Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this review, I’m going to be delving into ‘Real Life,’ an eclectic, incredibly ambitious hip hop project from Malichi Male, an accomplished indie artist known in the community for being the only Christian urban artist to simultaneously have a top five single on both Christian and secular radio. ‘Real Life’ is an elegant collection of tunes that defies any sort of religious affiliation; it’s hip hop anyone can dig. (There is a religious backing to Malichi’s passion, but it transcends just being a ‘Christian’ record.) Let’s get right into it.
As aforementioned, the record is ambitious - twenty songs of ambition. Now, I’m typically a very harsh critic of independent artists that put out really long studio efforts. They tend to fall into a realm of obscurity and pretension, quickly declining in quality throughout their run. Fortunately, Malichi doesn’t fall victim to that stereotype. From the soulful ‘Rush’ to the faith-driven, reggae-tinged ‘Cry,’ the collection remains consistently compelling throughout. For the purposes of this review, we’re going to delve into the highlights of the album since focusing on each of the twenty tracks would take just as many pages.
‘Rush’ is a terrific opener, concreting Malichi immediately as a superb performer, wordsmith, and producer. The tune is heavily soul-influenced, and as listeners will notice early on into the collection, those influences hop from song to song with surprising tact. Take ‘B-Boy Stance,’ for example. It’s one of the best straight-up hip hop endeavors on the record, defining Malichi’s rap sound on the album. One of my favorite things about that? How clean it is. Malichi’s excellent lyricism doesn’t use vulgarity as a crutch. He’s real and authentic, and that’s an increasing rarity in hip hop.
‘Child Soldier’ is a haunting song, lyrically. It exhibits Malichi as a songwriter who can delve into meaningful issues, which is again, just another rarity in the scene. His choice of guest vocalists is perfect as well; the female backing on several of the tracks accentuates Malichi excellently. The mid-album highlight, ‘Times Changes Remix,’ has some of the best beats of the collection as well. In order to have a solid hip hop record, especially one as long as this, you need to have continually exciting beats. Most artists can’t achieve that; Malichi does in spades.
As you continue your journey through ‘Real Life,’ make stops at these mile markers. ‘Stressing’ is a soul tune worth writing home about. ‘Dreams’ is an exhibition of astonishing sampling and production, and the gospel-tinged ‘Heaven’ takes you to church in a fantastic way. I’d like to briefly touch on that, too. Even though there are hints of religious connotation throughout this record, nothing feels preachy or self-fulfilling. It’s modest and even a guy like me, who isn’t religious, can absolutely love his time with this music. That says something. It reminds me a bit of Kanye West’s ‘Jesus Walks.’ That tune transcended religion as well.
Malichi is one of the most exciting independent hip hop artists in the community. His songs are enthrallingly good, consistently compelling, and a breath of fresh air amidst a community that’s lost its way in recent years. We need more artists like Malichi, because that is truly what he is. He is an artist.