Wednesday 21 March 2018

Review: Rap duo in a justice league of their own

Hip-hop: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, 3Arena, Dublin

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis attend the MTV EMA's 2015
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis attend the MTV EMA's 2015
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

American hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed to just 200 people in the Twisted Pepper in 2011.

Fast forward five years, Macklemore is standing onstage in the 3Arena wearing an Ireland football shirt announcing "It's nice to be home."

The Seattle-born Macklemore, aka Ben Haggerty, has Irish roots and wants everyone to know about it. He's been touted as the most successful white rapper since Eminem, which is where the comparison begins and ends, as they've absolutely nothing in common musically, or personally.

Unlike Eminem's notorious shock tactics, Macklemore is an artist with a deep social conscience. The duo gatecrashed the charts with the monster hit Thrift Shop without any major label support whatsoever, offering another reminder that the conventional music industry as we once knew it is dead and gone and with Lemmy in the grave.

Thrift Shop is dispensed with early on in the set, unsurprisingly sending the arena into raptures.

Macklemore is an extremely charismatic front man, but the duo fully grasp the fact this is a hard gig for just two people to pull off, so they supplement their appearance with brass and string sections, plus some dancers to add to the spectacle value.

The deafening volume is far too extreme for comfort. Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth famously said: "If it's too loud, you're too old," but the effect severely blunts the melodies and pop sensibilities of their songs.

Yet when it comes to pop and rap with a heart and quest for justice, Macklemore and Lewis have no equals.

Same Love celebrates marriage equality, while White Privilege II tackles racism in contemporary America. Their best pop moment yet, Downtown, rounds off the night on a spectacular singalong flourish.

The best hip-hop artist in the world right now is still Kendrick Lamar, who Macklemore and Lewis beat to a Grammy award in 2014.

However, when it comes to having a conversation about social issues, penning irresistibly catchy pop tunes and having a whole lot of fun in the process, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are out on their own.

Irish Independent

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