By JESSICA PEREZ, Staff Reporter
It was 10 years ago that rapper Ben Haggerty (Macklemore) first released the song “White Privilege,” where he expressed a conflicted outlook on his place within hip-hop culture. In the heat of today’s Black Lives Matter movement, Haggerty knew this was the perfect time to revive the song, now with a fresh perspective and the help of many other collaborators. He and Ryan Lewis close their newest album with an uncomfortably real, nine-minute sequel: “White Privilege 2.”
The album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, has been in progress for almost two years and was officially released on Feb. 26. Its 13 tracks feature a plethora of supporting artists, including Ed Sheeran, Chance the Rapper, Leon Bridges, Carla Morrison, Kool Moe Dee and a dozen more. Actor Idris Elba even makes an appearance in “Dance Off” with his best Vincent Price impression, making it sound like it just may be the “Thriller” of our generation.
This Unruly Mess I’ve Made is, in true Macklemore fashion, a 50/50 combination of introspective poetry and utter ridiculousness. The subject matter bounces back and forth from light-hearted to heavy, which allows the rapper to deliver specific messages on issues important to him without making the album a total bummer.
Macklemore opens up about losing his little brother to a drug overdose in his song, “Kevin.” He widens the focus of his lens to examine America’s problem with the abuse of prescription pills, pointing the finger of blame at big pharmaceutical companies as well as the doctors who write excessive prescriptions to push certain drugs on kids (Adderall, Xanax, OxyContin, etc.). This, along with the track “Need to Know,” serves as a reminder that there is no quick fix to life’s problems; no amount of drugs, alcohol or money will ever be enough to make you feel complete, so don’t waste time chasing the wrong things.
“Growing Up” is dedicated to Macklemore’s 10-month-old daughter, Sloane Ava Simone Haggerty. Here, he lays out his questions and anticipations of parenthood, leaving some fatherly advice for when Sloane gets older. The song, “Light Tunnels,” gives an honest, firsthand look at Macklemore’s Grammy experience, which he describes as fake, narcissistic and commercial.
Some of the album’s goofiest rhymes and catchiest hooks can be found on tracks like “Downtown,” “Brad Pitt’s Cousin,” and “Let’s Eat,” – a profession of a man’s unconditional love of food. I’m sure we can all connect with this one on a deep level.
Overall, I would say that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took on the challenge of balancing entertainment and social activism with their new album, and they succeed in a creative, sincere way.