By Brad Dress
“I ain’t gonna die tonight!” screeches singer Eric Nally at the beginning of Macklemore’s most recent album Gemini, his rough static voice grinding against a poppy piano beat blaring in the background.
After Nally finishes his introduction to the song, a chorus of woah-oh-oh takes over for a few lengthy seconds, just before Macklemore launches into a swift rap verse.
Most of the songs off Gemini repeat a similar pattern between rapper and featured artist, the latter group filling the choruses for Macklemore’s 16 songs. Indeed, only one song on the entire album does not have a featured artist on it.
Nally is the first feature on Gemini, singing the album’s intro song “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight” with bravado, even if Macklemore doesn’t completely link his style to Nally’s at all.
Macklemore relies not just on featured artists but also on inspiration, as he draws on other rap styles to add to his collection of songs on Gemini. Some songs feel like direct stylish rip-offs, while others add a new flavor to the differentiating types of rap music. Viewed as an assorted collection of fun and lazy songs rather than a full-pieced comprehensive album, the project can be seen as enjoyable and fun.
If thought of as an album project, it falls a little flat.
This is Macklemore’s first solo album since 2005—his last two, The Heist and This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, were created with producer Ryan Lewis, who acted as a mentor and manager to Macklemore for nine years.
Without Lewis, the skillful production clearly lacks; however, the album does represent and portray an experimentalist style of blended hip-hop, packed into a bag and jumbled together. Each song promises something new with someone else; it can be a fun listen, even if the songs are placed arbitrarily.
Following the introduction, we dive into “Glorious,” a fun, hyped song with an uplifting chorus and chant-like lyrics; Macklemore promises he’ll always be back and always be victorious. Skylar Grey fills the chorus with a motivational and soothing voice.
The next two songs take a rapid turn, Macklemore grabbing the mic and changing his songs into boastful songs about affluence and prosperity. The songs, however, are some of the best produced on the album. “Marmalade” is a fun, catchy bubble-gum trap song, and sounds similar to another rap song of its type, “Broccoli”— the same artist, Lil Yachty, is even featured on the song. “Willy Wonka,” featuring Offset, is a Migos style, bass-heavy, trap-rap song, which is similarly catchy.
“Intentions,” a soft-acoustic rap song that actually works, seems misplaced next to “Willy Wonka” and “Marmalade,” as Macklemore flips a 360 and dives into a somber song about how he can never fulfill his own intentions.
“Good Old Days,” is an exceptional song, which has pop singer Kesha singing beautifully along with Macklemore’s reflective lyrics. “Levitate,” however, is an example of over-the-top production, and the redundant beat often overrides the chorus and Macklemore’s own lyrics. “Firebreather,” Macklemore’s rock-rap song, follows a similar pattern; the rapper takes on a rebellious sound, but fails to fulfill it with various corny lyrics, although the electric guitar strumming in the background and featured artist Reignwolf sound fantastic.
The next segment of the album is forgettable, although some songs are catchy listens. For example, “Corner Store,” has a Chance The Rapper vibe, yet it is also a scratchy and quirky song — it’s a fun listen, though, even if Macklemore’s mirrored attempts at Chance’s style pale in comparison.
The rapper finishes strongly, with “Excavate” standing as one of the best songs on the album. Macklemore’s piano ballad song rings with a beautiful cadence, and the song’s theme revolves around Macklemore’s love for his daughter.
“My greatest achievement isn’t the dollars, my greatest achievement isn’t the followers,” Macklemore softly raps. “My greatest achievement is my daughter.”
It seems like a perfect closing song to the hour-long album.
Macklemore portrays himself as a versatile, fun rapper on this album, even if he fails to live up to some of the expectations, both lyrically and musically. His production is often rugged and bewildering, sometimes over-the-top, but his attempt as a simple rapper, just throwing out fun songs, bodes well for an easy listen.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Der Robert’s Flickr account.
Brad Dress is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.