The (Mackle)More the Merrier
Hip hop is everywhere. The underground movement of the 70s, originally revealing itself to the public eye (and ear) with a hip, hop, hippie, the hippie to the bang-bang boogie of “Rapper’s Delight,” has hit about mainstream as mainstream gets. From Snoop Dogg to the Weeknd, many of the biggest acts of today are rapping, DJing, and beatboxing. All of these began with hip hop.
And although one can never forget its humble roots, the genre is no longer simply restricted to N.W.A. and the streets. Hip hop has a new upper class bursting at the seams with the likes of Drake, Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Beyoncé, Fetty Wap, Rihanna, and lo and behold Macklemore (not to mention his producer, director, and close friend Ryan Lewis). None of them answer to anyone, and Macklemore is no exception. But that untamed rebellion is what has popularized this outcast genre, making celebrities out of its prodigies. The Seattle native has already been nominated for over sixty awards, boasting more than twenty wins!
But despite the attention Macklemore has been receiving, he still has a number of songs that fly under the radar. Some are relics from his early years, but even The Heist features some lesser-known beauties. Now let’s go give seven of these hidden gems a little more love…
Number 7: “Irish Celebration”
Three Word Summary: Modern drinking song.
Analysis: Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day (and any day if you’re in Ireland, I suppose), “Irish Celebration” was released in preparation for The Vs. EP in late 2009. Starting strong with the timeless synthetic accordion, “Irish Celebration” fits the character of any regular party song, but the lyrics are much more involved than that. The song exalts and recounts Irish-American history, from the immigrants “on a boat to New York” to drinking instructions from his dad. Actually, drinking really is the main point of the song. But contrary to most rappers, he doesn’t approach it like he wants to get wasted at a rave. To him, it seems more laid-back. He makes it sound like a tradition, raising “a pint for the people that aren’t with us.” Fun fact: at one point, he mentions his real last name in the song, Haggerty.
Number 6: “White Walls” feat. Schoolboy Q and Hollis
Three Word Summary: Ode to Cadillac.
Analysis: Released in October of 2013, “White Walls” was the fifth single from The Heist, and it features a hook by Hollis with a guest verse from Schoolboy Q. Yes, this one is a little more mainstream than the rest, but it isn’t getting all the attention it deserves. Not only does the song endorse fine automobiles, but it simply celebrates long roads and cool wind. The rhythm makes you want to just get in the car with friends and drive as long as the pavement will take you. Speaking of good friends, the music video actually features A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa, and Sir Mix-a-Lot, among others.
Number 5: “My Oh My”
Three Word Summary: Tribute to Neihaus.
Analysis: When Dave Neihaus, arguably one of the greatest baseball broadcasters of all time, abruptly passed away in 2010, Mariners fans were unnerved, Macklemore included. He wanted to honor his childhood idol, so he wrote and wrote. Released as the promotional single of The Heist, “My Oh My” is Macklemore’s personal tribute to Neihaus, complete with a clip from the broadcast of The Double in the 1995 Division Series. In the song he remembers listening to the “stories on the field” and begging his parents to hear just one more inning. The lyrics and beat line up seamlessly, making it a classic home run. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis even performed the song at Opening Day in 2011 at Safeco Stadium.
Number 4: “Wing$”
Three Word Summary: Don’t idolize stuff.
Analysis: Another look back into his childhood, “Wing$,” released as a 2011 single from The Heist, takes a fresh view into another aspect of his early life. Macklemore remembers his unexplainable desire for Nike and basically any brandname logo, eventually making a 180 and warning against the dangers of consumerism. In his own words, he wants “to dissect our infatuation and attachment to… the fleeting happiness that is intrinsically linked to the almighty power of the purchase.” But ironically in this particular case, Macklemore doesn’t exactly practice what he preaches, signing away the song to be used in NBA commercials.
Number 3: “Kevin” feat. Leon Bridges
Three Word Summary: Never forget Kevin.
Analysis: More than likely, “Kevin” hasn’t hit the mainstream yet because it just hasn’t been out long enough. But hopefully people will hear the cautionary tale of Macklemore rapping to the memory of his friend and fellow artist and be moved. As the funk transforms into soul with the buttery smooth vocals of Leon Bridges, Macklemore explores the reasons and causes of drug addiction, pointing fingers from the “pharmacy” to the “politicians.” He remembers dropping his friend off at home one evening, then learning he’s dead the next. The personal angst is powerful, driving the emotion of the song to depths largely unexplored.
Number 2: “American”
Three Word Summary: “Heck” yeah, America.
Analysis: Offensive? OK, maybe. But hilarious? Yes. Part of The Unplanned Mixtape from 2009, “American” ridicules the gun shootin’, burger chompin’, football lovin’ rhetoric of the stereotypical American man with some gun shootin’, burger chompin’, football lovin’ satire (and don’t forget lots of profanity). Macklemore mocks the traditional conservative lifestyle, dumbing it down to lazy alcoholism and ignorant nativism. He makes plenty of notable references from the N.R.A. to Bin Laden to the Cowboys and Redskins, making sure to contradict his character’s homophobia with a vaguely homosexual undertone. Interestingly enough, his character’s name, Aberdeen Washington, is actually a city in Macklemore’s home state.
Number 1: “Starting Over” feat. Ben Bridwell
Three Word Summary: We’re only human.
Analysis: A tale of failure and triumph, Macklemore faces his relapse into addiction, losing three years of sobriety. He emotionally describes the pain of admitting his relapse to his parents and the disappointment of his father. Continuing on, he feels like a “false prophet” of sorts, and he doesn’t know what to say to an appreciative fan who thanks him for inspiring her with “Otherside.” His anguish pushes the song towards that honesty that is often far too elusive in the music industry, confessing his sins and promising a return. Integrating his verses with Ben Bridwell’s wistful vocals, Macklemore tells a tale of defining redemption, stirring and forlorn and uplifting all at once.