on 13 December 2011
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis The VS EP
Macklemore and Lewis are both from Seattle and that city's closeness to Canada throws up my first impression of this excellent album: Buck 65, the respected hip hopper. Macklemore's rapping has the same throaty sound and delivery as Buck and he takes on similar topics: life, death, the meaning of it all, though he takes a more personal view than Buck and adds in addiction to cough medicine for good measure.
Lewis, the producer, adds the music and the beats and it's his clever work that pushes this from the good to the very good, sampling everything from strings to the Red Hot Chilis and Killers. Overall, it's musically pleasing, entertaining and interesting.
Opener "Vipasanna" is one that samples strings and looks at the meaning of life and Macklemore's battle with drugs and success and "reflecting on what matters: people".
"Crew cuts" opens with a bit of proper rapper self-reference and bragging but then seems to drift off into a nostalgia, lyrically similar to a track by Australian hip hopper Pegz' "Back then" (yeah, sure you've heard of it, too, but I'd be surprised if they hadn't).
"Life is Cinema" is more meaning of life stuff; like Buck 65, Macklemore can abandon rhyme to get his message over and this is a very Buck-ish track, though again referring back to drug use and the metaphor for life: "They're gonna be so disappointed when they roll the credits / And they realise the movie sucked / And I was the only one who could edit it," this before a sample from the Killers: "I got soul but I'm not a soldier".
"Otherside" is more about drug abuse, this time cough mixture, and opens with a sample from a band that's had its own problems, RHCP. This time, again, Macklemore talks from experience though he makes the points that being addicted doesn't help a rapper make music, and suggests many take to drugs so they can be more like their heroes (who then mainly lose creativity and possible die from drug abuse).
"Kings" is slower and bluesier and I'm sure the sample is from ELO (at least the drums sound like Bev Bevan). "Irish celebration" is about what it sounds and "The end" is the last track, and a beautiful slow number with just piano and gentle brass.
The original EP was just seven tracks but in a variation on Emcee beefs, they've beefed this up with seven remixes of the songs, giving you twice the tuneage.
I'm not sure that teenage lovers of hip hop and rapping about hos and bitches will get this at all but for anyone who wants something intelligent and thoughtful it's a must. And if you like this and you've never bought Buck 65 - get some of your Christmas money out right now.