A Week’s Worth Review: Mali Music’s “The Book of Mali”

By Daniel Paiz

So there are always going to be feast or famine weeks when it comes to new music. This past weekend, there wasn’t a lot to choose from. Therefore, this edition of A Week’s Worth Review is going to be on a somewhat Hip-Hop adjacent artist by the name of Mali Music.

It’s a bit difficult to describe his music. Christian/Gospel-inspired artists who also make Hip-Hop are very difficult to pinpoint, which of course is a gift and a curse. I suppose that’s what comes with the niche that is Christian/Gospel Hip-Hop.

Now, before those of you who roll your eyes at music related to religion peace out, hear me out. Mali Music is one of many who combine the genres without preaching at you. Think of it someone telling you their story and they just so happen to mention their beliefs; but, they don’t evangelize to you, they present their narrative and move on.

“Book of Mali” a novel of anecdotes

This is going to be another first when it comes to a A Week’s Worth Review. As the listener, I can hear the obvious Gospel influences, but there isn’t really a larger overarching theme to it all. Sure, Mali is singing about perspective in different situations. But, it’s all so general that it feels like a collection of songs at times more than a cohesive album. Take the structure of the project for starters.

The intro (“Book of Mali(Intro)”) and the outro (“This Way (Say I Love You)”) are the best setup tracks because of how skeletal they are. You might be thinking well of course they are; I’m mentioning it because the other bones aren’t exactly aligned. That’s what’s funny about this album. These two tracks make the album have a touring quality of sorts, which is good news for Mali post-COVID.

However, the rest of the tape is an interesting collage of tracks.

The second track on the album, “Blessed”, sets the tone. Yet again I find myself thinking it’s strange how concert-oriented this project is. Concerts have one very achievable goal for the artist. It’s to give the audience a general idea of who they are and explain their most recent journey in life.

The more I listen to this particular track, the more I hear the Christian overtones. I still don’t take them as very preachy, but more so a testament of sorts. There are other songs on the project like this that have subtle testimonial messaging that’s overshadowed by the production. Perhaps that’s intentional or perhaps I’m not the target audience. Let’s look at another track.

Subtlety is the name of the game

In listening to this project more and more, Mali is very skilled at the art of subtle lyrics. Now, the chorus on a few different tracks blows away any mystique of the topic of choice. But, “Yin and Yang” is one of those tracks that exemplifies subtly:

And I know everything ain’t gon’ be right

Yeah, we gon’ make mistakes

And I’m willing to see the wrong and rights

We can bend but don’t break

Oh, oh, I’ll keep your tea hot for you

If you could keep my drink cold

And I’ll always see the young in you

If you love me ’til I’m old

-Mali Music, verse 2 on”Yin and Yang”

The above lyrics are one of many instances that there’s no overt message. It’s written somewhat universally. If you’re religious it could be about how you interact with God. If you aren’t or you aren’t looking for that message, than it can describe nearly any interpersonal relationship that’s important to you.

The back and forth, give and take messaging is simple yet very effective. It’s likely why back in 2015 when I first came across Mali, I wondered why more people hadn’t heard of him. Mali’s songwriting is impressive, as is his ability to both rap and sing.

Final verdict

If you are adamantly against any kind of religion-related music, you still might not be mad at this project. If you’re a Gospel/Christian Rap fan, you will very much enjoy this. For me, I continue to have a curiosity about Christian rappers. The realms of organized religion and Hip-Hop must be constantly clashing, often at odds with each other. But, it’s not the first time I’ve written about this very niche area of Hip-Hop.

As Hip-Hop fans, it’s important to explore as many niches of the genre as possible. I’ll gladly listen to Dee-1 or Mali Music at one moment and then Brotha Lynch Hung or Flatbush Zombies the next. Balance is key, and this might be one of those that tilts your scales a bit more towards the center.

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