As the intro draws to a close, the album welcomes you in with the light and upbeat production of Godspeed. Here Malachi calmly and confidently muses on a cornucopia of social and political issues, making his presence felt with the authority of a well-seasoned MC. This alert awareness towards the downfalls facing modern society is a running theme throughout the majority of Malachi's work. He's not afraid of asserting his personal views, incorporating social critique, without veering in to the dangerous realm of being labelled as an overtly "conscious" or "political" rapper. The result is that his bars regularly echo sentiments easily relatable to the average listener, presenting issues of interest, rather than outright preaching an agenda to its audience.
The following track, Contraband takes a direct switch in musical tone, delving in to the darker, heavier realm of production that's proven so popular over previous Malachi projects. It's production like this that really aids the rapper in painting an often bleak portrait of current-day Britain.
This contrast in production is one that continues through the albums progression, offering a perfect balance of the dark and gritty, the upbeat, and the sombre, more thought provoking beats. Each beat is matched perfectly to the intensity of its lyrics. One of my top contenders for track of the album would have to be Lion's Den 2. Here Malachi truly displays his dark and vivid storytelling ability, supported by haunting production from C0mplex.
The album has a select number of featuring artist's, handpicked from a family of close affiliates. Another contender for track of the album would be Hydrochloric Sonnets, which has Malachi teamed with Iron Braydz and Melanin 9, over a truly sinister beat from 7th Dan. Elsewhere, we have Iron Braydz returning with Solar Black on The Shallow Deep, Tesla's Ghost appearing on Requiem, and Scriblah Dan Gogh putting in work on the short but relentless, 2-verse stomper Hardboiled.
At 17 tracks deep, without a single trace of filler, Black Athena is an extremely solid, well rounded album. Now, the obvious question to those who know his work would be, how does it match up to his previous releases? My honest answer would have to be "about equal". Both are strong releases, and ranking them will purely come down to the personal inclination of the listener. What Black Athena is, is a continuation of the same sound Malachi, Triple Darkness, and Orphans of Cush fans have come to love over recent years. Stylistically, the music seems a labour of love, keeping alive a sound reminiscent of golden age Wu-era hip-hop; a sound that both he and his collaborators thankfully seem dedicated in keeping alive, fresh, and relevant in today's culture.
With this release landing strong, plus a full length collaboration with Ray Vendetta, and collaborative E.P with Astro Blacksmith, both planned for 2013, Malachi looks set for the biggest year of his career. Catch him performing live, this September at Boom Bap Festival. Also, follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep an eye out for more tour dates and release info in the near future. Cyrus Malachi's 'Black Athena' is out now, available in hardcopies and via download through the First Son Bandcamp.
Release Date: 20th April, 2013
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