Malice and Mario Sweet’s Happy 2 Year EP is a giant leap forward for Seattle R&B/soul music.
R&B is a genre that is criminally underrepresented when compared to The Town’s other musical excursions. Not to say that its few agents aren’t worthy of praise (Choklate, JusMoni and Isabella Du Graf, here’s looking at you), but for a city that’s shown an incredible wealth of untapped talent in hip-hop, it’s curious that the R&B set has stayed relatively dormant.
Allusions to Happy 2 Year were made in late December when Mario dropped the album’s first single, “Speed Of Light” in the 206UP.COM Inbox. A cursory listen left a minimal impression on me, though the perfect harmonizing between Mario and Malice (partners in music and life) immediately stood out. Admittedly, I’m guilty of not giving this track its proper shine, because repeated listenings have revealed it to be so much more than the brief Inbox interlude I first took it for. There are complex layers of rhythm and vocal pacing here, and a perceptible level of care and intention in the song’s creation that can only be evidence of an ethereal bond shared by the two artists responsible.
Further, when you consider “Speed Of Light” in context with the rest of the EP, an even greater understanding of the album’s import is revealed. H2Y is not only a reciprocation of love between Mario and Malice, it’s a love letter to a few decades’ worth of R&B/soul artists. From the late 80’s/early 90’s R&B vibe of “DateNight” to the new school “world music” (I hate that term but I’m using it here for lack of a better one) inflections of “Happiness” (which features a rapping [!!!] Choklate), to the highly danceable post-Prince funk of “Living Life” (where a few brief guest bars are delivered by Geo of Blue Scholars, who sounds curiously comfortable amidst the tracks’ radio-readiness).
Ironically, though, the best moments on H2Y are when Malice and Mario are left to their own solo departures: the adequately titled, “Malice” and “Mario.” “Speed Of Light” wasn’t a prime example of what either singer could accomplish vocally, but their self-titled individual tracks solve that mystery. “Malice” charms with the confidence of a songbird who’s been flying like this for years, just waiting for strange ears to attend. Producer 10.4 Rog builds the perfect track for her with his airy Dilla-esque vista. “Mario,” on the other hand, only gives the listener a brief glimpse into what informs the duo’s masculine half. Images of Donny Hathaway, Smokey Robinson and Maxwell are conjured (how’s that for fair company?) in a track that lasts less than ninety seconds. Here’s hoping Mario indulges his expert falsetto again later (and more fully) over the same Roy Ayers instrumental.
Like the best-thrown anniversary parties, the occasion for love’s celebration between two people can be enjoyed not only by the lovers themselves, but by those that the couple allow into their midst. With Happy 2 Year, Malice and Mario Sweet have thrown a musical anniversary party and we (the listeners) are the honored beneficiaries. And as it is with the refined brands of champagne and decadent cake at such affairs, we are left exclaiming, “More please!”
Download a FREE copy of Happy 2 Year here, for a limited time only. Below is the music video for “Speed Of Light.”