In these times of Republic National Conventions and Clint Eastwood talking to chairs, everyone loves a good success story. For me, rags-to-riches don’t come much better than Ben Haggarty, the Seattle local whose ‘Make The Money‘ rattled me late last year. The back-story, in hyperspeed, is that Haggarty battled substance abuse after bursting onto the scene in 2005 which spelled a significant hiatus until 2009, but which he has now overcome, culminating in his being named as part of XXL’s 2012 Freshman Class. Leaving to one side the fact that that list is notoriously hit and miss (embarassing Australian export Iggy Azalea lines up alongside more legitimate contenders like Danny Brown and French Montana) and that if Macklemore, who’s been at it since the turn of the millenium, is considered a freshman now, he’ll be 60 by the time he qualifies for sophomore status, the nod was some indication that finally, after countless trials and tribulations, the hip-hop world was taking notice of one of the most exciting white rappers in the game.
Macklemore hasn’t taken the recognition lying down, either. Most notably, he released ‘Same Love‘, a track advocating for the legalisation of gay marriage, just over a month ago that highlights just how sincerely he takes his role (not self-claimed but graciously accepted and perpetuated anyway) as a vital moral force in rap. In a way that not many others can, Macklemore has the ability to wrap his husky vocals around even the most challenging lyricism, the most difficult phrasing, to create seriously engaging material. But while there’s no doubt that his past has helped Macklemore hone his abilities as an introspective rhymer, the true mark of success – and proof that he has now come the full 180 from his lowest point – comes with being able to take yourself less seriously, to have a little fun. On ‘Thrift Shop’, the latest pre-release single from what will be Macklemore’s debut album, ‘The Heist’ (Oct 9), all the insight and reflection of ‘Make The Money’ is turned out and the scope set on others as materialism is given an hilarious once-over.
Anyone even vaguely associated with me would know that I harbour a bit of a penchant for the occasional trip to the thrift store (who am I kidding, a visit to the neighbourhood second-hand store in Philly was as cemented into my schedule as the classes that sandwiched it) and so the prospect of a Macklemore/Ryan Lewis production taking on one of my favourite topics of all time was never not going to go down a treat. That said, the boys deliver in style with ‘Thrift Shop’ which banks on a thin, electronic drum beat to introduce a track that is bolstered by a smooth sax loop and the astounding baritone of Wanz (unknown until this point) – equal parts impressive and genuinely funny. Making laugh out loud hip-hop is no mean feat and while some of the references – ‘grandpa style’, ‘probably should’ve washed this’, ‘they had a broken keyboard, I bought a broken keyboard’ etc – are patently geared towards seasoned sifters, the uproarious tenor of the piece invites the full spectrum of listeners, from Gucci to Goodwill. The sax loop never gets old, supported by a couple of breakdowns, sound effects and that inescapable chorus and Macklemore, who must have frequented a second-hand clothing store or two in his time, has a surprisingly significant repertoire on the matter. That’s a win on production, a win on lyrics and a win on topic. The visuals aren’t far off either. To paraphrase the nascent Wanz: This is fucking awesome.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop Ft. Wanz