Review: “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” Brings Perspective on Everything from Fatherhood to Drug Abuse


Mo Heiniger , Reporter

On February 26, 2016, the long-awaited Macklemore & Ryan Lewis album “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” was released. Listeners have observed both serious and humorous sides of Ben Haggerty (a.k.a. Macklemore) and this album beautifully highlights both of these. Popular songs off of this album include “Downtown,” (featuring Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel, Eric Nally) and Kool Moe Dee and “Dance Off” (featuring Anderson, Paak and Idris Elba). The album as a whole has collaborations from 16 artists not including Haggerty and his long time business partner, friend and musical contributor, Ryan Lewis. To quote the album, “Hip hop has always been political,” and “This Unruly Mess” sends a broad array of political messages to its listeners.

From his previous music, listeners have learned about Macklemore’s struggles (with the music industry, alcoholism, making it big, etc.), his humble beginnings, his youth, and his heritage. In his most recent album, Haggerty clues listeners in to new, unaddressed aspects of his life. The song “Kevin” displays Macklemore’s opinion of the misuse of prescription drugs in the medical industry and the effect that this has had on his family. His second installment to the song “White Privilege” emphasizes his longing to ally with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. To quote the song, “It seems like we’re more concerned with being called racist than we actually are with racism.” “Light Tunnels” discusses the staged nature and lack of authenticity that music awards’ shows are associated with. This passed year, Haggerty became a father and so he described the tribulations that he faces regarding fatherhood in the songs “Growing Up” featuring Ed Sheeran and “Need To Know” featuring Chance The Rapper. The tone of these political and issue-based tracks and others on the album is countered by the comedic nature of songs like “Spoons,” “Downtown,” “Dance Off,” “Let’s Eat” and “Brad Pitt’s Cousin.”

As for sound, this album includes just about everything. Haggerty continued the incorporation of all types of sounds that he set as a precedent in his prior albums. The way that he brought in all types of people, lyricists, and instruments resulted in an unapologetically new sound to his music. Somehow, this album brought 90’s rap, Spanish lyrics, passionate ballads and modern hip hop together in a really wonderful way. “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” is yet another example of how hip hop music is yet another medium for revealing flaws in the system and providing options for improvement. Taggerty and Lewis outdid themselves with a majorly collaborative, lyrical and instrumental masterpiece. With nearly complete assurance, it can be said that bringing ideas of vandalism, dancing, moped purchasing, fatherhood, relationships, racial tensions, and body image issues together in one album wouldn’t be any easy task. However, it is important to note that this album does just that and more in a new and spectacular way.