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The Heist

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about success. We’re all clamoring and hustling for success in our own ways. Do you follow Macklemore online? That dude works every single day. He’s always in the home studio or on tour. Every day. On “Ten Thousand Hours” he raps, “The Greats were great because they paint a lot,” and you see this with Ben. So when was the last time you listened to The Heist all the way through? I’ve been listening to it a lot lately and there’s such a clear concept from start to finish. It’s not just a collection of random hits: You can see a summer day, walking our green streets, past the big, luxurious northern Capitol Hill homes up to Volunteer Park. You know all these songs, all those songs that played on the radio all summer in 2012 and into the next. There’s so much Seattle on display here. I met Mr. “Thrift Shop” Wanz at a party a few years back and, and I was celebrity struck talking with him. Many of the themes on The Heist have only grown in relevance in 2017, in an America where our president says it’s okay to hate and discriminate. Somewhere between the gentle piano that opens “Same Love” and the chorus of angels that ends it, Macklemore raps, “No law’s gonna change us,” which succinctly summarizes the current mood of defiant Seattle. Don’t be jealous of Macklemore’s money or fame. Be jealous of his impressive flow, his honesty on display, the chart-topping arrangements from Ryan Lewis, and the fact that they did it all themselves on their own terms. No labels. It’s all self-produced and self-released like 90% of the other records I review here. “A life lived for art is never a life wasted.” Pictured here is the 5lb, double vinyl, gator-skin, 18-insert, bonus tracks, box set. It’s a big audacious statement in an age when most are releasing virtual music for free on SoundCloud. Lots of my fav local cats were involved with this record: Nathan Quiroga, Eighty4 Fly, Budo, Hollis Wong-Wear… And then you think, “Damn, this DIY record from Seattle won a Grammy!” What does success mean to you if not this?

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Gemini

Gemini is Macklemore’s self-released celebration of our town: Because of their features on this record, local talents Dave B and Travis Thompson were on The Tonight Show singing “Corner Store,” and representing our hip-hop community on national television.

But let’s start here: I’m headbanging in my car. It’s 1:00 am and “Firebreather” roars. It’s no surprise there’s a car on the cover. This is car music. You turn up the dial and you keep wanting to turn it up.

Macklemore’s devout honesty is found throughout Gemini, leaving you with the feeling that you need to reduce the hypocrisies in your fraudulent life. Despite our desire to make work and be artists, “waking up to a screen and watching TV, it’s easy.” On “Intentions” he begins, “I want to be sober, but I love getting high.” Rather than pursue our own dreams, we choose to “live on social media and read other people’s thoughts.”

Recorded at home, in the basement, the music is intimate. Every song is so thoroughly considered and contains the sort of details it takes dozens of listens to notice, both in the music and the storytelling. In lieu of usual producer Ryan Lewis, there are talented local and mainstream collaborators galore here: Budo, Tyler Dopps, Xperience, Saint Claire, Dan Caplen, Abir, Donna Missal, Reignwolf, Otieno Terry, Ke$ha, Offset, Lil Yachty, Eric Nally, and Skylar Grey, whose hook on the second track is truly “Glorious.”

For everyone out there hoping to one day to have the worldwide stadium-level fame that Macklemore has achieved, may this record be your textbook for success.

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This Unruly Mess I've Made

This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is defiantly uncool; celebrating hair metal, failed resolutions, books on tape and herbal tea. Few records from 2016 are more eccentric and audacious. At a time when seeming cool holds such a premium, Unruly Mess walks in the opposite direction and consequently sounds like nothing else. It’s also the only local hip-hop record this year that made me cry. Regardless of mega-star status, this record is still grounded in Seattle’s DIY ethic: self-released and supported on tour by local talents Dave B, Raz Simone, Budo and others. I always laugh at the line, “Give me the Macklemore haircut!” because Ben and I have been the same Capitol Hill barber. How Seattle is that? If you haven’t spun this one recently, go back and listen to it again.

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