Mali Music Keep It Classy On ‘Mali Is’
Mali Music makes his secular debut with Mali Is… Although secular, Mali Music doesn’t eschew showcasing his faith in the least.
Sometimes, R&B artists wish to record gospel, while gospel artists want to record R&B. Throughout history, there has often been this urge to oscillate between both genres. Mali Music, a contemporary gospel artist, joins the ‘dark’ side on his third album, Mali Is… Well, to be fair, there’s nothing even remotely sinful about Mali Is… as Mali keeps things classy, including some Christian rap and gospel.
“No Fun Alone” initiates Mali Is… in the retro/neo-soul vein. Neo-soul is technically dead, but Mali definitely makes it sound alive and well on the opener. Mali possesses a soulful, nuanced instrument that’s perfectly suited for numerous genres.
“Ready Aim” proceeds, in a more contemporary in vein; think more eclectic, alternative R&B. “Ready Aim” has a rap component about it, reminiscent of Drake surprisingly without colorful f-bombs of course. An interesting concept if nothing more, “Ready Aim” is a song that takes a couple of spins to endear itself. “Beautiful” has adult contemporary R&B written all over it. Mali’s tone is smooth and laid back, yet, he’s invested into the performance. “Beautiful” proves to be just what it says it is, beautiful.
Standout “Heavy Love” trumps “Beautiful,”shining radiantly thanks to its thoughtful message. Mali sings on the spirited second verse:
“I wanna live in a world where / fathers and daughters, fathers and sons / are coming up together as one”
“Heavy Love” is definitely a throwback to the 70s, thanks in part to the concept and overall sound.
“Fight for You” is predictable thematically. It’s the ‘tried-and-true’ man’s pledge to ‘do whatever it takes to get the girl.’ Predictable, the cut is slickly produced nonetheless, based in modern R&B sensibilities. Like “Ready Aim,” Mali Music busts a rhyme, eliminating any notions of anachronistism. The powerful, soulful “Walking Shoes” proceeds as a reversion to classic soul.
“One” dives into reggae, which Mali Music executes successfully. A socially conscious message is an extra boost to the successfulness. On “Make It” Mali Music spits exclusively, eschewing the colorful language of his contemporaries. Instead, he favors a Christian message:
“Everybody trying to make it into heaven”
“Little Lady” is a bit off-putting at first, but grows on the listener. “Royalty” features lush production, intact with dusty beats, strings, and richly produced backing vocals. Additionally, the overall songwriting is thoughtful and refined. On “Johnny & Donna,” Mali’s vocal tone is lovely. The piano and string accompaniment serves as an equally lovely backdrop. “Johnny & Donna” finds Mali Music returning to his Christian roots. The results are a cut that works sufficiently in both genres. “I Believe” closes Mali Is… fusing retro-soul, pop/rock, and contemporary gospel successfully.
Overall, Mali Is… proves to be an enjoyable, well-executed major label debut from Mali Music. It’s not perfect – a bit more pizzazz and fanfare would’ve provided more distinction and arguably Mali is too ‘poised’ – but it is definitely a worthwhile listen. The biggest flaw of the project isn’t the album itself, but arguably the promotion of the album – little or none. Hopefully, Mali Music can continue to grow artistically; Mali Is… is chocked full of promise.
Gems: “No Fun Alone,” “Heavy Love,” “Fight for You” & “I Believe”