Album Review – Melanin 9 a.k.a. M9

magna carta cover

Melanin 9

“Magna Carta”

(M9Ether.BandCamp.Com)

Although there may be many artists today prepared to sell their soul and dumb down their content in an attempt to appeal to the masses and achieve their fifteen minutes of fame, there are still real emcees out there who aren’t willing to take the easy route, choosing instead to put hours of effort into mastering their craft, keeping their lyrical swords sharp as they walk in the footsteps of the greats that came before them. London-based lyricist Melanin 9 a.k.a. M9 is one such artist.

As both a member of the formidable Triple Darkness camp and a solo artist, the skilled wordsmith has built up an impressive catalogue of work in recent years, with each release further showcasing M9’s natural talent for dropping vivid, thought-provoking rhymes built to invigorate braincells over quality production.

A student of verbal heavyweights such as The GZA and Killah Priest, M9 has always carried his mid-90s / golden-era influences with pride, whilst ensuring his own work has resonated with sincere emotion and individuality, rather than simply sounding like a rapper struggling to find his own identity who spent too much time with Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…” album and RZA’s “Wu-Tang Manual”.

Having already set mics alight on releases such as 2007’s “High Fidelity” mixtape and 2008’s “144,000” project, “Magna Carta” stands as M9’s finest musical moment to date. A brilliantly executed display of intelligent hardcore Hip-Hop, the album is packed with memorable tracks that range from the militantly defiant to the soulfully reflective.

The opening title track captures M9’s gift for painting descriptive images in your mind’s eye as he tells how he will “pose for cameras with ex-felons using hands as weapons”, whilst the Anatomy-produced “Landslide” features melodic pianos sprinkled over bass-heavy beats like gentle rain on cold concrete, with the UK microphone fiend mixing mystical wordplay and harsh street imagery in his rhymes.

“The 7 Blues” is a stunning-yet-sombre gem, with the melancholy, string-laden production of Hey!Zeus and Madame Pepper’s pained, heart-wrenching vocals helping to extract every last drop of feeling from M9’s haunting tale of a lost soul murdered in cold blood on the streets of Britain’s capital city, with the sense of tragedy driven home by the grounded emcee’s refusal to glorify the pitfalls of urban life, instead describing the impact of senseless violence on those left behind to live with the loss (“A spirit came to his mum on the night he was killed, Something ain’t right she could feel, Like the steel he was blown with, Hands shaking as she tries to phone him, A seismic myriad of emotion, Like the unremitting vigorous waves in the ocean…”).

The hypnotic Ohbliv-produced “Love’s Stencil” finds the emcee exploring the spiritual journey he’s been on whilst attempting to balance building a successful relationship with life situations and a career in the rap game, whilst Jehst’s huge drums on “Heartless Island” sound like a giant pounding on the gate of a gothic castle, with Triple Darkness comrade Cyrus Malachi on-hand to drop a typically intricate, mind-bending verse that sees the gruff lyricist travelling from inner-city tower blocks to intergalactic stars through the power of words.

“White Russian”, the transatlantic collabo between M9 and current underground favourite Roc Marciano, is another immediate standout, with Anatomy’s dusty, shuffling beats providing a fitting sonic backdrop for Marcberg’s slick, Strong Island stylings and Melanin’s esoteric flows.

The menacing Tony Mahoney-produced “Organized Democracy” finds the forthright homegrown emcee aggressively attacking the illusion of a free society as he journeys deep into the Matrix and offers thoughts on racial profiling, police harassment and political hypocrisy (“It all adds up in statistics, It’s big business to get you shifted, This wretched State, Depends on how many arrests they make…Profits in the pockets of politicians with big properties…”).

Throughout “Magna Carta”, M9 keeps the listener’s attention with a relentless stream of inspired, multi-layered verses that deserve to be heard again and again in order to fully appreciate the energy and thought that’s been invested in them whilst absorbing the message and meaning contained within each poignant line.

Proving that it is possible to deliver street-influenced, hardcore Hip-Hop without having to appeal to the lowest common denominator, with “Magna Carta” M9 has succeeded in his mission to elevate, stimulate and edutain, delivering one of 2012’s most essential albums in the process.

Ryan Proctor

Melanin 9 – “Organized Democracy” (Melanin9.Com / 2012)

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