By Rikki Schneiderman
Ben Haggerty, known by his stage name Macklemore, faced more than a few obstacles on the way to reaching success. Hailing from Seattle, which is known for its underground hip-hop scene, Macklemore spent years struggling to break from the city and jump into the ever-narrowing national hip-hop scene. Additionally, the rapper dealt with an addiction to painkillers for four years, further delaying his music career.
However, the determined Haggerty refused to stop making music. Aligning with producer Ryan Lewis and a host of instrumentalists, Macklemore took his sound to the masses, releasing his debut full-length album, The Heist, on Tuesday, Oct. 16. His LP, which is also credited to Ryan Lewis, is driven by lead single “Thrift Shop.” An addictive bluesy sax line and a collaboration with Wanz drives the track, providing a flawless compliment for Macklemore’s effortless and playful lyricisms.
Starkly contrasting “Thrift Shop” is the slowed-down ballad “Same Love”, featuring the vocals of singer Mary Lambert. The track features Macklemore’s straightforward opinion about same-sex marriage, voicing his support fearlessly over a simple piano track. The piercing voice of Lambert, herself a lesbian, contributes to Macklemore’s plea to stop the aggression against homosexuality in society. Following the footsteps of Frank Ocean, Macklemore has joined the miniscule list of the urban music scene openly advocating for gay rights, with an openness and passion that highlights Mack’s diverse ability and talent.
“Same Love” is just one of the slower tracks on The Heist, which perfectly showcases Macklemore’s uniqueness and variance as not just a rapper, but also as a musician. Other tracks, such as the fierce “Jimmy Iovine,” showcase Macklemore’s still razor-sharp delivery as he spits out lines with deadly precision. In between are influences from indie pop, soul, blues, and even reggae. Each track is specifically and artfully crafted so that each instrument merges with another, presenting a wide range of sound that comes together with fluidity. The album as an entirety contains sounds from all corners of the music world, from a dramatic piano opening to sudden thumps of bass synthesizers and even a tribal beat (featured on “Can’t Hold Us,” one of the standout tracks).
The Heist reached number one on iTunes the day of its release, indicating that the world is ready for Macklemore. At least, they’d better be, because this rapper clearly isn’t going anywhere.