When the Clipse was at its pinnacle, there never was a clear star of the duo. The two brothers reflected off of one another, and their chemistry helped elevate the group among the most popular rap outfits of the mid-2000s. It may seem strange that when the group fizzled out and the artists turned to solo careers, Pusha T leapt miles ahead of Malice in the eye of the fan. Was it that Pusha T was the more witty lyricist? Could it be because of Pusha T’s more aggressive delivery? Was Pusha simply the more marketable?
The answer is that Pusha T wanted it. You see, the artist formerly known as Malice is a changed man. He found God, added a “No” in front of his rap moniker, and decided he no longer would spread the illusions of drug dealing luxuries in his lyrics. This change in heart lead to the demise of the Clipse and the lack of interest in rap for No Malice. While the rap world waited patiently on Pusha T’s continually delayed debut solo album, No Malice snuck up and released his own solo effort before his brother.
The problem remains; No Malice’s heart just isn’t in the rap game. He wants to use Hear Ye Him to spread his story and leave a positive message for the listeners. This comes at the expense of the music. He earned a reputation as a lyricist, and while his talent still shows, Hear Ye Him can’t avoid a drought of boredom.
No Malice can’t be criticized for having nothing to say. Every song has a topic and a purpose, barren of any rambling or tough guy talk. No Malice uses biblical characters as metaphors for his own life and even advises his nephew against entering the rap game and falling victim to the American Dream. While his thoughts are worth hearing, No Malice simply can’t dodge the plagues that so often hinder the replayability of overtly conscious hip-hop.
Given the subject matter, it’s almost impossible to imagine No Malice not sounding preachy. The typically explicit and rebellious nature of hip-hop doesn’t lend itself to a Christian theme easily. It sounds awkward when No Malice borrows flows from rappers with such contradicting subject matters and turns it into a Sunday Sermon. Lines like “YOLO? You only live once if you choose to” are thoughtful at heart but leave the listener cringing more often than not.
No Malice doesn’t care so much what the public thinks of his music. Unlike his brother, No Malice isn’t trying to be a star or receive a gold plaque. Hear Ye Him is about getting a message out. However, this causes the album to suffer as a musical product. The low budget production won’t leave any lasting impressions. Chad Hugo reunites with No Malice for the finale “No Time”, providing one of the better beats. As it stands, none of these songs pop out as something memorable. They hold interesting tales, but don’t make for songs that you’ll want to come back to. Pusha T’s feature on “Shame the Devil” helps bring out a side of No Malice that is absent for much of the album, but it’s a small highlight in a mix of middling material.
No one was expecting No Malice to come and drop a classic. In fact, many weren’t even expecting No Malice to drop a solo album. Hear Ye Him is a result of a rapper who has gone through a major transformation in his life, but doesn’t quite know how to leave the industry behind. He still has a story to convey and wants to reach fans in the easiest way he knows is possible. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do it in a way that is still fun to listen to. His ideas would’ve been better suited for the pages of a biography or on the screen in a documentary.
// Notes from the Road
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