Hip-hop is a real beast to tackle. While it can be volatile at times, it does have one of the most inviting underground scenes of any genre out there. The smaller acts of hip-hop really make the genre shine and help it remain fresh when on the surface things may seem stale.
The third record from Austin, Texas-based MALIK gives the underground scene of hip-hop a new fresh blast of soulfulness. The Awakening rings with a lot of different textures throughout its playtime, providing for a constantly evolving record as well as a very unique and refreshing listen.
The album starts off on a very relaxing note. ‘Free’ introduces the record, the ambient sounds of nature and a lo-fi, easter strum lightly sweeps over the noises of birds and rustling leaves. MALIK kicks in smoothly, his flow calm and collected. A chilled back piano and bass soon kick in as harmonies build up for a brief moment of excitement, the beat following suit behind. It’s this sense of progression that really sets a core foundation for the record and makes it sound so fresh all throughout its time. Many moments on the record have a similar chill vibe as ‘Free,’ most notably ‘Wolves’ towards the end of the record featuring Hailey Orion. This track has a darker tone to it, the synths pounding lightly but with urgency. The choruses have a much bigger and distorted sound with them, as well. A female voice croons above the track to provide a different side to the story as well as giving the track some more drama. The drama of the chorus falls into a sweet, quiet plucked string section, Orion providing, even more, emotion and drama to the track.
The Awakening isn’t all about the dark drama, however. There is a much more hip-hop oriented side to the record. ‘Truth’ follows up ‘Free’ at the start of the record, bringing the momentum back up after a short synth intro. A stronger beat carries this track, MALIK’s sweet flow really soaring smoothly above the punchy instrumental. Hailey Orion features on this track as well, providing some nice textures with her voice acting under MALIK’s. ‘Kaa’s Song’ rings very strongly, too, it’s intro starting off ominously as MALIK delves into a more standard hip-hop track. The song starts off pretty standardly, but it slowly becomes more and more cool, the delivery of the track becoming sharp and pronounced. There’s a swagger in this track that simply can’t be contested with by any other track – this is another prime example of how this album has distinct progression acting within each track that really helps keep the momentum and flow going.
There is definitely a struggle in The Awakening and MALIK’s lyrics. You can tell in his delivery that he has a distinct conviction. ‘Open Season,’ which doubles as a second part of ‘Kaa’s Song,’ has a chill and dreamy instrumental, but MALIK’s delivery is very swift and confident as if this is something that was brewing within him for a long time. There’s desperation evident in ‘Alone,’ while songs like ‘Snakes’ ring with more of a self-empowering sense.
MALIK is proof in and of himself that the underground scene of hip-hop is one of the most interesting and alive scenes out there. The Awakening is fresh and unique, barely losing any momentum or quality as it goes on; less can be said of some of the latest albums from bigger artists. MALIK is a shining example that hip-hop will never die; the flagbearers burn powerfully.
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