Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' This Unruly Mess I've Made: What You Need To Know
Ben Haggartey had been toiling away in relative obscurity for well over a decade under the name Professor Macklemore before he teamed up with producer Ryan Lewis, dropped the 'professor' part of his name and began a rude assault on the charts that saw the duo become the first artists without a record deal to top the Billboard Top 100 since 1994 with their track 'Can't Hold Us', a feat they repeated a few months later with another single, 'Thrift Shop'.
Their debut album, The Heist, wound up selling over 1.5 copies in the US alone and this Friday comes the long-awaited follow-up, This Unruly Mess I've Made. Here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Since the chart-topping exploits of their debut album, the duo have scooped up a bunch of Grammy awards for their efforts and embarked on two world tours, even finding time to get involved in the marriages of 33 gay couples along with Queen Latifah and Madonna, soundtracking the event with their hit 'Same Love', written in support of same-sex marriage. The first announcement of a new album on the way came over a year ago in January 2015. At the time, Macklemore stated that a new LP would emerge in the second half of 2015, but the release date was eventually pushed back and, after the release of two singles – 'Growing Up', featuring Ed Sheeran, and 'Downtown' – the album finally drops onto shelves in-store today.
Who's producing it?
Lewis is handling the majority of production duties, however 'Buckshot' features a beat produced by hip-hop legend and former Gang Starr member DJ Premier.
Any special guests?
Loads. Aside from Primo, This Unruly Mess I've Made contains an extensive list of collaborators and guests. These include legendary figures like KRS-One, Grandmaster Caz (who you may know as Casanova Fly), Kool Moe Dee and Melle Mel, while there are also contributions from rising stars Chance the Rapper and Anderson.Paak, as well as rappers YG and XP. It's not all hip-hop on the guests front though – as well as the aforementioned Ed Sheeran collaboration there is also an appearance from Leon Bridges, who lends his voice to the track 'Kevin', and actor Idriss Elba, who joins Anderson.Paak on 'Dance Off'.
What does it sound like?
Macklemore has previously named artists like Nas, Mobb Deep, Talib Kweli and Wu-Tang Clan as influences and that East Coast vibe permeates much of the new album, particularly on 'Buckshot' and 'Downtown', the latter oozing with that block party feel that you'd expect from artists like Melle Mel and Grandmaster Caz. There are however tracks that are much darker and a lot more weighty in terms of their subject matter - the controversial 'White Privilege II' being a case in point – while 'Kevin' is another track with a heavily emotional feel, with a dense and soulful backing track to match, helped in large part by a great vocal performance from Leon Bridges.
Does it deliver?
All in all, there's quite a lot of scope here in terms of texture and musical styles and while a lot of Lewis' production is inherently cleaner and more radio-friendly than the more gritty, underground stuff associated with those artists above that the duo describe as influences, there are many clear references to the 'old school' hip-hop of the 80s and 90s. Macklemore commented recently about how much hip-hop has changed since he first got into the scene and this album feels like a conscious attempt to bring some of that back. That's not to say this a retro-sounding album, but there's enough here to appeal to fans of old school hip-hop as well as those who loved their first album.