It may feel like a lifetime ago, but it’s been just three and a half years since Macklemore & Ryan Lewis had that triumphant night at the Grammys when they not only won four awards—their debut LP, The Heist, even beat out Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city for Best Rap Album—but also rocked the stage with Madonna and Queen Latifah in a performance of their Mary Lambert-assisted hit “Same Love” that also featured a mass same-sex wedding. Talk about a historic moment. But things fell off sharply for the Seattle duo with their poorly received Heist follow-up, 2016’s ironically titled This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, which was too self-aware and self-indulgent for its own good.
Now rapper Macklemore has amicably parted ways with producer Lewis for Gemini, his first solo album since 2005’s The Language of My World. Named after his zodiac sign, it’s a sprawling set that displays many different sides of his personality, from party boy (the old-school groove “Levitate”) to spiritual dad (the gospel-charged “Church”). Although it is uneven and feels longer than its 60 minutes, Gemini is held together by Macklemore’s Everydudeness and a loose mixtape quality. There are certainly highlights, like “Good Old Days,” on which a soulful Kesha continues her strong comeback, and “Intentions,” a reggae-tinged reflection (“I wanna be sober, but I love getting high”) that finds Macklemore getting his warble on. But lesser cuts like the horned-up “Corner Store” — featuring Seattle’s Dave B and Travis Thompson — won’t lodge themselves in your brain the way that “Thrift Shop” did. B-