Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O
Long time underground sensation Mali Music, has finally released his immensely anticipated sophomore album entitled Mali Is. Mali has featured on numerous Christian Hip Hop, gospel and urban gospel tracks based of the success of his of his independently released albums,The Coming (2008) and The 2econd Coming (2009). Aside from sporadic singles, EP’s and guest appearances, we heard very little new music from Mali post-2009. This gap has created a high demand for his new album from his core fans. The anticipation grew to curiosity once it was revealed that Mali was working closely with Akon and had later signed a record deal with RCA Records.
With that news came concern for our brother Mali’s content. Would it be so secular that we wouldn’t want to hear it? Was Mali selling out by signing with Akon? All of these kinds of questions are speculation, and can be misunderstood when looking from the outside in. History has shown that it’s wise to wait until you hear an album, before exercising judgement of a brother or sister’s character and heart. Our assessment of Mali should be no different. When you listen to Mali’s sophomore album, however, you will get a very clear picture of just who Mali Is.
Mali Is Talented
Upon my first few spins of the CD, I began searching for a phrase to adequately describe what I wanted to express about Mali’s craft. Several times, I considered the phrase “Mali is a great songwriter.” For most, “great songwriter” describes an individual that has the deepest lyrics in the world or can crank out hit records at the drop of a dime. To simply say that Mali is a “great songwriter” wouldn’t tell the full story, however.
While Mali showed his ability to compose amazing lyrics on this project, he also combined melodies that definitively complemented the music. Each song makes you want to play it again and enjoy it again. The vocal arrangement was so good that I found yourself singing along to the songs like “Beautiful” without realizing it.
In addition, Mali has a dynamic vocal range and he knows how to use it well. He also possesses a versatility of song style. While the album is in the R&B/Soul genre, many of the songs are in completely different tempos one to the next, completely different mixtures of instruments, and different decades of influence track to track. Going from tracks 1-4, you get Soul in “No Fun alone”, new age R&B in “Ready Aim,” A ‘wave your lighter in the air’ track in “Beautiful,” and a 60’s-style soul song in “Heavy Love”. Many will enjoy the ride through styles throughout the project, all of them representing influences that Mali draws from. Mali Is…is just full of good music.
Mali Is Calculated
With this album being full of good music, it is only right to address the question of whether Mali has sold out to go secular. The answer is: No. There are those who wonder if this is going to be like The 2econd Coming. The answer to that as well is: No.
While listening to Mali Is, I got the feeling that the songs on this album weren’t just to fulfill the creative drive that Mali Music possesses. The topics felt like they were a calculated move to reach beyond his current audience.
Many singers desire to sing about topics that everyone deals with on a level that can reach right to their heart. This level is not always possible in the way that traditional gospel addresses them. Mali Is is an inspirational album. More than half of the songs are infused with scripture concepts as the themes, however, some blatant, some subtle.
For instance, in the song “Ready Aim” Mali sings:
‘But there are powers, in the air, you can see them.
And they have rockets and machine guns.
And they’re firing on my plane,
but I say… Fire, fire! Ready, aim, fire!
You can’t shoot me down, no…’
One could easily make the link between these lyrics and Isaiah 54:17. Mali realizes that weapons will form against him, yet won’t prosper, based on God’s promise to believers.
On the James Brown inspired “Heavy Love”, Mali belts out:
‘Too many broken homes that know, it gets hard y’all
And that’s why we gotta take it to God y’all
Love each other now
Oh your sister, your brother now
Butta, don’t let go
You need a dose of that heavy love’
Matthew 18:22 immediately came to mind as I meditated on this. One of the largest acts of love we can show to others is to give those who have hurt us the grace and forgiveness that Jesus extends to us daily.
On the 3rd verse of “Royalty,” Mali directly references a specific scripture, saying,
‘they dont really tell us what we need to know, 1st peter 2 and 6 will bless you fa sho’
As you will recall, 1 Peter 2 talks specifically about who we are in Christ, the royal priesthood.
Mali Is Worth it
We should support those in the faith who are putting out quality projects. With artists like Christon Gray and Mali Music, who are creating really great music about everyday issues through a biblical lens, we are seeing that it can be done: that an artist can make music that relates to God without quoting scripture in the hook, but still clearly display the message behind said scripture in the song.
Mali Music didn’t stray away from His roots in Christ to try a new direction. Instead, he used his roots in Christ to create another approach to the same end goal. Mali Is is inspirational. It’s key themes of spreading love, knowing who God created you to be, not taking blessings for granted, and coming together to make a better world are all biblical.
If you are looking for a Praise and Worship CD, this isn’t the project for you. However, if you are looking for good music, that addresses contemporary issues from a biblical perspective, Mali Is would be a great addition to your music library.