Macklemore is a 39 year old rapper & singer/songwriter from Seattle, Washington emerging as a teenager off his debut mixtape Open Your Eyes before following it up 5 years later with the full-length debut The Language of My World. He went on to drop his unplanned sophomore tape before achieving success with Ryan Lewis by releasing an EP & 2 full-length albums together before going on an indefinite hiatus. The Mack went solo once again releasing his sophomore effort Gemini to unfavorable reception & is returning nearly 6 years later with his 3rd album.
“Chant” opens the album with some pianos, organs, funky bass-lines & handclaps from Budo to boast his success with a tepid hook from Tones & I whereas “No Bad Days” is a happy go lucky ballad about things always being good when that’s far from reality because life really ain’t perfect. I’m sorry to be nihilistic here, but it’s true & that’s not to say I’m against music that’ll put me in a good mood. “1984” hilariously rips off The Weeknd’s last 2 albums sonically living like it’s the titular year while “Maniac” is a mediocre indie pop rap jam about needing a break in a relationship.
Moving onto “Day You Die”, we have Macklemore asking what would you do if you knew the exact day you die continuing to fuse lol rap with indie pop as Sarah Barthel delivers one of the better hooks on the album just before “Heroes” being the reason why I’m doing this review as someone was in my inbox hyping this single up to me & I actually can’t fully blame said person because this is one of the better moments on the album with the boom bap production & DJ Premier on the turntables except the raps are just mid.
“Grime” weaves some lucky bass-lines into the fold with the constant references to hip hop’s past makes me think he’s trying to rap like he’s The Game when even Drillmatic: Heart vs. Mind is better than dude’s whole catalog while “I Need” talks about wanting 2 bad bitches & a bag of good weed over a funky trap beat. “Lost” starts off with a summery approach talking about being obsessed with our public image more than stayin’ connected to our spirit until the bluesy “Sun Comes Up” details 3 insomnia nights.
NLE Choppa comes into the picture for the subpar pop rap collab joint “Faithful” despite the message of needing to be repaired about being broken while “Tears” has a funkier groove telling the story of a woman he met when he was 14 at his parent’s house. “Sorry” has a jangly tone to it apologizing to said ex-loved while the crooning “God’s Will” is one of the better songs talking about being built for this. The penultimate track “I Know” has a more spiritual vibe passing the advice from his mother to drive slow & Morray’s hook on “Tail Lights” isn’t bad either admittedly although I’ve heard the verses about being at a fork in the road done better.
Considering how much of an embarrassment Gemini was 6 years ago, I didn’t really expect much going into Ben. Lo & behold: It’s almost as bad if not worse than Macklemore’s previous solo album. I guess it’s cool to see him expanding the pop rap sound he became famous for by pulling from indie pop & trap, but the thing is that the lyricism isn’t really that deep as he wants you to think it is when you dissect them & continues to paint himself into a corner by doing so.
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