Where do you go after you’ve accomplished everything in your first few years of being in the spotlight? Artists strive for accolades and awards for years in the public eye. Many do not get that recognition after having a breakout year like Macklemore did in 2012. You remember the controversy surrounding the Seattle, WA native after winning four Grammy awards in 2014, including Best Rap Album for The Heist over Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. His missteps after the show lead many to believe he was only apologizing for the attention. I don’t know what you believe; regardless Macklemore was here to stay. While his 2016 release with producer Ryan Lewis, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, failed to capture the same notoriety as The Heist, it did address many of the issues of being a white artist in a predominately black form or art. No longer with Ryan Lewis (the duo is on hiatus as of this summer), Macklemore set out to release his first solo offering since 2005 with Gemini.
Gone are the live brass instruments that have become synonymous with Macklemore’s sound, replaced by radio friendly production and a mix of alternative rock sounds. This isn’t an album that is being done to prove Macklemore doesn’t need Ryan Lewis by his side, more so that he can appeal to popular sounds and still maintain his style at the same time. You can tell this album is more geared towards the radio as ‘Marmalade’ boasts a feature from Lil’ Yachty and ‘Willy Wonka’ features Offset doing a verse and ad libs for Macklemore’s verse too. That’s not to say Gemini won’t appeal to Macklemore’s core fan base. He toes the line with this album more than any of his music has done in the past. While you think of The Heist as a pop album, many of the songs that did make it to radio sounded like nothing that surrounded it on the playlists.
It is evident that Ryan Lewis is missing during this album based on the sequencing. You’ll hear ‘Marmalade’ and ‘Willy Wonka’ back to back when you listen but there are moments in the album that feel forced due to the songs not playing off each other. The Dan Caplen featured ‘Intentions’ is a quality song; placed in between ‘Willy Wonka’ and the Kesha featured ‘Good Old Days’ makes it stick out for bad reasons rather than good. Hearing Macklemore on a record like the trap influenced ‘Ten Million’ is weird, coming off as a bargin outlet version of a Travis Scott throwaway. Placing this record next to ‘Over It’ is another odd combination, taking away from the overall repeat value of the album. However placing ‘Over It’ next to the simple love message of ‘Zara’ fits like two puzzle pieces fitting snugly next to each other.
You have to compliment Macklemore with Gemini as he uses his big platform to expose new talent. Besides Skylar Grey, Yachty, Offset, & Kesha, this album boasts a multitude of features from artists that you probably have never heard of before now. It’s standard for a big name artist to place features of his crew and friends once he’s made it. For Macklemore he knows his platform could be the big break for people like Dan Caplan, Donna Missal, and Abir. What Gemini lacks in continuity and sequencing, it makes up for in message. Once you’ve accomplished the major goals in your career you can begin to experiment with other sounds and styles. It allows you to experiment with your art form. Macklemore’s first solo offering in 12 years isn’t horrible but it also won’t make you claim that “he has one” with Gemini.
Repeatable: ‘Willy Wonka’ feat. Offset, ‘Good Old Days’ feat. Kesha, ‘Zara’ feat. Abir
Skippable: ‘Levitate’ feat. Otieno Terry’, ‘How To Play The Flute’ feat. King Draino, ‘Ten Million’
By Joe Coad