Ok, I admit it. I know basically nothing about the whole hip hop scene here in the UK. I am of an age where the whole thing passed me by. I ain't got a 'crew' or come from the 'street' and I just don't relate to it. The endless repetitive beats and samples strike me as lazy but the one thing about it that I do get is its lyrical nature. From the little I do know, I can see the distinct difference between what is coming out of the UK and from across the pond. Cyrus Malachi is a good example of where the lines get blurred. His lyrics come from the life that he lives and has lived. That is a world of inner city London where drugs, prostitution and death are expressed without the need to drag it into misogynistic sexism, racism and money. Then he teams up with a variety of American artists for several tracks and that is where Malachi loses his identity for me.
As part of the revered trio Triple Darkness he already comes with a pedigree and most of the 20 tracks on this record will only serve to cement his reputation. With a host of different producers including Diplimat and Beat Butcha, the beats are kept fresh and range from grime to soul. For me, it is where Malachi tackles what is on his doorstep that he really shines. Black Madonna is a lyrical journey that tackles race, self worth, being proud of your heritage and societies obsession with the unobtainable perfection.
The previously mentioned Americanisation of his music is rammed home on Master Builders and King Cobras where the likes of Bronze Narareth and Rustie Jaxx spout endless crap from the handbook of exploitation and bullshit as they try to cram the n-word into as short a space as possible. Am I the only one who finds it offencive. It is not empowering. Why he felt the need to collaborate with these guys when he is capable of producing powerful descriptive songs like Black Maria, a song about prison life and the effect it has on individuals and their families, is beyond me. It is simply brilliant. Concrete Flowers and The Crucible are track of similar quality and are a million miles away from the collaborations with his American counterparts.
Even through my grizzled old suburban ears I can see what it is that Malachi is doing. I can also see that he knows how to do it well and yeh, I can even relate to some of it. At 20 tracks though, it is at least 6 tracks to long but then I'm not its target audience.