M9 - Magna Carta (Album Review)

Monday, 14 January 2013 Written by Jonny Rimmer
M9 - Magna Carta (Album Review)

There are significant changes afoot in the world of UK hip hop. With grime is on the way out, and its established heads like Wiley and Dizzee Rascal moving towards poppy pastures new, hip hop is again gaining popularity in cities all over the UK. The battle scene is also making waves with Don't Flop boasting now one of the biggest battle-league fanbases on the planet. Most tangibly though, there is a real sense that hip hop is now a real voice for young people seeking change – see the recently retired Lowkey and Logic's 'People's Army'; M9 also fits this mould.

ImageHowever, one cannot stress enough just how much of a neglected accomplishment Magna Carta is. For starters, it sounds very little like a British album at all, snubbing garage for the sort of slow, meditative beats that you'd find on 90s noir records like Mobb Deep's The Infamous. And the mood it establishes is gorgeous, with jazzy trumpets, saxophone and piano samples forming the backdrop to M9's bleak urban narratives. Even though there are several different producers here, all of them match M9's vision, tailoring their ideas to the MC's aesthetic vision.

M9's rapping abilities are still the most impressive element though. His flow is perfect, reeling off multi-syllabic verses and complex, purposeful choruses (see 'Cosmos') with unbelievable ease. His rhymes are tight, fast and unrelenting, but the mood sucks you in in a way that you just have to hit the replay button. There are no slip-ups, no dodgy metaphors or half-baked ideas – just evocative tracks that are still regularly identifiable in their own way.

There are a few cases where he creates tracks that deserve to be remembered as classics – 'Red Snow' has the most gorgeously eerie beat on the record, fitting perfectly with his street-influenced lyrics; 'The 7 Blues' is a slow-burner with fantastic imagery (“A seismic myriad of emotion, Like the unremitting vigorous waves in the ocean…”); and 'Organised Democracy' has the biggest hook on the album in “has freedom got a shotgun?”, as he decries the notion of being free in this “police state” in a breathless and absorbing manner.

The lack of hooks is perhaps one of the only a few things holding Magna Carta back from being an undisputed masterpiece. The nature of M9's style, both rapid and multi-layered, means that there are points where pause and reflection is needed – listeners will either love or hate 'Colour Blind', an example of the sort of “over-rapping” that we hear from the likes of EL-P and Aesop Rock - his verbosities go well and truly into overdrive.

Whereas the likes of Kendrick Lamar are pushing forward hip hop over in the US, underground rappers like M9 are re-kindling the old school sound in order to evolve British hip hop into a real movement. If albums this good continue to drop, maybe even the mainstream will have to sit up and take notice.

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