“My easel open’s vortexes, in cerebral cortex’s”
From the first look at the cover for the London MC’s new EP, it’s evident that Cyrus Malachi is approaching his music from a different direction. His choice to hit up Chicago-based abstract artist Marcellous Lovelace to create the vibrant, socially relevant cover art should come as no surprise given his previous lyrical allusions to the admiration of artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and writers like Chancellor Williams. Sonically he has expanded his palette to include new rhyme schemes and flow patterns, which at times border on the politically charged spoken word of originators like Gil-Scott Heron, who incidentally, is sampled on the EP’s inaugural track Melanite Children.
There aren’t many rappers who can start rhyming remedial with congenial as casually and unpretentiously as Cyrus Malachi. The simple piano loop and boom bap drums set the mood excellently, his bars delivered calmly against a more relaxed beat make for much easier listening than tracks like Brave New World or Contraband have in the past. On his last release Black Athena, he balanced the dense weight of his content with some slightly lighter beats, finding a formula that works well for both the casual and involved listener, and it’s one that pays off from it’s continuation on Melanite Children. Evil Ed’s cuts are well put together and add to the narrative well, his vocal chops drawing from the Premier school of chorus structure in a way that contributes towards the man’s legacy rather than being derivative of it. Lyrically Cyrus Malachi is as articulate and thematically diverse as ever, paraphrasing Black Star’s classic Respiration, painting vivid pictures of life in Britain’s inner cities, and expounding upon every aspect of the repressive society we live in; while keeping his roots firmly planted in the pre- eurocentric dynasties he draws inspiration from.
“To MC’s my verses are unretrievable, lost in the memory bank, the threat of an enemy shank, moving through the hood, paranoia. Zombie workforce, the beast is your employer. Non affordable housing, millionares browsing, while blacks are packed into tenements and derelict housing, poverty we drown in”.
From there the EP doesn’t stay in any one place for too long, Astro Blacksmith‘s production takes you through the different mental dwellings the Triple Darkness general resides in and writes from. Root Of Evil employs contrasting sounds to create a divergent sound. Earthy, wooden pipes linger over harsh, futuristic beats that crank and whir like cogs in the machine Cyrus Malachi’s venomous darts are aimed against. It’s a harsh slap back to reality after the misleadingly calm beginning, but one that isn’t without purpose; deriding obsession with money and the constant clamor for material wealth with clever wordplay and pertinent observations. “Paper idols, financial deities keep us stifled”.
The Reckoning continues the bleak barrage; and finds the self-styled street griot writing again from an unblinkered, prescient perspective that touches on the side of society that is most frequently mis-represented by the media. “Single parents in hysterics, cuz their child’s letting off pellets across the terrace, shred ya cabbage like lettuce. A Colonial collage of custodial bollards, burners turn your brain to fromage, to dead soldiers I pay homage.” In a minute and a half he drops more knowledge on a track than a lot of rappers do in a career; then without pausing for breath kicks into the Second half of the song, berating weak MC’s on a stripped back, echoing drum break; his tone resonating a far cry from the sombre lines he conveyed on the EP’s intro. When he says ‘I’m Mike Tyson at 19‘, you believe him, he sounds hungry, and at his best.
The overt seriousness and go-for-your-throat approach of the last two songs again mislead the listener into believing they can anticipate the direction Expressions will move next. Papaya flips things 180 as the EP turns another corner. Despite the change in mood offering a break from the verbal assault and dark subject matter; after mentally occupying yourself with societal ills for the previous three tracks it is difficult to fully get into the ‘life’s a carousel‘ refrain of the chorus and the glitzy, sunshine vibes that the beat brings, but it’s still exciting in it’s bold difference. The experimentation is taken back to a murkier place through jazzy cymbal swells and spacious musical landscapes on the EP’s epilogue Solomon’s Temple 2. The original provided the swan song on his classic Ancient Future album, and was a head-mangling concoction of esoteric ideas that I am still yet to fully digest. The sequel is as arcane; and without a basic grasp of the content, is hard to decipher. If you were inclined to take the last minute of the song, and after each subject or name he mentions, pause it, and go and look up the ideas being put forth; I guarantee you’d lose a month. His critical eye moves though centuries, discussing global politics, astrological alignment, the underbelly of the music industry, and the diasporic status of a people that once ruled continents. His words are important in their scope and message, whether to serve as an introduction to critical thinking or as an accompaniment to someone already delving into any of the topics being discussed.
Ultimately Expressions is an insight into global politics and world history that other MC’s are incapable of delivering. Once again the new Cyrus Malachi is akin to being presented with a well written, comprehensive lecture on the state of the world from an alternative perspective; but in under 20 minutes, with some seriously accomplished rhyming, ill beats, and enjoyable songs.
Buy it for just £3 here.