Friday, June 19, 2009

A Glimpse into the Right Brain of a Smart Chick: Album Review of "Revenge of the Smart Chicks: Ambitious Gods"

Download Ambitious Gods

Overall GPA: 2.65, B-

Category I: Artistry (B-)
Reflects the artist’s creative hustle, just what sets them a part from others in the genre? Is there swag just a mirror image of someone else’s or has it been cultivated to a level of authenticity.

Category II: Wordplay (C+)
Here’s our version of your language arts courses, there’s intro to advanced. We’re looking at lyricism--diction, delivery, and depth. Emcees with empty phrases get recycled like abandoned boxes, but the ones with substance speak for themselves.

Category III: Beat Chemistry (B+)
Remember that chemistry lab with where you and your lab partner did your best to create some winning concoction? We liken that to music production, minus the Bunsen burners, of course. The Glass House knows that production is more than beat game, more than mixing, and producing involvement varies per producer, so this is how we sum up the science for listeners.

Category IV: Relativity Factor (C+)
This category serves as the official Glass House “it” factor. Does the artist rebel against its genre and fan’s expectations? The Glass House aims to reach a broad range of young listeners who may fall into varying social demographics but who are all looking for something that or someone who relates to them yet challenges typical social aesthetics. Artists who score high in this category attract more than the typical audience, but reach into the nooks and crevices of society to capture indie, pop, hip hop purists, etc.

If you ever get to meet Carolyn Malachi in person, you’ll understand what is meant by her album not only being an open invitation for self exploration, but also a bridge through which others can connect. Revenge of the Smart Chicks II: Ambitious Gods, is an extension of Malachi’s intellect, perspective, and mission statement of the non-profit she started (Smart Chicks Inc.). Malachi manages to channel the Smart Chicks mentality into her music, thus producing an eleven track compilation that bellows out empowerment and the liberation of creativity. Mixed with song, rap, and spoken word the listener can absorb Malachi’s musings through several different avenues. The common thread in all three is Malachi’s strength as a writer, take “Palm of the Creator (A Satire),” a duet with Courtney Dowe. She’s able to approach provocative topics such as interracial dating (e.g. black men and white women) with an insight that’s not only disarming, but inviting. The Wordplay doesn’t stop there, but spills over into “Walkin’.” In this track, witty diction with depth laced with a sustaining beat catches the ears of “on-listeners.” While lyricism is of value, the album could be improved in delivery especially in tracks that are delivered through rapping. Though the lyrics in “Walkin’” deliver depth, there’s something about the exhibition that feels forced.

However, in the vocal arena, Malachi has the beginnings of a memorable sound and when she takes risks, letting her voice explode into a melody, like in “Supernova,” listeners can fully appreciate Malachi as a natural singer. “Supernova” embodies a house-like blend of jazz and drums that suits Malachi’s jazzy vocal style. “Needles” is also supportive of Malachi’s approach to singing, contributing a smokiness surrounded by modernized 50’s technique with production. Thus, making this song one of the stronger tracks on Ambitious Gods.

Speaking of production, in the Beat Chemistry department, this artist works hard to offer the listener several different sounds—you’ll find acoustic, A cappella, and light drum and bass. Production was taken care of mostly by Malachi herself, and with the help of J. House, J.Collins. The musicians on the album were Ken Bussey (guitar), Matt Lewis (bass), and Danny Tait (Drums, percussion). The track, “Walkin’” is just but one example of Malachi’s production skills, combining percussion and samples to create hooks that echo the tone of the song. With all of these different types of sound, an artist runs the risk of an album lacking cohesiveness. Though Ambitious Gods produces strong individual songs, the album didn’t connect in a way that allowed the listener to flow with the artist a lot of the time.

The strengths of this album lie in its creative efforts. Creativity wears many faces, and upon Carolyn Malachi’s it’s the root of her artistry. Listeners, you’ve not heard the last of Malachi in your digital players and your communities. Keep your ears and eyes, open for Smart Chicks because they are the ones that rule the world.

Keepin’ the cursor blinking and the pen bleeding…

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