Since his overly apologetic text message string with Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore has rubbed me the wrong way. His artistry never felt genuine to me. Although The Heist received critical acclaim, I didn’t buy the hype. Macklemore slid into the mainstream so simply, at times I thought I might be rapper racist. If you know me, you know that is not true. However, I am someone who is skeptical about white pop-rappers. No matter the color, pop-rappers are typically some of the worst ambassadors for the hip-hop genre. They are not an accurate depiction of the culture. Whereas I have mounds of respect for Mac Miller, MGK, and Eminem, I have little to none for guys like Macklemore and G-Eazy. It is not an issue of race. It is one of authenticity and misguided glory. I do not hate Macklemore’s music because he is white.
I hate Macklemore’s music because he gets credit for being a great rap artist. He doesn’t have to try hard to snatch the glory from more deserving artists. I mean, have you listened to his last two albums all the way through? The reason I did not review his last project with Ryan Lewis is because it was so mediocre. I had nothing meaningful or interesting to say, similar to the music on This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. I love this quote from R&B singer Kelela in her latest cover story with The Fader magazine: “White people don’t understand that the reason black people are so good is not always because we are more artistically inclined. It’s more because we don’t have the space to suck.” That resonated with me deeply. Macklemore is not the worst rapper alive by any means. Nevertheless, he has not released an acclaim-worthy album either.
I’ll admit: “Thrift Shop” and “Same Love” are solid hits. The production provided by Ryan Lewis propelled Macklemore into the spotlight. The rapper himself is corny. Despite the respect I have for his political messages on some tracks, I don’t see him as an innovator. Hip-hop has always been about taking a stand. Over the years, radio rappers have overshadowed that idea with lyrical nonsense though. So, in that sense, Macklemore is ahead of the curve. Yet he never has to overexert himself to receive mainstream praise. In spite of consistently lame ass bars and lame ass tracks, critics continue to give him a pass. In a way, I am happy that his first solo album, GEMINI, is this bad. Without Ryan Lewis to back him up, Macklemore’s “talent” is missing in action. His ear for beats is run-of-the-mill. There are catchy moments here and there, but that’s not enough.
Overall, GEMINI is a smorgasbord of obnoxious hooks and recycled anthemic cash-grabs. This feels like he has no fresh ideas from which to build. Songs on this album either sound like one from earlier in the track list, or they copy a formula from hits of Mackelmore’s past. Nothing on this project revolves around originality. The features here (except Kesha) are just as drab. One of the worst rap names I’ve ever heard, King Draino, makes an appearance on “How to Play the Flute”. The beat is pretty fresh though. Tyler Dopps came with an instrumental equal parts trendy and aware. Unfortunately, the post-chorus on this track is literally people sneezing… I can’t make this stuff up. Speaking of absurdities, “Willy Wonka” is one of the worst songs of the year. The chorus, which you could have guessed, goes something like “Bitch, I’m Willy Wonkaaa!”. Wow. Need I say more?