I’ve always had a huge deal of respect for Macklemore as an artist and as a figure. Not only is he an incredibly intelligent guy, he always knows how to write a mean rap song. With the help of Ryan Lewis, he creates hugely elaborate and progressive rap tracks that never seem to follow the regular formula. He also raps about a range of topics that aren’t often spoken about; he’s unafraid of being controversial if that controversy brings to light an important topic. I have huge respect for that. Yes he has fun tracks where he raps about all sorts of nonsense, but knowing that he could drop an incredibly weighted topic at any time makes me always excited to hear his music.
This track in particular hit me pretty damn hard. Is it one of his best tracks? No, but it certainly is a worthy listen. Lyrically the song is very heavy, but very passionate and intimate. Each line is delivered with power and emotion; it is very impactful. The backing instrumentals are a little stale and safe but then I kind of expect that when a subject matter like this is being brought up. Will this song make it onto the radio and any television channels? No and that’s a great shame. It talks about drugs in a very haunting light and I think people need to hear this track just for that; it carries a message that TV channels don’t want to put their name towards in case of controversy.
The production on this track is top notch throughout. The piano sounds hearty and well grounded, the vocals powerful and dynamically positive, and the strings raw and natural. Ryan Lewis is one of the best instrumental producers around at the moment and I’m surprised that more rappers don’t hit this guy up for a collaborative; he certainly knows how to create an epic scaled rap track.
The vocal performance by Macklemore is one of the best we’ve seen in a long time. It’s compelling and robust; it knocks you out from verse to verse. Each line is delivered from the heart and from personal experience making the track that bit more believable. The delivery of some lines hit so hard, that your heart strings take a battering in response. Lyrically the song is very strong, it never glorifies any of the issues mentioned. It holds a dirty, gritty magnifying glass over key drug related issues which I commend him for highly. Ariana felt a little subdued in this track which did suit the atmosphere but did make her feature less relevant in effect. I don’t know whether it is the vocal melody or her natural tone, but I just didn’t connect with her at all. When you bounce from this raw, emotional performance from Macklemore to her style of singing, you notice a big difference in sincerity making her sound less believable; it’s a shame.
Overall then the track is solid. It’s one of the better rap tracks to come out this year and I have a feeling that the song sounds better after multiple repeat listens. It certainly is a valid contribution to the Macklemore collection and I can’t wait to hear more from him in the upcoming future.
7/10 – Powerful song that lacked a little spice in the chorus to elevate the outcome.