DOWNLOAD & REVIEW: Happy 2 Year – Malice & Mario Sweet

Click album cover for D/L link.

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.”

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A Brief Word About Clipse

Clipse

The dude Andrew Matson over at the Times has really outdone himself. Check out his interview with Pusha-T (one half of the rap group, Clipse). It’s long, sprawling, and utterly revealing — a well-sketched portrait of an interview of Mr. Terence Thornton.

Clipse are one of my favorite hip-hop groups. To me, a Clipse album release is always a major event. There’s something very particular within their brand of drug-rap that’s deeper and more complex than others.

Sure, the subject matter is no different than a lot of other so-called “Coke Rap”, but there is something else that sets Clipse apart, besides that they’re naturally more gifted emcees than most others. I think they succeed in injecting a certain pathos in their lyrics. Much like how great comedians pull from painful events in their pasts, Pusha-T and Malice extract a more complex drug-game ethos than other rappers with similar biographies.

When I listen to their music, I’m actually frightened. Not of the rappers themselves, but of what it means to the communities and people like the Thornton brothers who were (are?) blighted by the seeming necessity of drug dealing. Maybe its because we don’t typically see the brothers in photos at parties, hanging with Kanye or Pharrell on their yachts, that an extra dimension of realness is added. (Pusha-T actually touches on this very subject. He says they’ve never really participated in the glamour life that comes with being rap stars.) Or maybe it’s because they’re just so damn good at representing their true selves and histories on records.

I think most casual fans of hip-hop don’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to “Coke Rap”. There’s typically some dangerous glamorization of the drug-dealing lifestyle that’s done by a lot of rappers, either purposely or not. In reality, it’s not hard, even for someone never involved in the game, to say the lifestyle is really some truly ugly sh*t. Clipse do hip-hop fans all a favor by keeping it ugly, which is how it should be. Their greatness as artists is defined by the fact they never do it at the expense of making great music.

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