A couple years back, I talked about my favorite Macklemore cut, "The Ego," to be found on his Language of My World album from 2005 (called "the king year in 206 hiphop" by our own Charles Mudede, who wrote about it all at the time). "The Ego"—one of my favorite 206 songs period, even though Macklemore isn't necessarily one of my favorite 206 spitters ever—remains my favorite of his, for the beat and the sentiment, which is truer than ever before, especially on the last verse. This is a quality it shares with my second favorite song of his: "At the Party."
In which Macklemore literally imagines his place in the hiphop universe, hobnobbing with the legends that populated his headphones. "At the Party" doesn't sound like any other songs Macklemore ever did—just a low, grimy bassline and string flourishes, the sort of disco last-gasps that were a part of early B-boy DNA. It sounds exactly like Pretty Toney-era Ghostface, and could very well be a sample from something on the Wild Style soundtrack. It starts exactly like "Thrift Shop" and a million other huge radio-rap songs do: the all-important first steps into the club. Except, instead of "What up, I got a big cock" (Gram-Gram's favorite line to say), it's "Walked in with a pimp strut, what up?" Then, the bouncer asks if he's on the list, and Mack quickly scams his way past. Mack proceeds from room to room at the party, encountering everybody from Scott LaRock to King Tee. Macklemore—who at the time, I believe, was fully in party mode in real life—witnesses Method Man sniff some lines, and blunts are passed. He reaches for the gin and Snoop tries to punk him. He witnesses the East/West rivalry play out in real-time. The party rages on, the DJ cuts in some lines, the hands keep clapping. The culture he's immersed in is sweaty, vibrant, sometimes—thankfully—even dangerous. Then the tone of the party shifts—here's Macklemore's last verse, relevant to his right now:
For some, this is where the party began Some say it's where the party was crashed There was a new room, a new dude named Shady And the Aftermath was that everybody started to wanna rap Rock fans from the other parties put down their guitar straps And started writing their bars on a pad The 'burbs were already in the building And the media'd been feelin' it but now the party was on smash Pepsi endorsements Sprite, Coca-Cola was tellin' the whole world where the party was at The line to get in, it wasn't just around the building It was around New Zealand And the underground was makin' tracks sayin it was wack You remember the art, the heart, the takin' it back But it was too late for that, they started makin' scratch The line complaining about the game, and saying it's wack Hold up, half the people that were dissin' it Were half the reason that the party was so big! And everyone in line was out there was trying to get respect Then the party got put on the internet—shit They bumrushed the door You couldn't move any more There wasn't room on the floor And out came the neighbors Gettin on TV and complaining 'bout the noise Bill O'Reilly and Oprah came down and they started hatin' The venue wasn't making money cuz no one was payin' Unless you had Lil Wayne or T-Pain in the room Nas came down and said the party was dead Somebody lit a match, and all you heard was a...(boom)
Sometimes it seems like everybody's either a bile-tasting Macklemore & Ryan Lewis hater, attributing to them devilish motives and all the evils in the culture—or an utter Macklemore dickrider, calling him a savior, some too young/dumb to analyze their villifying of the tattooed, gold-adorned Black rappers that pepper some of their defenses of Mack. Big magazines and websites line up to trash him for fun or for their own race-baggage, Youtube comments pile up farther than the eyes can see, professing undying love, and with, a few exceptions, there's not a lot of critical thought to any of it. It's worth noting that Noz—who for some time has been the sharpest mind in the rap-crit game—while admittedly and hilariously not a Mack fan, recently let him live; it's also worth noting that the great dream hampton is not feeling him.
I watched Ben Haggerty, Ryan Lewis, Owour Arunga, Wanz, and Ray Dalton on Saturday Night Live this weekend. Huge moment for the town, of course, hu-fucking-mongoloid. It, however, gave me a big, awkward-to-handle, squirmy-ass bag of emotions, for all the reasons laid out in verse three. I think I know Ben and his view on the culture well enough to know that he's holding that same bag. And to be 100, I may not especially like The Heist on a musical level—but I know that he's putting on for his town like a motherfucker, and I salute him. Y'all know the rules, gotta do what you gotta do—stay true.