Since The Heist, his breakout 2012 LP with Ryan Lewis, Macklemore has been painfully self-aware in his music. He’s conscious of his whiteness, and the way it offers him a leg up on his competitors. He’s conscious of his detractors, who dismiss him as a flash within the pan. He clearly hears the criticism, and up to now quite a lot of his raps have felt like retorts to numerous tweets and thinkpieces. Although he hasn’t returned to the industrial heights of hits like “Can’t Maintain Us” and “Thrift Store,” his fanbase stays sizable and hungry. His new album, Ben, finds him on the opposite facet of a pandemic-assisted relapse, an underground rapper turned worldwide pop star who’s now extra involved with the opinion of his spouse and children than any critic.
Greater than any of Macklemore’s earlier LPs, Ben has two parallel aesthetics: hovering pop songs with stadium-sized hooks alongside dirty DJ Premier sample-stitched boom-bap. It’s troublesome to reconcile the Ed Sheeran impression of visitor singer Windser on “Maniac” with Macklemore’s snarling bars on “Grime,” a stripped-down quantity with funky horns and strutting bass. “Grime” sits smack in the course of a three-song run that begins with Premier’s “Heroes” and ends with “I Want,” a sarcastic send-up of the narcissists that thrive in our tradition of conspicuous consumption. As a three-track EP, these songs may need been an eye-opening reminder that the person can nonetheless rap. Wedged between his “dwelling my greatest life” pop and midlife disaster introspectives, the sequencing is jarring.
So is Macklemore a pop star or a rapper? The 2 are usually not mutually unique, however they really feel distinctly separate inside his catalog. At occasions, Ben sounds just like the work of three totally different artists, maybe reflecting the upheaval of its recording. Macklemore began work on the album earlier than the pandemic shut issues down; at house with no reveals to play or 12-step conferences to attend, he relapsed for a number of weeks, fracturing his life and household. The album’s scattershot method may need labored, too, if the transition from bubblegum pop to East Coast grime weren’t so abrupt. There are some catchy melodies beneath the slick synth-pop sheen of “No Dangerous Days” and “1984,” however they’re additionally drenched in cheese. It’s juvenile by design, the right karaoke party-bus jam for his 7-year-old and her mates.
Ben’s extra private angle additionally winds up underselling considered one of Macklemore’s biggest skills: mimicry. He possesses an innate potential to emulate different rappers’ flows, a talent honed by years of fandom. You possibly can hear it clearly on his earlier album, Gemini, the place he bounces together with Lil Yachty and rolls triplets as fluently as Offset. But with few different rappers featured on Ben, his personal flows appear to fall into two distinct patterns: buoyant exuberance on the hyped-up pop tracks and a morose monotone on the extra plaintive ballads.
#Macklemore #Ben #Album #Assessment #Pitchfork