The dark, yet catchy introduction on the first LP from Melanin 9, also known as M9, sets the tone for this powerful yet chilled piece of work; early tracks such as Landslide and The 7 Blues (Ft. Madame Pepper) are lyrically reminiscent of old school classics from Nas or Wu Tang Clan, with backing tracks similar to that of Notorious B.I.G.
Don’t mistake M9 for another rapper who ignorantly spits about drugs and guns either, the talent he has with words is extremely impressive. He paints a picture in the mind’s eye; there is a lot of wordplay revolving around meaningful subjects: on Cosmos for example, topics such as heritage and oppression of today’s youth in the educational system are brought up, giving the audience a lot to listen to and think about. The poetry behind controversial topics like this go hand in hand with the gorgeous jazzy trumpets, saxophone and piano samples that build up the majority of the backing tracks.
Something else worth considering is the fact that this is UK Hip Hop, something that brass and string instruments are not usually associated with. Today’s raw and aggressive style of spitting in the UK is substituted with a more American 90’s noir feel, evocative of classic albums such as Mobb Deep’s The Infamous. The highlight of Magna Carta for me was Organised Democracy, which takes a deep look into the way law enforcement works and delivers powerful lines such as ‘has freedom got a shotgun?’, before going into an almost tribal, animalistic display of M9’s lyrical prowess at the end of the track.
While up and coming American rappers such as A$AP Rocky or Drake are pushing ‘Hip Hop’ over in the US, I really get the impression that sensations such as M9 are embracing the old school American sound to evolve UK Hip Hop into a real movement. Magna Carta is embedded with hyper-visual lyricism, dark soundscapes, gritty narratives, and hard beats, and really gives the impression that Melanin 9 is out to spread knowledge.