Successfully branding yourself as an outcast is definitely easier said than done. The risk of alienating or positioning the music to speak to particular demographics opposed to rapping from a general standpoint to herd more fans in is simply one record labels can’t afford to take in this day and age. As a direct consequence, they run a congruent risk of producing multiple clones in every genre. Thankfully, everyone isn’t afraid to roll the dice and it is with such precise gambling techniques does the tenacious duo of Malcolm & Martin make the house rules with producer DJ Revolution on their debut album Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.
Giving new definitions to the term “freedom writers,” Kb Imean and Styliztik Jones impressively deliver gritty street philosophies to mold the layout of their general concourse. While neither officially lay claim to one respective activist over the other, the ambiguity of the matter allows for an influential blend of brainy raps and enjoyable Hip-Hop. Straightforward in their approach with nearly practically deadpan deliveries, the duo spark whiplash responsiveness with their lead single, “Movement Music.” A grand assortment of Marco Polo’s bells and whistles makes a convincing platform for “raised fists” and plenty reason to throw your Top 40 radio out the window. Life’s topical consistency harks back to an era where the music could be absorbed for tidbits of empowerment and the Malc-N-Mart combo masterfully practice the art of preaching without being preachy.
While there are doses of perseverance in abundance like the serene “Win Or Lose” and “Against The Wall,” which both use soul sampling of the third kind, mixed with conflicting tales of poverty and optimism, the slick-tongued mortals aren’t just active in the classroom of life. Alongside guest Torae, the troupe put on the stone face for the extermination of sissies on “Bare Witness” and link up with Bambu and Apakalips to mix black and brown like The Godfather of Soul for “Heritage,” an insightful parable that lives up to its name tenfold.
DJ Revolution does more than lend his namesake to the project’s cover as well. Providing all but the aforementioned “Movement Music” with its retrospective soundtrack, Rev’s contributions keep the transitioning at a steady pace, almost mixtape-like with each expressive vibe feeding off one another for a fluid product. His instrumental placeholder, “Do It Again (Rev’s Groove),” is a prime example of such as it acts as an quantum shift while the duo readies another round of schooling.
The only hiccup in The Brothers M’s civil right movement is their systematic approach of continuing the revolt instead of inspiring one (i.e. the impact of Public Enemy or dead prez comes to mind). While most of the offerings on Life Doesn’t Frighten Me are pretty stellar, a respective “Fight The Power” or “Hip-Hop” could have really set this disc off. The taboo reach at branching out on “Sista Big Butt”—which lazily samples the heavily remembered “Mr. Big Stuff”—does nothing for the cause, either. Minor flaws aside, Malcolm & Martin embrace reality instead of allowing themselves to be scared into sounding like everybody else. All industry bogeymen be damned.