Kyle Loomis is a journalism senior and Mustang Daily music columnist.
Those of you who stay up-to-date with the hip-hop community may have been eagerly anticipating the Oct. 9 release of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ debut studio album, “The Heist” (2012).
Judging from the commotion caused by its release, including reaching No. 1 on iTunes within hours of its release, I have to say I’m surprised they weren’t on my radar until recently.
I remember hip-hop music as repetitive, shallow and generally unbearable to listen to — something we were fed at high school dances. I associated hip-hop with Lil Jon’s “Get Low,” 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” or Terror Squad’s “Lean Back.” I feared the innovative, authentic, organic rap music that 2pac, Dr. Dre, Notorious B.I.G. and N.W.A. produced in the ’90s was forgotten, only to be permanently replaced by the “bitches ‘n’ hoes” nonsense that was offered in the following decade.
You may be dismissing my assessment of hip-hop history. If you couldn’t tell, I’m not a huge fan of the genre. I was just another teenager who watched MTV in 2008, wondering how rap music became popular in the first place. Kudos to those of you who survived in the hip-hop underground for all those years.
Though I was completely convinced that hip-hop’s golden years had come and long gone, I downloaded “The Heist,” doubtful that two white guys from Seattle, Wash. were going to change my mind.
Hold the presses … danceable beats, catchy hooks, clever rhyming schemes, profound subject matter and independently produced? Touché, hip-hop.
Quite frankly, it’s hard to find any flaws in the album. Lewis, with some exceptional production, provides the album’s foundation with an eclectic mix of instrumentals and consistently engaging percussion and bass. Macklemore’s lyrics add that extra flavor to the music that has always been so critical to the genre — the same aspect of hip-hop I missed so much.
Make no mistake, lyrical content is the most important facet of hip-hop. It’s what sets it apart from everything else. It’s musical poetry. It tells stories about struggle, race, love, hate, violence or politics. This is what rap has been lacking lately, and what Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have brought back to a dying genre.
Take the popular single “Same Love,” for example, where Macklemore discusses homosexuality, a taboo topic in hip-hop.
“‘Man that’s gay’ gets dropped on the daily/We’ve become so numb to what we’re sayin’/Our culture founded from oppression/Yeah, we don’t have acceptance for ‘em … And a certificate on paper/Isn’t gonna solve it all/But it’s a damn good place to start.”
Here, Macklemore not only explores the insensitive use of the word “gay” as a synonym for “bad,” but goes so far as to publicly support marriage equality.
True, he isn’t the first rapper to get political, but this kind of content is definitely more appealing to the masses than the garbage spewing out of many other rappers, like something you’d find in 50 Cent’s “I Get the Money,” such as, “I’m stanky rich, I’ma die tryna spend this shit/Southside’s up in this bitch/Yeah, I smell like the vault, I used to sell dope/I did play the block, now I play on boats.”
Really 50 Cent? How many people do you expect to relate to that?
Appropriately, Macklemore’s track “Make the Money” says, “Make the money, don’t let the money make you.”
It comes down to us, the listeners. Do we want to hear the G-Unit crew talk about a “fantasy” lifestyle revolving around sex, drugs and violence, or something more self-reflective, such as the lifelong struggle with alcoholism?
As long as music consumers reward artists like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and ignore the filth released by “pop” rappers such as Flo Rida, 2 Chainz and Nicki Minaj, hip-hop can continue along this path to improvement that was paved by “The Heist.”