Funereal and moody, with a conscious approach to street-level topics wrapped in sharp and eloquent wordplay, UK emcee Melanin 9‘s official debut album, Magna Carta, delivers a mature and serious sound.
Inspired by the golden era of hip hop and UK emcees like Blak Twang, Phi Life Cypher and Jehst, Melanin debuted on the UK scene in 2007, since releasing several successful mixtapes before finally delivering for us Magna Carta. The record opens with the instrumental “Gene of Isis” which lulls you into a dark place, before “Magna carta” and “Landslide” bring that classic 93 era boom bap, recalling Pete Rock and Black Moon, and getting your head seriously nodding.
“The 7 Blues” and its start-stop beat features a gorgeous vocal hook from Madame Pepper, giving Melanin 9 space to spin a story of urban poverty and showcase his street-level conscious rhymes and nuanced social commentary. In the same vein, the unusual “Colour Blind” is the loosest beat on the record, with its broken down time signature and free-flowing verses recalling Gil Scott Heron beat poetry.
“Cosmos” and “Love Stencil” keep the boom bap sound flowing, bass heavy, smooth and dripping with groove, whereas tracks like the hard hitting “Organised Democracy” are moody tirades against modern social ills. The problems facing the working classes of the modern UK seems to have not changed much from that of the late 80s, but there’s something eerily cyclical in Melanin 9’s style, something in the lyrics that gets to the pit of the stomach and makes your squirm in your seat.
The overall record recalls a solid early 90s vibe, mostly produced by Anatomy, with the occasionally more experimental track thrown in. The record’s style is consistently mellow and often dark, which can potentially make for an exhausting listen if you’re not in the right frame of mind, but if you’re prepared to switch on and engage with the lyrics there’s some really rewarding wordplay and tracks on show here.