Mali Music, The Transition of Mali | Album Review
‘The Transition of Mali,’ the second secular album by former gospel artist Mali Music, proves to be another respectable, well-rounded affair.
Mali Music has crossed over to the dark side – again. The former gospel musician returns with his second consecutive secular album, The Transition of Mali. Go on – gasp for breath! The Transition of Mali arrives three years after his first R&B project, Mali Is…. Here’s the deal though. Even though Mali Music is characterized as an R&B artist these days, there’s plenty of spirit – as in spirituality – apparent throughout the course of his music. The Transition of Mali, hence, plays well to both the secular and the spiritual crowds.
“Gonna Be Alright”
“Bow Out” opens The Transition of Mali with a modern sound thanks to the slick production work. Though it features a contemporary palette of sounds, the messaging hearkens back to traditional, old school values. Essentially, Mali Music can be characterized as an old soul – he’s filled with traditional, moral values. He shares such values with a youthful swagger, yet eschews the tough, rebellious persona of many of his contemporaries. “Bow Out” is a bit odd at first, but it’s certainly creative, and grows on you with successive listens.
“Gonna Be Alright” is golden from the jump. It’s a spiritual song about the power of faith and love. It opens energetically with a tongue-n-cheek, jazzy sound, which turns out to be only temporary before the record and production establish itself. The record has that old-school sensibility with the dusty, soulful drums and prominent upright piano sound. The best way to characterize it is good vibes. Mali Music has a well-rounded gem on his hands.
“Loved by You”
“Loved by You,” featuring Jazmine Sullivan, gives The Transition of Mali another winner. It opens with strings, giving off a throwback, soulful sound. Further adding to the vintage quality is the 6/8 meter. There’s a laziness about the song – it never rushes, thriving at its deliberate pace. Expectedly, overall, the production work is brilliant, anchored by a robust bass line. Given the artistic sensibilities of Mali Music, this is a match made in heaven. As for Sullivan, she thrives in her lower register, flexing her incredibly underrated contralto pipes.
“Cryin’” is a beautiful, empowering anthem about fighting through the tears. It’s soulful through and through, particularly the horns. While Mali Music doesn’t offer up a brand-new idea per se, his messaging is on-point. “Dolla” offers a stark contrast. The tempo is quicker, with Mali Music singing more rhythmically, in a more detached style (not quite staccato). Like “Cryin’” it retains its soulful elements but arguably has more in common with hip-hop.
“Still” is soulful, with a dash of gospel sensibility. This sensibility is achieved thanks to the harmonic scheme and the piano specifically. Additionally, the use of strings is lovely. The pace is nice and relaxed, with Mali Music never getting into a rush. The record speaks on the power of love. Throughout its course, he delivers a capable vocal performance. That vocal performance includes superb falsetto, excellent grit in his chest voice, and most importantly, singing with incredible authenticity. This is yet another asset to the album.
“Contradiction” originally appears from the Chi-Raq soundtrack form 2015. What’s the premise of the single? Essentially, two exes address each other on their respective verses. Mali Music gives his perspective on the first verse, while Jhené Aiko offers the female perspective on the second. In the end, neither is devastated because they’re broken up, but leave the door open to reconcile. At first, “Contradiction” comes off a bit clunky. After a couple of listens, the magic is unveiled.
“My Life” features solid production work, incorporating both R&B and hip-hop cues. The song commences in quirky fashion, with Mali Music sort of speaking, quasi-rapping, and then employing his singing voice. Soon enough, the listener understands the direction Mali is going in. The modus operandi of “My Life” appears to be spiritual health, a prevalent topic in Mali’s music. Ultimately, “My Life” is an excellent example of a secular song with positive, transcendent messaging.
The brief “Sit Down for This” uplifts the wonder-working power of God. Essentially, Mali Music asserts that despite what doctors may say (“I think you need to sit down for this”), he puts his faith into the ultimate source. Ultimately, this is another thoughtful song from the artist, yielding an exceptional, inspirational message. Naturally, it precedes “Worth It,” in which Mali Music ministers, “It’s always worth it, to get up and try again.” Combined, both make a formidable one-two punch.
One of the pros of penultimate number “I Will” is the vocal performance. While “I Will” isn’t the best or most memorable song of The Transition of Mali, Mali Music delivers a terrific performance. Sigh, a dash of falsetto here and there, not to mention smooth-as-butter vocals. Much like The Transition started with “Bow Out,” “What You Done” concludes by giving Him praise. As laudatory as “What You Done” is, it doesn’t supplant the more traditional, gorgeous “I Believe” from Mali Is…
All in all, The Transition of Mali is another solid album from Mali Music. Throughout its course, Mali Music balances the secular and the spiritual exceptionally well. That said, The Transition of Mali is still more likely to appeal to the more traditional, Christian listener, as opposed to the artist’s more risqué contemporaries. It’s not perfect – sometimes production and message outperform the song itself – but its attributes far outweigh its flaws.
Gems: “Gonna Be Alright,” “Loved by You,” Cryin’,” “Still,” “Contradiction,” “My Life”