Melanin 9 - Magna Carta Album Review

rating: 4

Two words kept ringing through my head while listening to M9's "Magna Carta" and it's the thing that had me going back to it again and again. "Old School." It's been a while since I've heard a hip hop album that was so laid back and pitch perfect in its goal that it's very refreshing. There's so much going on here, it's quite fun. Wherever he's getting his inspiration I'm not 100% certain, but it's some good, powerful stuff. The album as a whole has a very chill vibe. If I were having friends over or looking to just kick it on a weekend night, or even just to take a drive let go, these would be my jams. This feels like the stuff I grew up with. There's a slow, smooth jazz vibe that sets the tone for the whole album and lets you know what you're in store for. If a hip hop album can relax you successfully, it's a rare thing. And what it benefits most from is the fact that it's M9's debut LP. A lot of the time, but no always, an artist takes their first full length album as an opportunity to really communicate and say something important. One of the concluding tracks, "Colour Blind", stands out as an incredibly moving and important track about human nature, about the misdeeds we do that can hurt those around us or, on the flip side, the good deeds we can perform to lift others up. Considering the title of the album is "Magna Carta", it's safe to say he's not holding anything back when it comes to declaring how he feels about the world around him. As a result, no track is lifeless and no moment is wasted as theme takes precedent. When an artist understands how to weave emotion and meaning into an album successfully while simultaneously making it one of the more enjoyable hip hop records of the year, that's quite a feat. There's almost an eerie, haunting quality behind a lot of these tracks, as if there's a sense of impending doom that drives the record forward, something that, if these words are spoken at this very moment then the opportunity has been lost. So there's a sense of importance running throughout that's quite unique and is something I can't recall having heard in some time. Whereas popular hip hop music, especially from the US, has taken a club-ish, techno, party vibe, M9 revitalizes my faith in a rappers ability to do what hip hop music began as, lyrical poetry. The title track "Magna Carta" starts the album off with a pretty outright statement of what the album is about, you've got to change your mind before you can change the way you're living. I love that, so it sets a great precedent. "Landslide" is one of my favorites and has such a smooth, almost Asian style backing melody and tempo that it feels like a hip hop song backed by Lalo Schifrin's score from "Enter the Dragon." A few of the tracks, including "The 7 Blues", "Loves Stencil", and "Colour Blind" feature female vocalist Madame Pepper. Her simple, smooth style really helps lay these tracks out and adds some needed change of pace considering the album is 14 tracks long. M9 lacks little as far as talent goes, but after some time it's nice to have a slight reprieve and she helps keep the album grounded. Other appearances include Triple Darkness on the tracks "Heartless Island" and "No Man's Land", which, because of Triple's style, are slightly more aggressive tracks, which is a good thing. And Roc Marciano rounds out the guest appearances by showing up at the top of "White Russian". This is a solid, solid album. Considering it's the first LP from M9, it's quite an accomplishment. He's held nothing back and as a result has released a lengthy 14 track debut that lays you out in the best way possible. I can't remember mellowing out to hip hop like this in a long time. It's a great throw back and because it's not afraid to embrace those roots it's still unique enough to be worthy of multiple listens. As far as the genre goes, it's hard to get much better than this. Magna Carta hits December 3rd.
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Actor, writer, filmmaker, stand up comic, jack of all trades...hopefully master of some. Living the dream, whatever that is, in LA while always sitting in traffic. He's also the co-creator of the comedy group NSFYM (Not Safe For Your Mom).