Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ debut album The Heist has been almost three years in the making. I remember first being introduced to them via “Irish Celebration” back in 2009, and at first I thought it was just kind of a one-off, catchy ode to St. Patrick’s Day. It was a flawlessly produced bagpipe-driven party song, but there was something about the way Macklemore spoke that stuck with me. I started doing a little research, found “The Town” and The VS. EP and that about sealed the deal. The combination of Ryan Lewis’ intricately crafted beats with Macklemore’s convincing delivery was, and is, unlike anything out right now.
Fast-forward to October 9th, 2012, and we have the release day of the The Heist. The project as a whole bottles a full scale of raw emotions into fifteen tracks, with absolutely stunning production throughout. I mean seriously, if Ryan Lewis wasn’t the most underrated producer in the game beforehand, there’s not a question he is now. This immediately skyrocketed to the top of my list for most well produced albums of the year, and Mr. Lewis handled every detail of it.
As for Macklemore, he’s as captivating as ever. The dude is just a master story-teller, and has been for as long as I’ve been listening to him. Whether it be social issues (“Same Love”), personal issues (“Starting Over”), or goof-off anthems (“Thrift Shop”), he’s constantly convincing. It’s not easy for artists to rap about the topics that Macklemore touches, and do so with utter conviction. What separates him from others is natural, genuine honesty. You feel like you know exactly who he is and what he’s been through after listening to the album, and I can’t say that for any other project I’ve heard this year.
The clear highlight in my book is “Starting Over,” both production-wise and lyrically. It’s painful to listen to, as Macklemore explains that he recently relapsed after 3+ years of sobriety — but it’s perfectly crafted. Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses provides an uplifting chorus that captures the emotion of the song to a T. If you’re familiar with “Otherside” and Macklemore’s background to date, don’t be surprised if you start to see the hairs on your arm raise up a bit as you listen to his story. It’s as honest as music gets.
All in all, aside from maybe Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, you won’t find a more impressive debut album than The Heist in 2012. Their independent success story makes every fan who’s been there for a few years feel like they’re along for the ride. The duo’s ability to instill a connection between artist and fan is unprecedented, and the fact that they’ve been sitting pretty at #1 on iTunes for the past day is a testament to that. You’ll be hearing from these two for years to come, and I doubt they’ll ever be filtered through the voice of a major label. Who needs an Interscope or Atlantic Records when you can build the fanbase yourself anyways?