Our countdown to Album of the Year concludes today as we announce the winner!
1. The Heist – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
The Heist. Perhaps an appropriate title for the album which has “stolen” the top spot of this year’s List – I say stolen because, next to some of the more established names on The List and many more who didn’t make the cut, who would have predicted that the number one position would go to as-of-yet unsigned Seattle rapper Macklemore and his only esoterically-known producer Ryan Lewis? Yet here Macklemore sits atop my list, a list which, by the way, contains albums by three of my all-time favorite bands ranked somewhere below him. What makes this album so special? Well, to really understand, you’d have to listen to the whole thing, but as it is my job here to introduce you – to give you a taste, as they say, I will talk a little bit about this guy and the album which I think is the best of 2012.
Macklemore hails from Seattle, an area burgeoning with hip-hop talent, in case you were unaware (another guy you should all check out is Grieves, but I’ll leave introductions for him to my partner XIV, as he is the one who first showed his stuff to me). What makes Macklemore different from the pack is his honesty and his apprehensiveness towards the hip-hop life style. Certainly, Trip Lee possesses this quality too, but he is guided by his faith and makes that well known. B.o.B possesses the awareness of the poison around him, but doesn’t seem to fully comprehend it in all of it’s forms. Macklemore comes off as a guy who realizes that the world has tantalizing things to offer, and who is honest enough to admit that he wants them, but who also realizes that losing himself in the process is never, ever worth it. Not only does he possess a message unusual among rappers, he also has the ability to get his point across via many different methods. Two of the tracks on the album are anti-consumerism, but the way that subject is approached couldn’t be more different.
The Heist is not simply an album trying to fight overflowing consumerism though. Macklemore takes up issues from drug addiction to gay marriage to shady dealings with record companies, and manages to make them all personal, speaking from a place of knowledge or connection. Perhaps that last part about the record companies isn’t that hard to believe. After all, as a popular yet still unsigned artist, he probably knows something about that right?
Perhaps the most touching parts of the record come when Macklemore gets introspective and talks about his problems with drugs. He is sober now, but even that comes with it’s toughness, in more ways than you might immediately think. Here is “Starting Over”, a song in which Macklemore relates what it’s like to go through a relapse when you’re supposedly healed and a hero to those who look up to you:
Not to be ignored is the contribution of Ryan Lewis to this project. There is a reason his name is beside Macklemore’s on the cover. Macklemore actually has an album that he released before this one, way back in 2005, but it received little buzz outside Seattle. It is Lewis’ fantastic production that has pushed Macklemore over the top and into the spotlight. So if you liked what you just heard, it is him you should probably thank first.
Other standout tracks on the album include “Same Love”, “Make the Money”, “Neon Cathedral”, and “Gold”.
Alright folks, that’s all there is for this year’s edition of The List! I appreciate all of you for reading and I look forward to doing it again a year from now. Until then, just keep following the blog. We’ll have good musical recommendations for you all year long.