Macklemore Reminisces on Charismatic Solo Album ‘Gemini’

For the first time since his debut album in 2005, Macklemore is, as they say in the industry, “going solo.” The Seattle-bred rapper split from his producer and long-time counterpart Ryan Lewis to create his second solo album “Gemini.” Released Sept. 22, the “Thrift Shop” hit maker touches on blues, rock, trap and funk for his new project, leaving behind what he and Lewis crafted as a statement album in 2016 with “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.”

Contrary to his previous co-record, which tackled major socio-political issues like white privilege and gay-marriage, “Gemini” seems to focus more on the rapper’s current and past life in general.  “Marmalade” features a verse from Lil Yachty and provides a charming look into what a day-in-the-life of Macklemore looks like (on his day off perhaps). The video shows kid versions of both himself and the red-haired Lil Yachty cruising through their town, bass bumping, hollering at girls from the window and buying chains from the local jeweler. The high-pitched piano lends a sense of polite innocence as Yachty drops lines like “Whoa this beat so happy I will never frown.” Macklemore just has this air about him that screams, or rather politely suggests, optimism. “Glorious” shows him swooping up his one-hundred-year-old grandmother for her birthday, taking her about town in a glossy-amber Cadillac convertible, which also appears on the cover. Together, they do everything from singing karaoke, to egging a house and of course thrift store shopping. In a statement on YouTube, Macklemore writes to his grandma “Happy 100th. Thank you for the Werthers Originals.” Skylar Grey lends superb vocal work for the heartening chorus, covering the song with an enriching tone, as if it needed any help.

Like Macklemore, Kesha has been on a trip through positivity with her latest record “Rainbow.” After Ryan Lewis contributed to her single “Praying,” Macklemore returned the favor inviting her to take over chorus duties on “Good Old Days.” Yet another swelling, sentimental cut wherein Macklemore reminds himself from where he came, the small clubs in Minnesota to that time he was too afraid to ask a girl to homecoming. A reminder to all, really, to never forget the past but to always remain present. Speaking of, “Corner Store” is reminiscent as well, noting Macklemore’s and his friend’s nostalgic love for bodegas. The spots they’d hit up at 2 a.m. to buy mango Hi-Chews, bags of chips and Swisher Sweets. “Corner Store” could be a Chance the Rapper song, partly because of the bounce and horns, but also newcomer Dave B, who contributes here, sounds a lot like the Chicago star. Macklemore keeps the party going with “Levitate,” an Anderson. Paak-like break beat funk song, horns included.

Forget the comparisons for now, though, because what Macklemore has done here sans Ryan Lewis is produced an entire album worthy of its own salt. He made the right move sticking to his musical roots. “Gemini” shows Macklemore at his most natural, carefree self. Sure, we’ve seen this side of the rapper before. In fact, this is what he’s known for aside from 2016’s jaunt into politics and race. This album revels in joy, funk and dance. Not to say he doesn’t have the right, or desire, to create music with important, topical issues at the forefront, but it’s heartening to see Macklemore having fun again, and bringing us along for the ride.

Gemini” is available Sept. 22 on Apple Music.