Hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis may have surprised themselves with their sudden,
After entering the hip-hop industry in 2000, Macklemore has not had the shortest road to success.
In 2005, Macklemore began battling substance abuse, which caused the artist to go on hiatus. Around
2009, he began working with Lewis. After three years of working together, Macklemore and Lewis
produced their debut album, “The Heist.”
As independent artists, it is difficult to break through to a mainstream audience, especially the way
Macklemore and Lewis have. “The Heist” has proven to be an album that may change any listener’s
perspective on hip-hop music. Since “The Heist” was released, it has received honors from the iTunes
charts, as well as those on the Billboard’s charts. With a fresh and conscious perspective, Macklemore
and Lewis have stakes to claim within the art of hip-hop.
The intro track, “Ten Thousand Hours,” opened the album and definitely set the tone for the
remaining tracks. The song paid homage to the hip-hop duo’s journey in making the album. The track
title refers to the Malcolm Gladwell book, “Outliers,” which described the notion that, to become a
master of one’s craft, it takes 10,000 hours of dedication.
Macklemore displayed this theme within his lyrics: “See I observed Escher, I love Basquiat/ I watched
Keith Haring, you see I studied art/ The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint/ The
greats were great cause they paint a lot.”
The album’s second single, “Thrift Shop,” has become an anthem since its release. The song is only the
second independent song to ever achieve the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Not only has
this song proved to be commercially successful, but it also successfully defied many hip-hop stereotypes.
While most hip-hop artists use their glamorous lifestyle for their lyrical content, Macklemore
attempted to bring a more modest perspective. After listening to “Thrift Shop,” there was no doubt
that Macklemore is an actual thrift shopper in his daily life. Lewis appeared to have taken inspiration
from early jazz or New Orleans swing music, with blazing horns and trumpets in the background as
Macklemore raps, “One man’s trash, that’s another man’s come-up.”
The album’s first single, “Same Love,” is a track that sets Macklemore and Ryan Lewis apart from
other hip-hop artists. The song is dedicated to equal rights, mainly concerned with gay rights. Ryan
Lewis comes in with a subtle drum beat, piano and horns. Once again, Macklemore goes against the
stereotype with his lyrical content.
While most rappers seem to possess some degree of homophobia, Macklemore confronts the issue
in a straightforward fashion, even stating his support for equal rights within his lyrics. He rapped,
“Whatever god you believe in, we come from the same one/ Strip away the fear, underneath it’s all the
same love/ about time that we raised up.”
It is evident that Macklemore and Lewis worked side-by-side during the production of this work.
Unlike most other hip hop albums, “The Heist” used no samples from other artists. “Neon Cathedral”
displayed this artistic bond between the two. Lewis was able to create music that seemed to
compliment the style of Macklemore.
In “Neon Cathedral,” Lewis used a trance of guitars, keys and violins in a progressive manner that
compliment the depth of Macklemore’s content. Macklemore presented an extended metaphor, the
“Neon Cathedral” being a bar or pub where faith is tested.
At the end of the second verse, Lewis leaves one with chills as he brings in an ambiance of keys.
Macklemore rapped, “Sweet Jesus, I’m getting amnesia/ Shaking until I get a taste, my faith is having
“Starting Over” is a very self-conscious song. Macklemore references “Other Side,” a song about
his issues involving substance abuse. Since that song’s release, Macklemore has gained a reputation
as a “clean” rapper. In “Starting Over,” Macklemore’s lyrical content is mainly about his struggle with
expectations, even stating that he has relapsed since.
With a soft, melodic guitar ringing out, Macklemore rapped about an encounter with a fan, who was
inspired to stop drugs by his music, “I just look down at the ground and say thank you/ She tells me she
had nine months and that she’s so grateful/ Tears in her eyes looking like she’s going to cry, f***/ I only
got 48 hours, treat it like I’m some wise monk.”
“The Heist,” is an album that seems to be geared toward audiences of any genre. Lewis used
influences from hip-hop, folk, classical, post-modern rock and many more. Macklemore provides great
lyrical content, but what makes this album great is the collaboration. As one listens to the album,
one might be able to tell that Lewis and Macklemore worked very closely, molding the music around
Macklemore’s unique take on hip-hop.
Being self-conscious while remaining aware of the outside world is what makes Macklemore stand
out from most hip-hop artists. It does not stop there for Macklemore, however. Not only does his lyrical
content aim to help people, but, while in college, he also helped to provide writing workshops for
Together, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis defy conventions and break boundaries to bring us meaningful