I remember it like it was yesterday … the beat drops and seemingly bangs through my whole body, and then these two brothers (literally) rip the track with their smooth and aggressive flow. All this is summed up with one word … “grindin’.”
For any hip-hop fan my age, this one song completely transformed what hip-hop was. Everyone was banging the Pharrell Williams track on any desk or table in sight. For me personally, it showed me how a producer and an artist should complement each other. The song, message aside, was a magnificent song. “Grindin’” led me to “When’s the Last Time” and eventually to “Lord Willin’” (their debut album). I was a huge fan of The Clipse from “Grindin” through the duration of my mainstream music fan experience.
Excuse my nostalgia, but when I hear one of my favorite artists has come to know Christ and is releasing a Christian album, it’s everything I hoped for as a baby Christian. Anytime a fan of secular music switches to Christian music, a part of them (even if it’s a small one) wants some of their favorite artists to come too. My hopes become a reality on August 18th , when No Malice (formerly Malice from The Clipse) releases his album entitled Hear Ye Him.
This project is an interesting project for No Malice. Along with being his first solo album, it is also his first record since coming to Christ. The anticipation surrounding this record is huge. People from the mainstream and Christian hip-hop sides are both intrigued by this record, and I’m not too sure anyone really knows what to expect. This creates (along with the anticipation) some excitement around this record. Even with a lot of unknowns, I think it’s safe to say that all of the CHH community is happy that No Malice is here and it’s not just for his music.
First Thing I Noticed
Even though I was a big fan of The Clipse, I haven’t really listened to them in years (since giving up secular hip-hop and following Christ). Going into this record, I wondered if No Malice still had it. I got my answer almost immediately; yes he still has it. No Malice had all of the confidence and smooth aggression he had as a member of The Clipse. His flow was as polished, as I’ve ever heard it. He was hitting on all cylinders. I wasn’t overly surprised but I was very impressed.
3 Things I Enjoyed
If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know how much I value lyricism. It’s one of the most important (if not the most important) skills an emcee can have. If you did not consider No Malice a lyricist before, you will after Hear Ye Him. No Malice attacked each track with clever, aggressive and honest lyricism. Hear Ye Him had a very Christ-centered message, but it never felt preachy. No Malice balanced his message eloquently.
Hear Ye Him had some clever and eloquent parts, but it also had bars. There were points on this record where No Malice showcased his immense talent. A perfect example of this is on the track “No Time” featuring Jaeson Ma, when he spit:
“I confess I was misguided, misled/ no laws I’m runnin’ the red
Roulette, gun to my head/ you don’t have to die to already be dead.”
This is just one small taste of what he did throughout the entirety of the record. His lyricism was continually strong but his flow made it easy to follow without sounding simplistic. The overall theme is balanced, because No Malice balances lyricism and artistry very well. He knows what he’s capable of and what his lane is, and he stays well within that. Hear Ye Him has top notch lyricism that will captivate any hip-hop head.
This is one of the things an artist can do on an album that makes a big difference in the album for me. I don’t consider it a skill but I would definitely call it a difference maker. No Malice was very transparent on Hear Ye Him. This probably surprised me the most after the first listen. His level of transparency was high, very real and I felt everything he was saying. It created a connection between No Malice and I, which enhanced the listening experience.
It seemed as if no topic was off limits for No Malice. We heard about his time in the trap, the fallout of The Clipse and even his relationship with Pharrell, just to name a few. There wasn’t just straight forward honesty in the topics covered, but also in his delivery of the subject. There was no sugar coating at all. No Malice addressed every topic head on. As the listener, we really get a glimpse at the heart of Gene Thornton. His struggles, triumphs, joys, and what really drives him as an artist and person. For No Malice to do that on Hear Ye Him was simply incredible.
Flow of the Album
This is an underestimated aspect that every great album has. If a record doesn’t flow together smoothly, it makes for an awkward and difficult listening experience. No Malice was able to avoid this problem by meticulously taking care of each track. Hear Ye Him flowed smoothly from track to track throughout the album. A part of that was the nature of No Malice’s flow and a part is clever track making and placement. Every song complimented each other perfectly, while still standing out individually. Hear Ye Him is an easy and enjoyable listen, and it’s a record that will bring you back over and over again.
As I stated earlier, my excitement level was as high as it could be for this record. That excitement died out almost immediately. Not because the music was bad, but because the No Malice I was excited for wasn’t the No Malice I got. Chalk it up to naivety but I was expecting to hear Malice and I got No Malice. If you are like me or concerned by the content you may hear, fear not because Hear Ye Him is solid. This record is very honest, encouraging and inspiring.
Perfect records are rare. Few are completely void of any holes; Hear Ye Him is no exception to this. There were some mistakes. The “N” word is tossed around a little early in the record. Which some may find to be offensive, but doesn’t take away from the overall project. The skits also seemed pedestrian at points (especially the intro). Other than that, No Malice nailed this record. He is at his best on this record, and considering his resume, that is quite impressive.
This is everything a fan of No Malice could ever have asked for. His flow and confidence will remind fans of The Clipse but his message, maturity and humility also remind fans that he’s not Malice anymore. It’s the perfect balance that No Malice was able to master as good as anyone in his position. It’s also just great music. This truly is a fantastic record in every way. From start to finish, you will be engaged and impressed. Hear Ye Him is a great introduction to CHH and I for one am ecstatic that he’s here.