Introduction

Macklemore debuted on the scene originally in 2000 as a solo act with his mixtape Open Your Eyes, followed by his debut album The Language of My World in 2005. In 2008, he entered rehab for alcoholism and released his final mixtape The Unplanned Mixtape in 2009. In 2009, he and his producer and friend Ryan Lewis formed the duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and released their EP The Vs. EP, followed by The Vs. Redux in 2010. The pair officially debuted in 2012 with The Heist, which featured hit singles “Thrift Shop,” “Can’t Hold Us,” and “Same Love,” and was nominated for five Grammys, including Song of the Year and Best New Artist, and won three. The pair followed up their hit debut with the single “Irish Celebration” in 2014 and their second album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made in 2016. Macklemore returned to his solo career in 2016, releasing his single “Drug Dealer”. Now, he’s released his first solo album in twelve years. Can the so-called “joke rapper” stand apart without Ryan Lewis officially credited as his partner?

1. Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight (ft. Eric Nally)

Eric Nally’s vocals are a great mix with the production. The lyricism is solid, taking shots at the immigrant debate as well as his hiatus. Macklemore’s performance is very fresh and new. It’s a bright song and a fun listen. It’s a very triumphant opening to what promises to be a very different Macklemore album.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

2. Glorious (ft. Skylar Grey)

This song continues the bright feeling while grounding it as classic Macklemore. It feels a lot like “Can’t Hold Us” and helps establish his talent. His performance is very strong and his lyricism is solid. Skylar’s vocals are a really nice fit with this piano-driven anthem. It really builds on the bright and triumphant feel of this album. It’s very fresh.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

3. Marmalade (ft. Lil Yachty)

This song is the definition of sunshine on a summer day. The pianos are just so happy and the trap beat is groovy. Macklemore holds his own on this song. It’s lot a lyrical song, but the production is what shines. I do not like Lil Yachty. He does somewhat fit in on the track, but he’s still an unwelcome addition to what is otherwise a fun song.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

4. Willy Wonka (ft. Offset)

Things take a turn with this one, deviating into a bass heavy beat. The lyricism and performance take a bit of a dive with this one. The beat is clearly to accommodate Offset, who’s name is fitting as the song offsets the tone and narrative being formed thus far. It’s meant to go hard, but it doesn’t event really do that. It’s the worst on the album so far.

Track Rating: 4/10

Grade: D

5. Intentions (ft. Dan Caplen)

This song couldn’t possible be worse than what came before. The tone returns to normal with this one. The electric guitars are really great. Macklemore goes back to the summer vibe the album has had thus far and manages to weave in a really honest list of desires that are really noble. Dan’s vocals are very complimentary and really good. The horns are so smooth. This song is really honest and well-made. The lyricism is very good, second only to the outstanding production.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

6. Good Old Days (ft. Kesha)

Here’s the best song of 2018. The nostalgic look back at youth and high school is incredibly sobering and well-written. The lyricism and production go hand in hand in creating a very beautiful song that is sure to be chart-topper. Kesha’s vocals are incredible. Every vocal sample and piano key played is unbelievable. This is a spectacular song. The song also mentions Minnesota, it hits home.

Track Rating: 10/10

Grade: A+

7. Levitate (ft. Otieno Terry)

The beat keeps that summer vibe while also merging with The Heist Macklemore. Otieno Terry brings a Bruno Mars vibe to the song and it fits the style of the album very well. Overall, the lyricism is disappointing coming of the genius of “Good Old Days” but it’s still fun. It works, but it’s not one I’ll revisit often.

Track Record: 7/10

Grade: B

8. Firebreather (ft. Reignwolf)

The guitars are awesome in this opening. This track is different and veers away from the summer vibe, but it works really well. The rock feel is really cool and reminds me of a 80s rock anthem, which Reignwolf’s vocals contribute too in large part. It’s got a very AC/DC and works better than expected. Macklemore uses this to flex his lyrical abilities and prove why he’s actually one of the best rappers working today. It’s his fight-out-of-the-corner song and man does it hit hard.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A

9. How to Play the Flute (ft. King Draino)

Of course there’s a flute sample. The joke in the beginning is kinda funny and the beat is very indicative of what Macklemore wants to be. The lyricism isn’t as strong as the last song and his performance is fine. He shares the stage with King Draino this time and he fits in well on the song. The song is really funny and isn’t to be taken too seriously. You should’ve got the hint from the sneeze samples. Macklemore is having fun, but it’s not one I’ll revisit.

Track Rating: 6/10

Grade: B-

10. Ten Million

In case you haven’t noticed, this is the first (and only) song where Mack doesn’t bring in any features. I don’t think that’s because he relies on other’s talent to sell songs; I think it’s because he knows how he wants things to sound and which people are the best to get to make it how he wants it to sound. This solo song is a jam and Mack shows that he can work on his own. His performance is really solid and his lyricism is good. The production isn’t anything special, but the focus is on Macklemore’s performance and he delivers. It’s a solid track and ranks in the top ten off this album. This would be really fun to see live.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A-

11. Over It (ft. Donna Missal)

Oh, I didn’t realize we had strayed away from the sunny day production. But while this keeps funky guitars, the strings and production create an intense, claustrophobic feeling. Macklemore’s performance is outstanding and he got a good Feature in Donna Missal. This song is outstanding, stuffed full of great production, fantastic performances, raw emotion, and strong lyricism. Every emotion that Mack wants you to feel lands like a bomb. This is a really strong album and is a truly remarkable song.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

12. Zara (ft. Abir)

We’re really back in the summer feel after that fake out and Mack really vibes in this groove. It’s a really groovy love song with strong production and lyricism. While this song is static in some aspects, it still fits in nicely. Macklemore’s newest album is really impressive thus far.

Track Rating: 7/10

Grade: A-

13. Corner Store (ft. Dave B & Travis Thompson)

The production is bright again and has a “Downtown” vibe to it. Dave B and Travis contribute solid vocals to this joint, while Mack surfs on the beach bop. It’s another strong entry on what’s been an unbelievable album.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

14. Miracle (ft. Dan Caplen)

The production on this one is the definition of a summer evening. The acoustic guitars and the strings paint the picture of a sunset. Mack and Dan are a really strong duo. Dan’s vocals are insane and Mack’s vision are so complimentary. Another love story, this one is so beautiful. Mack’s storytelling is very vivid and clear. It’s another successful song for a near-perfect album.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

15. Church (ft. Xperience)

The penultimate song of a stellar album, Ryan Lewis tackles a Sunday morning in summer as his next beat and nails it. Every song could be played in pure instrumental and tell the story Mack wants. His lyricism is really strong as he tackles fame and family head on as the topic for his next song. His daughter is a focal point for a few songs, but it’s this one that he helps us visualize his vision of fatherhood. It’s such a honest and beautiful song. Xperience’s vocals are a sweet fit with Ryan Lewis’s outstanding production.

Track Rating: 8/10

Grade: A

16. Excavate (ft. Saint Claire)

The finale of Macklemore’s latest album decides to take a true cinematic feel. The choral and orchestral music blend into an extension of what the last song wanted. Mack decides to wrap this album up with a discussion of legacy and impact, as well as mortality. I’m not sure what Macklemore has been through recently, but he’s allowed it to help he craft a masterpiece of humanity. Saint Claire’s vocals are incredibly suiting. This finale is the most genuine, honest song I’ve heard in a long time, especially from the “joke rapper”. Very sweet ending.

Track Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

Conclusion:

Macklemore has returned in an incredible way. This album is absolutely splendid. Ryan Lewis’s production is outstanding and the man tells a story just within the music he’s composed. Ryan should score movies. Macklemore himself has upped his own game on a lyrical and performance level. He has tackled bigger issues and ideas than the surface level rap stuff, which he used to rap about in his previous albums. This album is one of the best I’ve ever heard and he deserves awards. It was a full emotional experience that focuses on bigger themes and ideas. Only two songs on this album feel out of place, but it doesn’t hurt the final product. This is a triumphant return for Macklemore, who has a bright future ahead of him if he continues making music like this.

Album Rating: 9/10

Grade: A+

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