One fateful night in 2014, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “The Heist” won the Grammy for best rap album over Drake, Kanye West, Jay-Z and, most importantly, Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. However, Macklemore texted Lamar saying sorry (a screenshot of which he shamelessly posted on Instagram) so I guess it’s cool.
This could be blamed on the Grammys being out of touch and/or racist. Regardless, it showed that Macklemore is meant to be appreciated as a serious artist.
Since then, he’s released the clunkily-titled snoozefest “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made,” donated his haircut to Peter Cvjetanovic and parted ways with his partner/producer Ryan Lewis, the only thing that made his music vaguely interesting.
In Lewis’s absence, Macklemore compensates for his fear of loneliness by having a feature on every single track except one on his new album “Gemini” which spans 16 songs for some godforsaken reason.
All of “Gemini” screams pandering to tweens (do people still say that?). He has a song called “Willy Wonka” with Offset (one of the Migos who isn’t Quavo) for crying out loud. And Willy Wonka he is, with a factory full of sugary sweet songs and sickly saccharine sentiments. Macklemore is the type of benign rapper you can play with your mom in her Nissan Pathfinder as she drives you to lacrosse practice.
Everything about Macklemore is appropriative, not only of black culture but religion (see, “Church”), nostalgia (see, “Good Old Days”) and other hip hop music as well. Several songs this year have utilized the flute in magnificent and spellbinding ways: “Mask Off” by Future, “Tunnel Vision” by Kodak Black, “Portland” by Drake, “Get Right Witcha” by Migos and, very recently, “Liger” by Carnage & Young Thug. It’s undeniable: 2017 marks the year of the flute renaissance. Then comes Macklemore. Bereft of subtlety or self-awareness, “Gemini” features a song called “How to Play the Flute” with a lame flute loop over a GarageBand trap beat. Flutes are no longer cool. Flute renaissance cancelled.
Say what you want about Lil’ Yachty, but he’s certainly had an influence on hip hop. Artists like DRAM, Kyle and now Macklemore with “Marmalade” have all taken his trappy-go-lucky sound. At least he gets to feature on most of his imposters’ songs. You go Yachty.
Before anyone cries reverse racism (whatever that could possibly mean), let it be known that I believe that Eminem is in the top-three all-time lyrical wordsmiths and El-P is one of my favorite artists. I do not dislike Macklemore because he is white; I dislike him because he makes bad music.
In all fairness, “Ten Million” and “Corner Store” are fun jams. However, for the most part, Macklemore thinks if he raps over a generic chord progression on piano it will automatically sound profound and emotional.
As an astrology major and a total Aries, I know that some of the strengths of geminis are that they are thoughtful and quick-witted. This does not come through on the album. However, geminis are also known to be inconsistent. This does come through on the album.
What follows is a collection of lines Macklemore, a 34-year-old man, recorded and was ok with releasing to the world: he raps on “Intentions,” “I wanna be a feminist, but I’m still watchin’ porno/I wanna eat healthy, but I’ma eat this DiGiorno’s”; he raps on “Over It,” “Momma said we need counseling/But I can’t reason with a terrorist/Oh, this is embarrassing/You ain’t Cinderella, ain’t no pumpkin turning into f—in’ carriages”; he raps on “Zara,” “Late night, hit the city/And we go out to Target/Like why we go to Target?/This electric wheelchair’s poppin’”; he raps on “Firebreather,” “Got a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt, and never listened to the band/Just being honest, I just thought that s— looked cool.”
“Gemini” is an album by an artist lacking any tribulation or inspiration or real musical talent. Macklemore is the personification of a Jimmy Fallon monologue: a blank slate, dead-eyed and preening.
On the song “Intentions,” Dan Caplen sings “All my good intentions just ain’t good enough, can’t find the love.” It’s true, Macklemore isn’t hurting anyone. He just wants to make pleasant, harmless music. Maybe I’m still bitter about Kendrick’s Grammy snub after all these years, but the music does not connect with me in any sort of compelling way.