Macklemore & Ryan Lewis "Same Love" LIVE on Ellen - October 30, 2012
I first saw the YouTube video of Macklemore (real name Ben Haggerty) and Ryan Lewis perform their electrifying, chilling, and intellectually stimulating song, “Same Love,” advocating for gay rights on Ellen last month. Not only does this song call for a governmental shift of the way gay rights are defined, but furthermore, asks each of us, including those involved in the hip-hop community, to consider the inner and outer dialogues we use when referring to the LGBT community.
As somebody who considers themselves an LGBT advocate, this song offers a refreshing view of how it truly feels to be neglected, oppressed, and otherwise dismissed by society as a group of “others” not afforded the same rights as every other American. After watching their video for “Same Love” and listening to their debut album, The Heist, I ask you this: have you ever felt an ounce of sadness, neglected, or frustrated by the capitalistic system this country can’t seem to escape? Maybe you’ve been battling an addiction, or have witnessed somebody else do so?
If you can identify with even one of these ideas or emotions, give Macklemore and Ryan Lewis a chance. Did I mention that they are incredible witty, funny, and offer a unique balance of conscious rap and goofy rhymes that send the listener through a whirlwind of emotions forcing me to ask: is this the future of hip-hop? I hope it is. Let me tell you why.
What makes Macklemore and Ryan Lewis special is that they don’t try to be something they aren’t. In “Thin Line” Macklemore is able to sing about a lost love and the loss he experiences and that sometimes, things just aren’t meant to be. How many rappers these days overcompensate with masculine versions of themselves that may sound “tough” and “cool,” but continue to bash the women they sexualized in the process? It’s actually pretty pathetic, but don’t believe me, listen to “Thin Line” and “A Wake.”
These guys were offered a lot of money with a record label, but because of their desire to change the artistic process (including the financial component), they decided to control the distribution of their album and release it independently. After releasing it on iTunes last month, it was the #1 album its debut week. For Macklemore’s perspective on his disdain for the current state of the music industry, check out “Make the Money” and “Jimmy lovine.” He says it beautifully, yet simply, “make the money/don’t let the money make you.”
It gets heavier as Macklemore has us wonder about our own addictive patterns. To people, drugs, alcohol, the internet, or other processes, believe it or not, we all engage in behaviors to cope with inner demons. Macklemore isn’t scared to admit this. We should all be grateful for his desire to share his story. In “Neon Cathedral” he discusses his own shame about his alcohol usage, yet pride he has taken in recovery.
Okay okay, so things seem a bit heavy. Maybe too emotional for you? I get that. Listen to “Thrift Shop,” if you need something to jam out to with your friends. With a catchy beat and hilarious rhymes, Macklemore tells us that even if you don’t have money, go get fresh at a thrift shop!
Beyond its comedic nature (listen to his line about “R. Kelly sheets”, it would be an injustice for me to give it away), once again Macklemore breaks down the common stereotypes held and expressed by those in hip-hop (cough cough, I’m looking at you Kanye West) that only Louie Vuitton and Gucci make somebody fresh. As somebody who owns an obnoxious amount of flannel shirts from thrift shops, this song is highly validating. If you need a song to wake up to every morning “Ten Thousand Hours” will do the trick. I can feel the arrival of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in this.
Do you need a party song to bump as you ride to the club? In “White Walls” Macklemore offers us his cocky side as he discusses the euphoric feeling he gets riding into his old school Cadillac, while most likely wearing clothes he got from the thrift shop that “Bernie Mac would be proud of,” he states emphatically. One can sense the fun, yet calm side of Macklemore in this track as he has an innate ability to express an appreciation of the little things in life some of us take for granted, such as the pretty lights of the city. If that doesn’t suffice, “Gold,” will get you in a good mood. I promise.
For all you sneakerheads, “Wing$,” is for you. Macklemore addresses the overly image-oriented era we are living in, and the consequences of this, such as murder, especially of the young. Macklemore acknowledges his own desire to once be a cool kid, yet how this is all predicated on insecurities Americans face. We have succumbed to a media that tells us how to feel and think.
We have the power to change this. I hope. “A Wake” takes things a step further. Confronting the internet-obsessed society we have become, Macklemore discusses that we seem to be developing into a society too busy to make friends.
Did I mention that Macklemore and Ryan Lewish are white? This is important. Macklemore sees as himself as an advocate for those who are oppressed, regardless of race, issue, and/or socioeconomic status. Sure, Eminem has been masterful in rapping about his personal demons, but when was the last time a rapper spoke out in defense of those who aren’t “like” him, on an appearance-based level. Macklemore didn’t come from a dangerous part of the country, and he doesn’t pretend to. He represents Seattle in a way that honors his roots, not to brag about how he “made it.” There’s a huge difference. While it’s amazing how many artists are able to use their music as a way to get out of an otherwise broken system, Macklemore refuses to project an idea of “victim-” but rather- decides to be “advocate.” Not only does music need more of this, but society as a whole does.
The intent of this editorial was not for it to be an album review, although I’m well aware it may come across as one. However, and I am guilty of this too, we have become a culture seeking out “quick” gratification. In music, that can be a catchy track, funky beat, or outlandish pop-track that provides that musical rush we all crave. If you are looking for that, you will get a dose of it on The Heist, but that’s not what this music is about.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis provide a balance of genuine authenticity of selves (and a variety of troubled American subcultures), while somehow, making it easy to listen to and fun at the same time. Artists and people in general like this are hard to come by. We should all be so lucky to meet at least one person who challenges us on an intellectual level, especially when the spoken word is involved. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have done that for me. Give The Heist a listen. My wish is they can do the same for you.