Hip-hop has no shortage of redemption narratives. Bugzy maloneis ongoing. As recently as last year, the Manchester MC was charged with two counts of wounding – this, after many years passed boxing, rapping, then interim in the Guy Ritchie films in a great effort to put a difficult past behind him. The 30-year-old is still fierce enough to have been featured on the recent Tion Wayne and Russ Millions remix. Body, the first UK No. 1 for the fitness subgenre.
To this stuttering redemption song, Malone adds two more hooks. In the UK, grime and hip-hop have long focused on London. The “King of the North” was the first to put Manchester in dispute in 2015 with a milestone Fire in the cockpit freestyle radio. Manchester’s last child prodigy, Female dog, has climbed in the wake of the hard and dexterous flows of Malone.
What is more pertinent, however, is that last year Malone nearly died twice. Not from Covid: Riding a quad without a helmet at 70 mph, did a very large dent on the side of a car. As he tells it in a track called MEN III, woke up on the concrete with blood and feathers everywhere: his Moncler jacket had burst. Weeks later, in the hospital recovering from a brain hemorrhage, he felt a blood clot enter his lung.
So while it’s a bit portentous, and some of this album’s output is chock-full of scythe strings and opera choruses, Malone’s second studio album justifies its title. He knows that he has fooled the reaper a couple of times and that he can live his second (or third or fourth) life better than his first. More privileged people who have had similar brushes with death write memoirs about them. Reformed tough men from the rougher parts of the 0161 area code make extensive albums that invoke Vincent van Gogh and reference the Law of Attraction. This is one of the best, its vocals represent Malone’s hometown everywhere.
In these 15 tracks, he comes out swinging, processing, and taking on some responsibilities. Malone has a lot to say to the estranged family. Sometimes, as in the SaviorYou will admit you missed the excitement of life on the street or the Mini you used to drive. But the direction of travel is decidedly forward. “The Resurrection / Constantly working on my imperfections,” he murmurs in Skeletons, the candid closing track. He learns that he proposed to his girlfriend of nine years (“diamond bigger than a blueberry”).
Malone is fully prepared for the good times to come. Between The resurrectionThe hardest hits are parties like Ride Out and Bounce. There is a lot of talk about wheels, watches, “all rose gold”; the kind of luxury that works well internationally. More locally, he’s recommending the coconut shrimp at Harrods’ top-floor restaurant; on another party track, Notorious, Malone buries the ax with the North London rapper Chip, with whom he had a long feud. The main sample of Notorious by dancehall MC Turbulence is on point.
As predictable as some of these productions are – those strings, opera – some of this music catches you off guard with its excellence. Cold Nights in the 61 (produced by Blinkie) is made up of just three elements: Malone’s intense flow and two annoying and repetitive motifs, one a tinkling nerve, the other a deep, malevolent bass running through it.
But the gloomiest lows on this album are probably its highest highs. There are reasons the man born Aaron Davis turned out the way he did. You can’t really have too many reminders of the role of structural racism and the arrogant attitude of the authorities towards children affected by poverty, abuse and crime. Malone obeys with the stern, empathetic, angry Welcome to hood with Emeli Sandé. In Van Gogh Effect, he contrasts the progression of a normal family life to his own childhood, witnessing drug dealing and violent retaliation. “Can you be traumatized at five?” he asks rhetorically.
As he tells it, his mother was, at one point, a sex worker who used crack (“she made one of her clients my dad”), but she admits that she did everything she could for her son. Malone talks about his youth suicide attempts, first with a school tie, then with a razor on his wrist. He talks about shooting people, but hits “the posts” instead. If much of this is hard to hear, even rephrased as pop music, it must have been hell to live with. About Gods, he apologizes for being “a savage and a dog.” Perhaps this album should be presented to the next jury.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism