This article was published in Faithfully Magazine No. 2 (Summer 2017).
Released in late May, Mali Music’s fourth studio album may be his best. After years of trying to find his place in both the gospel and R&B genres, Mali has finally hit his sweet spot. The Transition of Mali is a 12-track album that hits all the complexities of the day-to-day life, including songs about love, pride, and God. Mali also brought in some big names to work with him on this sonically and lyrically impressive album (“Loved by You” featuring Jazmine Sullivan and “Contradiction” featuring Jhene Aiko). The Transition of Mali is an early candidate for one of our top albums of the year.
Over the last few years, the lines that once defined hip-hop and R&B have begun to blend, and Montell Fish music provides the perfect example. Fish, 18, is one of music’s rawest young talents. On his Bedroom Gospel EP, Fish sings praises to Christ over silky smooth R&B. Although similar to the sounds of Raury and John Givez, Fish’s work has been gaining momentum due to his unique flavor.
Few people have done as much behind-the-scenes work in the Christian hip-hop lane as Swoope. Between producing and working with Lecrae, KB and other artists, Swoope somehow finds time to write his own bars, and they never fall short. On his new single “All the Time,” the Akron, Ohio, native focuses on the goodness of Christ and takes joy in the small things. He flexes the blessings in his life over a trap beat and vocal sample. It has been three years since Swoope last delivered an album and “All the Time” is an exciting taste of possibly what is to come.
Taelor Gray is low-key one of my favorite rappers. Pastor and brother to Christon Gray, Taelor Gray does not let his ministry or his brother’s stardom keep him from making his own dope music. In the Way of Me is one of two projects Gray has released this year, with the other being exclusive to his “dedicated” fans. This album showcases Gray’s talent as a rapper and storyteller. He wades through tales of his college days, of reckoning with his Blackness and keeping the faith in the era of Black Lives Matter. Gray is a true talent who is open about his faith and delivers incredibly heavy bars over understated. Be sure to add this one to your queue.
Magic and Bird has been one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Fresh off an exciting NBA season (and a memorable off-season, as well), Mineo and Wordsplayed seek to shoot their shot with this collaboration project and a tour this fall. Before dropping the full album in August, the duo gave us three singles: “Dunk Contest (Magic & Bird),” “KIDZ” and “Lay Up,” which are all full of energy. In the vein of duos like Mos Def and Talib Kweli and JAY-Z and Kanye West, these two New York natives trade verses and hooks over trapped-out beats produced by the likes of BEAM and Alex Medina. Keep an eye out for Mineo and Wordsplayed’s tour with Social Club Misfits this fall.