And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him…
-Matthew 4: 19
Like Saul of Tarsus, Gene Thornton was struck by Divine Will. As Saul became Paul and took up his mission, so did Malice, one half of the legendary Clipse, become No Malice and took up his journey to save the souls of rap folk. His debut solo album, Here Ye Him stands as his first testament to his conversion and is delivered with both conviction and an authenticity that separates it from Christian rap as well as the conventional fare that is contemporary rap.
Thornton delivers his sermons from a redemptive point of view and does not shy away from his former subject matter, nor does he condemn his former cohorts. Hear Ye Him even features Ab Liva, who shines on album opener Smoke & Mirrors and brother Pusha T who reignites that classic Clipse chemistry on Shame the Devil.
No Malice is genuinely interested in walking the path of the righteous and lays bare all of his faults, even apologizing to his wife on wax for his former wilding ways. He mentions his former drug dealing days, not in aggrandizement, but to illuminate how far he has come from that starting point. He is keenly aware of his brothers continuing journey in Hip-Hop and his quest for fame and fortune but does not condemn him for it. It’s the life that they once fought hard for together. But No Malice is keenly aware of that juxtaposition, particularly when he managed to drop his solo project first.
All this sentiment is well and good, but is the music meritorious? Yeah. It is. There’s nothing corny about this album, a feat which admittedly was very difficult given the tightrope walk between maintaining that authenticity or pulling a Pastor Ma$e and trying to thug from the pulpit. There are no mixed messages or agnostic deliveries. Themes of salvation through Christ and service to God are first and foremost.
There are some lively notes to the album despite its heavy topic. June, with its Frank Sinatra like chorus and upbeat organ work is genial but not corny, while I’m Different has a bit of that Manny Fresh like bounce that could even find its way to radio. Title track Here Ye Him, with its pounding piano tinkling and blaring horns raise the energy level to crushing heights.
No Malice mends fences and sets the record straight concerning any perceived issues with Pharell, The Re-Up and brother Terrance on Still Got Love. A solid hook by crooner Ishod and some good production allow No Malice to share how he feels and what his intentions are. To Pusha, he rhymes:
I had to break apart to honor Who is above us, but you should take heart in knowing I got you covered
I see you in the public, now how can I not love it, we fought for this life and now you’re making something of it
But check it little brother the one thing that I discovered, them riches we were lusting, count them all as rubbish
Is Hear Ye Him the greatest rap album ever? Not by any means. The old man interludes can be cumbersome and there are overly dramatic notes like Bury That that sacrifice some of Mon Malice’s fluidity for the sake of over-singing and Bow Down No Mo’ is a bit too trappish. That said, I commend No Malice for dropping an album that uplifts from the gutter rather than upbraids from the pulpit. The Lord said be fishers of men. No Malice has cast his rod in the world of Hip-Hop and the bait is solid.
Out of 5
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