A young Ben “Macklemore” Haggerty launched his solo rap career in 2001 with this debut album, Open Your Eyes. Setting aside the “Intro,” and the three “Interludes,” we are looking at fourteen tracks here. “Welcome To The Culture” starts things off, calling out fake MCs over a slick, groovy beat. “Look in the mirror and honestly tell yourself that you are keeping it real,” he chides. The brilliant “Wake Up” is a first look at the winning tone that would eventually become the Macklemore brand–a comedic, quick-witted entertainer telling concise stories with clear social messages. The sample in the chorus of “Wake Up” cleverly flips the line, “Use your mentality, wake up to reality,” from Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Under My Skin.”
“Her Name Was Music,” shows Mack’s innocent earnestness and lack of inhibition baring his soul on the microphone. The track’s lyrics fall closer to to a high school romantic poetry assignment than rap verses, and before the end of the track, the music-as-woman metaphor feels strained. “Her Name Was Music” may have been inspired by Ghetto Chilldren’s “Equilibrium,” which has lines like, “Since my youth I’ve been in cahoots with this friend of mine, I’m in her mind, kick back with her, she soothes like Calamine.”
“Flossin” showcases the contradictions of Macklemore’s entire career. Why would a conscious MC want to floss? “Don’t take life so serious, get that neck knocking,” says the MC with the most deep, ponderous thoughts per bar. How can we “get this party hopping” with grim meditations on the true colonial origins of America’s Thanksgiving myth found elsewhere on the album? The lyrics of “Flossin” show Macklemore realizing in real time how hard it is to strike a balance between intellectual raps with a purpose, and catchy, lightweight ditties.
To me, solipsistic tracks like “Fresh Coast,” and “Earthlings,” resemble an Only Fans, no privacy look into Mack’s personal life and academic musings. SNL once called Common “a TED Talk with a beat,” for Macklemore just replace “TED Talk” with “CRT 101.” Is the confessional, self-diagnosing therapist version of Macklemore less compelling than the humorous-yet-poignant storyteller? Would there be “party” Macklemore without “political rally” Macklemore? The fact that he was able to bring both of these components of his personality along for the ride speaks to Mack’s integrity and his refusal to abandon the honest, truth-to-power style that brought him to the rap game in the first place.
Around the release of Open Your Eyes, opportunities opened up right and left for Macklemore. His hip-hop group Elevated Elements dropped their CD titled Progress, with interesting tracks such as “Sympathy,” “Truth Is Gravity,” and “Perspectives.” Also, Gabriel Teodros’ 2001 album Sun To A Recycled Soul featured Mack’s vocal and production work on three songs, including the deceptively mild-sounding “F*** The Industry.” It was an auspicious start to a career that would take Haggerty many times around the world. Written by Novocaine132