29 June, 2009@7:40 am
For those that don’t know, Malik Yusef is a spoken word artist from the streets of Chicago, who grew up in the same circles as Common and other Chi-Town artists, many of which who have stepped in to help him out with his expansive double LP (each sold separately). You can’t help but notice the blantant stamping of Kanye West’s name all over this project, as his name appears first on the cover, along side the label name being on each cover three times. Yes, they are really trying to drive the point home that Kanye is behind this, whether he is 100% behind this project or not.
Malik uses this massive collection to present his brand of slam-poetry-over-music, playing with vocabulary, twisting double-entendres wherever possible. Obviously a fan of many different types of music, he switches from style-to-style, dipping in hip-hop (both underground & commercial), house, rock, gospel, pop, and the list goes on. Ambitiously he enlists a long list of collaborators, from Twista to Maroon 5′s Adam Levine.
This is however where the key issue of Malik’s set seems to lie, that being that he is trying to please too many audiences at once. The raw boom-bap production of “My Peoples” (feat. KRS-One) will please longtime hip-hop fans, but those same fans will be left confused at a track like “The Return (Here She Comes)” where Malik painfully uses every prefix, suffix, and word root of “come” to illustrate his point – that being that’s he’s getting some ass. There’s something to be said for subtley, but instead Malik drives his point home riding on beaten dead horse waving flags with firecrackers going off – and does it in auto-tune, to boot.
This pales in comparison to his dance record, “Sexuality”, an excruciating listen that attempts to channel the sound of Chicago house music. Apparently, Malik hasn’t set foot in a house music club in a while, with this song sounding like a relic from 1991.
Aside from having this “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” approach to making his album, his wordplay is not quite as brilliant as he thinks it is. Sure, he definitely has some clever moments, however given the fact that virtually all of his verses are delivered off-beat (which is to be expected, as this is poetry), by the end of the second disc you could care less about it, given how daunting a task it’s been to get that far.
Finally, the other major issue here is Malik’s pension for talking down to his audience. His words are spoken like that of a preacher on a high podium, speaking down to his minions. All of this righteousness doesn’t carry much weight however, when he switches up his style to seduce the ladies many, many times on each album. His attempts at sounding intelligent or as if he is “dropping knowledge” are pale in comparison to contemporaries like KRS-One or even Saul Williams, with Malik sadly coming off more like In Living Color’s Oswald Bates character (the “smart” prisoner portrayed by Damon Wayans).
The saving grace for this ironically titled collection of “good music” are through the production and guest artists, which are for the most part, top notch. Malik must draw major respect from the industry as a whole to get such an extensive guest list to join him, and those artists help hold many of the album’s songs together. Unfortunately, when these voices come in, it’s such a breath of fresh air, it just accentuates the fact of how bad things were before they came in the door.
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