Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist vs. Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
On January 26, 2014, the 56th Grammy Awards took place. There, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist bested Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city on “Best New Artist,” “Best Rap Performance,” “Best Rap Song,” and “Best Rap Album.” The ballots and winnings left some fans stunned (and crying foul, racially and institutionally), and others feeling like cream had risen to the top. Both albums, breakthroughs for artists viewed as independent Hip-Hop products, would have similar charting positions, and each reach platinum. More than three years later, listeners and fans may have different feelings surrounding The Heist and G.K.M.C. This ballot is a chance to exercise democracy for Hip-Hop Heads, and crown the real “Best Album” of the two (click one then click “vote”).
The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Seattle, Washington witnessed its first mainstream Hip-Hop stars since Sir Mix-A-Lot, courtesy of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Products of the independent scene for nearly a decade, the two broke through with a mix of Folk/Pop-tinged Everyman Rap, and tackling some taboos of the culture. “Can’t Hold Us” was a statement vehicle about bursting through the walls—socially, politically, generationally, and in the case of the artists—institutionally. The ADA-distributed album not only soared up the charts, it reached radio, video, and the tenderloin of the mainstream. The vocal half, Ben Macklemore, represented a new breed of MC—sensitive, soft-spoken, informed, but still incredibly nimble in his delivery. Although Ryan and Mack’ could make songs about dressed up Caddy’s, and dressing up in vintage vantage, they also tackled major issues in this balanced platinum album. With a google of awards, The Heist stole the Grammy Awards, and much of the consciousness surrounding Hip-Hop in the early 2010s.
The Heist made massive statements. “Same Love” would not be the first song to show solidarity with homosexuality and gay marriage, but it would certainly be the biggest. In the song, Macklemore and careful producer Ryan Lewis built an outcry, telling the world—through a Rap song—that the love movement had new hurdles. “Neon Cathedral” chronicled faith and addiction, at the same time. Macklemore made the same kind of intimate Rap as he did in 2005 on The Language Of My World, but these moments felt bigger. With major guests—especially in the singer-songwriter realm, the songs secured a gravity not commonly found in Hip-Hop. In an overall Pop culture renaissance to substance, Macklemore’s messages were accessible and artistic at once. “White Walls” was an extension of the early Mix-A-Lot message, but with an eclectic posse on Broadway—sonically speaking. Like rhyming about Sevilles and Fleetwoods, Macklemore chose classic Hip-Hop symbols (“Gold,” “Wing$”) to convey a seemingly-classic message. However, Ryan Lewis honed in on a popular gestalt of influences, that blended Country (“Cowboy Boots”), Screw (“Gold”), and Funk (“BomBom”) to his party. That party was all-inclusive, based on politics, class, sexuality, and tastes. In the iPod era, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis made Hip-Hop that deftly lined up with the zeitgeist, and the two artists’ ideals of what the culture meant.
Album Number: 1 (as a group)
Released: October 9, 2012
Label: Macklemore, LL/ADA
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, May 2013; certified platinum, November 2013)
Song Guests: ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Hollis, Mary Lambert, Wanz, Ray Dalton, Buffalo Madonna, Allen Stone, Ben Bidwell, The Teaching, Evan Roman, Eighty4 Fly
Song Producers: (self)
good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city represented the Compton, California MC’s first release with major label backing. Following the heralded Section.80, K-Dot landed himself not only a top Interscope Records distribution deal, but also the tutelage and stamp of approval from Dr. Dre and his Aftermath Entertainment. Based on those changes in surroundings, the world anticipated resulting changes in the artist. With so many weapons at his disposal and advisers on his board, Kendrick Lamar would undoubtedly go big—just as others like him had done. However, when the album released—audiences showed no disappointment in Dre’s production absence. The truth is, there might not be anyone quite like Kendrick Lamar. Rather, G.K.M.C. proved that Kendrick’s formula as an independent was wildly in tact as a chart-soaring platinum act. The themes, the guests, and the sound of Kendrick Lamar were unscathed. However, the focus, refinement, and brilliant execution of concept were refined—whether due to artistic maturity, or the enhanced world surrounding the MC.
While Kendrick Duckworth had two acclaimed (and charting) albums already under his belt, good kid… played like a debut. The 24 year-old went back to his childhood, his family inner-workings, and Hub City to find a detailed world of circumstance. “The Art Of Peer Pressure” was a charged ride-along with adolescents doing bad, at extremely high stakes. “Good Kid” and “m.A.A.d city” were one-two punches on the juxtaposition of a highly-observant, “chosen” prodigy living in a world where street-gangs, hard drugs, and survival rule. Kendrick Lamar did not describe a world that delivered him. Instead, his beats, cadences, and angst kidnapped the listener to Rosecrans Avenue, fed ’em a Tam’s Burger, and tucked their chain in. Just as he’d done on the last album, Lamar showed that while the rest of the world was evolving, the C-P-T was still as Darwinist as any ecosystem in the world. “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst” presented a Jazz-savvy poet, who rhymed with an intellect and sincerity unrivaled. However, even if the TDE star seemed like an artist unwilling to deliver lighthearted music, “Swimming Pools” would charm DJs with elements of Screw, EDM, and Trap—never shunning sophisticated flows or substance. In one captivating brush stroke, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city explained just who the MC was.
Album Number: 3
Released: October 22, 2012
Label: Top Dawg/Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #2 (certified gold, December 2012; certified platinum, August 2013)
Song Guests: Drake, Jay Rock, MC Eiht, Dr. Dre, ScHoolboy Q, Kent Jamz, Anna Wise, Ill Camille, JMSN, Chad Hugo, Amari Parnell, Mary Keating, Charly & Margaux, Gabriel Stevenson
Song Producers: Just Blaze, Pharrell Williams, Hit-Boy, Tha Bizness, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, Tabu, Scoop Deville, Terrace Martin, Likewise, Skyhe Hutch, T-Minus, THC
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.
Related: Finding The GOAT: The Albums