Macklemore and Ryan Lewis dropped their self-released sophomore album, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made,” on February 26, four years after their platinum certified debut album, “The Heist.”
The album follows the progression of Macklemore’s life since his success from “The Heist,” including his four Grammy awards in 2014 and his subsequent personal downfall. Drug use, comments on race and racial movements, and the detriments of fame are common themes throughout the album.
The first track, “Light Tunnels,” sets the tone of much of the album’s contents, as it depicts the sudden fame that Macklemore experienced in 2012. The song also touches on Macklemore’s relapse into drug use, which is further explored in “Kevin.” Accompanied by Leon Bridges, “Kevin” comments on drug use in America and Macklemore’s personal experiences with drugs. The track calls out all aspects of the drug industry, from doctors who overprescribe, politicians who allow the issue to continue, and the continued funding of the War on Drugs.
“Need to Know,” featuring Chance the Rapper, echoes a similar sentiment about fame and further reflects on the capitalist values that correlate to Macklemore’s, and Chance the Rapper’s, successes. Again, the prevalence of drug use of the famous is referenced and the dangers that correspond to the lifestyle of famous, especially of those who were rapidly thrust into the spotlight, are revealed as well.
While his role was much more of the support system of the album, Ryan Lewis’s talents are displayed on a few tracks, including “Need to Know,” but most notably on “Growing Up,” which also features Ed Sheeran. The fifth track on the album, “Growing Up” steps away from the commentary on race and drug use and focuses rather on the birth of Macklemore’s daughter and the worries and concerns of parenthood, another momentous and recent step in Macklemore’s personal life.
The final track, and the second single off the album, “White Privilege II” has been met with mixed reviews from critics. While commended by some about the honesty of the song and the acknowledgement of the white community on the “Black Lives Matter” movement and concept of political correctness, others call out the irony of Macklemore’s insecurities surrounding his own white privilege all while he is gaining success from rap, an art that originated from the black community that has historically served as their political tool. The track mirrors Macklemore’s struggles with his own place in the rap community and his favorable outlook from the politically correct white community. An overall inconclusive song to end the album, “White Privilege II” is best interpreted and critiqued by individual listeners.
Overall, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” is slated to be successful, but not as successful as “The Heist,” although that seems to almost be Macklemore’s goal after his initial struggles with rapid success. The album pays homage to the initial success of “The Heist” with the first single “Downtown,” and continues to call out the issues of American society with a commentary on eating disorders and body image issues in “Let’s Eat.” While no major hits like “Same Love” or “Thrift Shop,” both off of “The Heist,” are found on this album, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” is a commendable album that adequately addresses the messes of American society and the messes Macklemore found himself in after his initially launch into fame.