Gucci, that’s hella tight'
I’m like 'Yo, that’s fifty dollars for a t-shirt’”
“Draped in a leopard mink, girl standing next to me
Probably should’ve washed this, smells like R. Kelly sheets
Track 4: Thin Line feat. Buffalo Madonna
Well damn, Macklemore kinda killed the vibe that he built with the first three tracks. In spite of that, this is a really sad but good song. Also, for many of us, this song is oh too relatable. The song describes a troubled relationship with a female that ends, followed by post-breakup sex and a world of heartbreak. Buffalo Madonna (who?!) brings an emotional hook to a song about a painful experience, and his short verse includes the heart-string-tugging line “Gave the keys back, now I’m on the homie’s couch.”
“That has us both on the fence
She walks that thin line
In and out of my bed
Each time I love her less”
“The greatest trick that the devil ever pulled
Was convincing women that they looked
Better in their makeup”
Track 5: Same Love feat. Mary Lambert
Probably Macklemore’s second most popular song. Here, Macklemore addresses the oh-so-controversial issue of homosexuality & gay marriage, and took a small risk in doing so. For that, I applaud him. Regardless of what you believe about gay marriage (spare me a religious debate please, ain’t nobody got time fo' dat), this is a likeable yet laid back song. Mary Lambert (who?!) delivers a hook that with substance and heart. Macklemore gives a testimony to the unjustices and oppression brought on homosexuals. I applaud the overall effort and objective of this song.
“If I was gay
I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately
"Man that’s gay"
Gets dropped on the daily”
“I might not be the same
But that’s not important
No freedom ‘til we’re equal
Damn right I support it”
Track 6: Make The Money
Ahh, what an absolutely refreshing track. After hearing rappers talk about their Bentleys or hearing about their All Gold Everything, it’s nice to hear someone blow the whistle on the ignorance and materialistic woes that plague hip hop. This song simply tells y'all to keep it real and do you, and not let money, chains, and whips define who you are. A great concept with a lot of heart put in to it, something Macklemore never fails to do. The instrumental is accompanied by a harmonious violin, that gives a perfect ambiance to the song. On that note, I would like to point out this song has probably some of the most intriguing and unique production that I’ve heard in a while.
“Classroom of kids, or a venue performing
If I’d done it for the money I’d have been a fucking lawyer”
“Make the money, don’t let the money make you
Change the game, don’t let the game change you”
Track 7: Neon Cathedral feat. Allen Stone
I happen to have this album on CD and in the paper foldout in the album case, there is a picture that goes along with every song. For neon cathedral, this is the photo:
Somewhat reminiscent of a certain Big K.R.I.T. cover, eh?
If the picture didn’t say enough, the song is basically about the sin that is brought on by every local watering hole. It is also the first (but not last) time that Macklemore sheds light on his former alcohol & substance abuse issues. The production gives you a gloomy, sad illustration of the torments of addiction, and the powerful words in this song give you an idea of how hard these struggles are. Not to mention the powerful, emotional hook sung with a lot of gut by Allen Stone (who?!).
“Round here they sing broken hymns
They prayers flow better when they’re soaked in gin
The amp’s dusty and sits in the corner
By bartender that’ll pickpocket your heart
And a jukebox that’ll steal your quarter”
“The people close to me say I’m in need of a doctor
Think that I got a problem but these are not apostles
This is the drink of the Lord, that’s according to my gospel”
Track 8 is an instrumental interlude called BomBom. This is a good time to say that if you’ve read this far, damn. Good for you. And I’m sorry if I’ve slowed the hell out of your computer with this enormous post.
Track 9: White Walls feat. Schoolboy Q
Thats right. Schoolboy Q is on this album! How Macklemore ever got connected with him, god only knows. The intro to this song is bangin'. This song is somewhat materialistic (ironic, after Thrift Shop and Make the Money bashed materialism), but how could you not like a song that cherishes candy-painted Cadillacs? Still, I’m going to have to criticize this song a bit. Really Mack? You just put together an incredibly materialistic song with a feature from one of the most drug-influenced artists in the game in Schoolboy Q. Doesn’t really fit in with your M.O. Not to mention, Q’s verse is ronchy. Whatever though, its a fun song to listen to with a good hook.
“Old school like Olde English in that brown paper bag
I’m rolling in that same whip that my granddad had”
“Old school, old school, candy paint, two seater
Yea, I’m from Seattle, there’s hella Honda Civics”
Track 10: Jimmy Iovine feat. Ab-Soul
WOO! This song is criminal. It’s really hard to not like this song. This track paints such a vivid picture Macklemore’s climb to success and, also, gives a subtle explanation behind the title of the album. Oh and did I mention that Ab-Soul does the hook? Anyway, the entire song describe’s him pulling off a heist-like operation where he sneaks in to the Interscope records headquarters and in to the CEO’s office. The “heist” is a metaphor for his hard work and struggle that he went through to become a successful artist. Near the end of the song, he is “caught” by Jimmy Iovine (the CEO) and Iovine actually wants to sign him. But, he gives a really shitty and greedy offer to Macklemore that he takes offense to. So, as if that concept wasn’t cool enough, Macklemore wraps up the song with what I think is the best line on the album…
“I replied I appreciate the offer, thought that this is what I wanted
Rather be a starving artist than succeed at getting fucked”
Track 11: Wings
Here, Macklemore gives an inspirational track about a kid with the shoes that everyone coveted. Not really a lot of substance on this song if you ask me, but Macklemore basically talks about being a kid and wanting to fit in and be cool with materialistic things. The production is ON POINT doe.
“I hit that court, and when I jumped, I jumped, I swear I got so high
I touched the net, Mom I touched the net, this is the best day of my life”
“We want what we can’t have, commodity makes us want it
So expensive, damn, I just got to flaunt it”
Track 12: A Wake feat. Evan Roman
“I need love, you need love, give me your love, and I’ll give you my love"
Hmm… Sounds like whoever did the hook (presumably Evan Roman (who?!)) has been watching a little too much Barney. At any rate, I actually really like this song. Very catchy! The song’s title is clever, a play on words of "waking up” combined with a “wake”, or a funeral, mourning is past life of drugs and addiction to alcohol. The song is about exactly that. Saying goodbye to his old life is only appropriate on a happy, fun instrumental. Another example of Macklemore bringing depth and fun together on the same song.
“They say thirty is the new twenty
And twenty is the new thirty shit I guess
Makes sense, cause fifteen year olds seem twenty
And twenty five year olds seem ten”
“Don’t even tweet, R.I.P Trayvon Martin
Don’t wanna be that white dude, million man marching”
Track 13: Gold feat. Eighty4 Fly
Well, he tried. But I really don’t like this song. Ryan Lewis tried to make another fun instrumental, and honestly, I think he failed this time. But thats just me. Anyway, this song is a little abstract and after doing some research, I have yet to find a consensus on what this song is really about. I happen to believe that the gold in this song is a metaphor for music/art and he just want’s to paint everything gold. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s just being materialistic.
“That girl ain’t even gold, she just got golden girl titties
I’m kidding, everyone is gold in my city”
Track 14: Starting Over feat. Ben Birdwell
This is a pretty somber instrumental, but a very emotional and fantastic lyrical song. Here, Macklemore shines a spotlight on his former problem with addiction and the problem of relapsing. All I can really say about this song is that it is fantastic. If you want to know more about this amazing story that is this Starting Over, I suggest you just take a listen for yourself.
“What the fuck are my parents gonna say?
The success story that got his life together and changed
And you know, what pain looks like
When you tell your dad you relapsed and look at him directly into his face”
“"Maybe this isn’t the place or time, I just wanted to say that
If it wasn’t for ‘Otherside’ I wouldn’t have made it…"
I just looked down at the ground and say "Thank you."
She tells me she has 9 months and that she’s so grateful
Tears in her eyes lookin' like she’s gonna cry, fuck”
Track 15: Cowboy Boots
Really annoying intro to the song but this is a pretty solid outro to the album. Here, he talks a little more about drinking and being at bars, and social drinking. He basically takes a moment to step back and reflect on things on a slow instrumental to finish up the masterpiece that is The Heist. I give this song a 5/10 though tbh. Its alright.
“Hold on to what you were, forget what you’re not
The streets were ours that summer, at least those two blocks”
There were some bonus tracks that I didn’t review but thats because I didn’t get those bonus tracks with the album, because I didn’t get the “deluxe” version. Didn’t really want to review tracks that I hadn’t listened to much.
Damn. It’s 1:09 a.m. and I’m wrapping this bad boy up after two hours of writing. If only I could put this much effort in to my homework?
I really hope you enjoyed the review and can see Macklemore as more than the guy that did Thrift Shop. I applaud you if you actually had the capacity to read this entire thing and I hope that after this, you grow to appreciate an album that you never before payed attention to.
I put a lot of effort in to this. While I welcome and encourage any and all comments, I ask that you please respect my individual opinion and the effort and time that I gave to this review.
Thanks for reading!!
Final Thought: I love that when they released it, they had it listed as being by Macklemore AND Ryan Lewis. Hip Hop needs more recognition of producers. Good production is half the battle.
maybe i’ll listen to this album now. i was skeptical at first because the only people who liked it at my school were dumb blondes and only had top 40 songs on their ipods
DwaneKric — Glad to hear that you may expand your horizons!
Funny I gave the album a 7.25/10.
lol MattL you get most of the credit for that for this detailed breakdown of the album. and yeah after seeing Q and Soul are guests on the album i might give it a chance.
That was fucking awesome! I did listen to the full album (albeit on Youtube) but I thought it all went well when put together. Then again, it was a casual listen. Same Love really speaks to me, being a gay teenager and rap fan is often something that people perceive as odd because of the homophobic nature of the genre. Besides, Mack and Frank are ideal. As Men. Yeah, I just said that.
Anyway, Wings has a killer hook, like majorly good production, it sounds like a Church choir, but it can be interpreted as positive and negative, because the song is about consumerism, and it shows that aspect as a negative thing (without being too negative). Would you believe that it was on some NBA game? (I’m from the UK, so basketball really isn’t my thing). But how ironic is that?
Anyways, a huge
for that review, and I can’t wait for the Macklemore love to roll in, and for my Visa card to be sorted so I can buy the damn thing!
You do really great reviews, I’d give this album more of an 8/10.
Your reviews are great 123 said.
Even if I disagree with them at times.
78,000.. 78,000.. was never good at math but that’s a lot of damn albums.
I’d prolly give this album around a 7, but good work you’ve explained your thoughts quite well
Yo this a good review.
I really like the instrumental to Gold though.
And Ten Thousand Hours fav song on the album hands down.
I thought the album was disappointing. The best tracks are the older ones and “Jimmy Iovine,” but I just really despised the overall pop vibe to the album. I’m glad for Macklemore x Ryan Lewis getting paid, that’s a good thing. I saw them live in 2010 (and have known about Mack years before that) and to see how far they’ve come since then is incredible, especially for indie artists from Seattle. But as far as the album is concerned, I expected something better.
“Jimmy Iovine” is a hot track and a good concept. Macklemore is a good vocalist, but his rhymes are garbage. Listen to his lyrics: The rhymes are either hella simple or they don’t even rhyme. If that doesn’t matter to you, I can see how you like him, but if you care about rhyming and you have any kind of standards, then his shit is unlistenable.
Imagine if Chino XL had “Jimmy Iovine” to rap on.
Ryan Lewis is decent, but I don’t think what he does is even remotely “hip-hop.” Just “Thrift Shop” and that’s almost like a parody making fun of hip-hop. He also bites other songs all over the place but brags about not using samples — as if that’s something to be proud of. His corny ass synths sound more at home on a Katie Perry track to me.
Overall, this is by far the worst album I heard this year, other than Nicki Minaj (which I knew was going to suck). I bought the CD (it isn’t even on vinyl) thinking it’d expand my horizons. Instead, I played it twice only: the second time only because I couldn’t believe how unimpressive it was on first listen. About 2/3 of the songs are “poor,” there are a handful of decent-to-good ones and a handful of GARBAGE tracks (“Gold” that horrible cowboy one).
Honestly, I don’t think Macklemore and Ryan Lewis deserve the attention of hip-hop fans. To each his own, though.
When I go to the thrift shop, the first and only thing I’m looking for is wax. Macklemore managed to make a whole song about thrift shops without even mentioning the used record section. That says a lot.
Really nice review, I’d rate the album 8/10.
Also I love how Ryan Lewis is included and recognized, producers do just has much work as the artist themselves.
He also bites other songs all over the place but brags about not using samples
Back that up with sources please. Where did he bite other songs? And when does he brag about not using samples (seriously, show me a source, I am interested in this).
Overall, this is by far the worst album I heard this year
Let’s not get carried away yo… a lot of his music is deep and emotional, yeah that ain’t for everybody, and the album has some filler tracks… but to call it the worst album of the year, by far?
- Starting Over
- Ten Thousand Hours
Are some deeper tracks, and Same Love is a pretty ballsy song to make (no pun intended), he is addressing societies issues…
Look, there were some filler tracks for sure, but I DELETE the songs I dislike on my iTunes… don’t look for the negative in things, find the positive man. This goes for music albums/mixtapes as well.