Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Muja Messiah - Thee Adventures of a B-Boy D-Boy

Muja Messiah
Thee Adventures of a B-Boy D-Boy
Grade: B+

Download: Muja Messiah - "Give it Up" (feat. Black Thought) (via Nah Right)

Of all the genres of music to explore what happens when pure-hearted ambition becomes malignant greed, rap is the most likely to not delivering this message. After all, life ain't nothing but bitches and money, right? Judging by the prideful boasts of "Intro", the, um, first track from Muja Messiah's second solo album, Thee Adventures of a D-Boy B-Boy, a listener couldn't be blamed for thinking that Mu subscribed to NWA's joie de vivre. That said, any fool with ears can, and should, be able to tell that Messiah has more than money and ladies on his mind. (Indeed, Muja himself says so directly on "Pretty Gurl").

Incendiary tracks like "Patriot Act" and "Give It Up" (the latter of which features a guest spot from The Roots' Black Thought) showcase Muja Messiah caustic, brutally funny sense of humor, as well as his gift for pointing out the absurdity and hypocrisy of American life post-9/11. Muja's summation of the World Wars, as well as slavery, in "Give It Up" is one of the album's highlights, and one of numerous examples of his thought-provoking lyrical talent. That said, the man loves conspicuously consuming, a trait that he shares with the politicians he rightfully lambasts on "Act".

The dichotomy between radical political thought and mainstream materialism is nothing new in hip-hop (indeed, Tupac based his whole career on it). However, when you constantly deliver the goods like Muja Messiah does, particularly during B-Boy's scorching opening numbers ("MadNess", "What's This World Coming To", featuring Slug of Atmosphere), it's hard to care about any supposed inconsistencies. Furthermore, Messiah's ability with contrasts is what drives him to experiment with different styles of hip-hop on Thee Adventures... (the backpacker groove of "World"; classic-rock sampling of "MadNess"; and the "Forgot about Dre"-esque bounce and rapid-fire flow of "B-Boy D-Boy"). Given that amount of diversity, it's remarkable how consistent and engaging Thee Adventures... is.

But while there's not a bad track on the record, some are certainly better than others. Messiah is at his best when he's using songs to accompany the DVD of his own life, and not when he's trying to providing background music to someone else's. Tracks like "So Far, So Good" and "Growing Pains" shine because of the specifics in the autobiographical details. However, songs like "Beautiful" (featuring Samahra of Black Blondie) and "Fatal Attraction", which contains a hot verse from Nina, suffer because of a dearth of them. Additionally, those later songs lack the originality that Muja Messiah often displays in short, quirky bursts. ("Niggativity", inspired by a real-life incident, is a creative, funny album highlight, and a rare hip-hop skit that works).

In other words, if you've been listening to top-40 radio this decade, you've already heard these songs. Still, a hook is a hook, and both "Beautiful" and "Fatal Attraction" have pretty good ones. Come to think of it, so does the rest of Thee Adventures.... It's too early to tell whether or not Messiah will lead hip-hop fans to the promised land. But, like fellow egotist Kanye West, the talk is more than backed up with the walk. Originality is indeed far more invigorating than imitation, and, more often than not, so is Muja Messiah.

(Jonathan Graef)

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