I’ve been listening to Macklemore/Ryan Lewis’ album The Heist almost exclusively for the past week. I really think he’s a breath of fresh air in the genre – someone who bridges the gap between the traditional subjects and contexts of hip hop and the mainstream contexts of middle-class young people who overwhelmingly consume it.
In the track “Ten-thousand hours,” Macklemore raps about New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that true expertise requires 10,000 hours of dedicated work:
On some Malcolm Gladwell, David Bowie meets Kanye shit
This is dedication
A life lived for art is never a life wasted
It was a real surprise to find something like this in a rap lyric.
In addition to making dance-able and fun tracks like “Thrift Shop,” Macklemore/RL also move the genre forward in a capital-P Progressive way by addressing head-on, topically, the issue of gay-bashing and homophobia in hip-hop.
Macklemore has the potential to expand the genre and bring it into the mainstream in a way that other artists have failed to do. His background is middle-class and educated, but he has a social awareness gained from working in a juvenile detention facility in his early twenties. And to top it off, he has a unique energy and fun sensibility that gives him genuine mainstream appeal.
Sign me up.