Melanin 9: Magna Carta
It is impossible to look at the cover of Melanin 9‘s new album Magna Carta and not think of the Roots‘ Phrenology. The use of such similar cover image stands in stark contrast to what the two albums represent. The Roots’ Phrenology at the time of its 2002 release was hailed as bravely pushing hip hop forward into the future, while Melanin 9’s Magna Carta seems to want to push hip hop backwards to 2002 and before.
Truthfully, Melanin 9’s sound would probably be best suited in the mid-90s. His raw, hard-hitting hip hop beats sounds like they could be on the cutting room floor of Nas‘ Illmatic. “Landslide” features treble-y drums under “low pass” brass augmented by harp hits. When not embracing the jarring raw drum sound, Magna Carta slips into R&B-tinged production similar to Notorious B.I.G.‘s “Juicy.”
Like Nas and Notorious B.I.G., Melanin 9’s lyrical content deals with his city. Unlike Nas and Notorious B.I.G., Melanin 9’s city is North London. The album can work as an illuminating script for those who only imagine royal palaces and large clock towers when they hear “London.” “Heartless Island” shows Melanin 9 as a highly literate rapper as he references “House of Flying Daggers” in the same breath as soliloquies. In the track, he describes “streets crawling with addicts” and people willing to murder to “stack chips.” Unfortunately, his storytelling gets a little muddled with incessant braggadocio which seems like a crutch more than a necessity in the track.
Like “Heartles Island,” the album as a whole feels a bit muddled. Because of the consistency in production, tracks blend into one another creating a dark tapestry of hood tales and braggadocio. While the reporting on the goings on in London’s murky underground is enthralling, it gets too bogged down with filler content to work as a cohesive story. In the end, it makes the album only mediocre.
MP3: Melanin 9 “Landslide”