BEN is Macklemore’s third studio album that permeates with strong and emotional messaging. From personal reflections on fatherhood, the effects social media has on our youth, to analyzing the struggles of drug and alcohol addiction, this project evokes tons of emotion in its listeners. BEN is written and produced incredibly well, and even if Macklemore’s raps aren’t really your cup of tea, this album possesses a lot of other good qualities.
Macklemore generally gets flack for having great flows and cadences but mediocre raps. Now bar for bar, I won’t argue that point at all, but sometimes what you’re saying is more powerful than how you’re saying it. The inspirational and relatable themes of projects like BEN can often times say a lot more than a mind blowing and witty punchline. That being said, it is truly the producers and features on this album that bring it to life, with every artist involved really knocking it out of the park. Morray’s performance on “TAIL LIGHTS” is utterly phenomenal. “FAITHFUL” hears NLE Choppa spit a verse over more of a boom-bap beat, which is out of the norm for him. “SORRY” featuring Livingston and “LOST / SUN COMES UP” featuring Jackson Lee Morgan are two tremendously well written songs.
Macklemore himself shines brightest on songs like “NO BAD DAYS” featuring Collett. Those sort of catchy, radio bops that are easy to listen to and get stuck in your head all day. Hip-Hop nowadays is largely rappers trying to show-off the fact that they can do other genres other than Hip-Hop, and BEN is no different. “DAY YOU DIE” features Sarah Barthel of Phantogram and is like a pop-punk song. Of course, there’s an ’80s style track called “1984”, which in my opinion, is the worst song on the entire album. The instrumental is awesome and the lyrics were great, but Macklemore’s vocals just weren’t hitting correctly. If someone else had sung that song it could have been a big hit. “HEROES” produced by DJ Premiere has a great throwback beat. I consider Premiere the G.O.A.T. That’s why it saddens me to say that Macklemore’s rhymes kind of ruined this song for me. It felt like a sly way for the emcee to sneak some “gangster bars” into the album and it just felt really forced. Maybe I simply took it the wrong way, but first impressions are everything.
All in all, BEN and Macklemore deserve praise for their unique messaging that is really needed in this thoughtless, “drugs, sex and violence” era of Hip-Hop music.