Album Review: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "This Unruly Mess I've Made"

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have finally released their new album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made that has been long awaited since their last album dropped in 2012. In the four years since Heist made waves in the industry as a unique change to the hip-hop genre, fans have been excited for what the duo would brainstorm as a further development of their artistic capabilities. “Downtown” was the first single released from This Unruly Mess I’ve Made late last year; the single did not disappoint. Very much like “Thrift Shop” made such an impact due to its success in rapping about a subject as simple as thrift shopping, “Downtown” accomplished a similar feat. The song is about a guy riding his moped – the lesson of the song delves even deeper, explaining that you’re as cool as you think you are, and seemingly lame objects like mopeds are only as lame as you make them. “Thrift Shop” has a deeper lesson, as well, arguing that your exterior appearance is much less important than how you own what you wear. This Unruly Mess I’ve Made uses simple, fun themes like mopeds in order to tackle bigger subjects like songs in Heist; however, their new album attempts to tackle a higher caliber of political and social standing that pushes it to another level for the hip-hop duo.

The album contains a lot of jazzy undertones that soften the rap genre that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis nestle in. It creates an enjoyable, old school tone in a lot of the music. “Need to Know” featuring Chance the Rapper is one example of this softened rap that the duo has seemed to experiment with. It is very slow-paced, and Macklemore’s tone is less aggressive rap and more steady singing. The vibe is similar to “Growing Up” with Ed Sheeran on the album that adorably discusses the sense of protection when one is a father. They also use the funky backbeats in an upbeat way in “Let’s Eat” that literally describes everyone’s struggle with enjoying food that’s bad for you. This also has a subtly important meaning arguing that if you own how you look and what you like, that’s all that matters. Even in the fun songs like “Let’s Eat,” the duo has a reason for taking up space on their album with the lighthearted lyrics that shed light to a deeper subject matter.

    Some of their songs are blatantly heavier, shying away from the jazzy upbeats and funny subjects of carbs or mopeds. “White Privilege II” featuring Jamila Woods is an ode to “White Privilege” on their first album. The entire lengthy song tackles the difficult racism subject from the standpoint of being a famous, white speaker (Macklemore). It is enlightening to hear some of the worries and concerns a white male speaker has on the subject of racial equality because it is a common theme to feel helpess and out-of-place to speak out on the subject if one is not part of a racial minority. The song is weaved with clips of people speaking on the news and other examples of opinions heard publically. One repeated line, “Blood in the streets, no justice, no peace,” demonstrates the fight for the end of racism whether it is blatant or subliminal racism. An extremely notable part of the song is when Macklemore imitates a mother who came up to him and fawned over the subject matter he raps – it ends with, “Even the protest outside, so sad and so dumb, if a cops pulls you over, it’s your fault if you run…. (Huh?)” It is an extremely impactful line because the positivity from the mother turned into a racially charged statement attempting to buddy up with Macklemore’s white privileged status.

Songs like “White Privilege II” demonstrate the duo’s voice that is impacting the industry, but even broader, the pop culture society. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis create a social, political, and artistic identity through their music. They take the spotlight shone upon them and use it to make a statement. Their musical uniqueness continues to grow and develop; that in itself is why the duo is one of the most currently influential in the industry.