Malkovich Music
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Malkovich Music

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A bit skeptical when C. Frank
gave me this album to review,
ooh how quickly those thoughts
changed. Listening to this album
reminds me of hip-hop of old
with sound so pure and lyrics that
actually means something, and
of course every album has some
tracks that don‘t cut it, to say
that, I skipped maybe one track.
Skeletons for the most part is
again a good album and not one
to be slept on. I now have a new
album in heavy rotation in my
boom box, yes boom box.
- Catalyst Magazine


One day, while minding my own business on BA's studio couch, I hear these dope beats and lyrics booming from the speakers. I rudely interrupt BA's Reese's Puffs meal and ask, "Who is this? Hook me up!" With a mouthful of puffs, he plainly responds, "Malkovich Music's album 'Skeletons'." All I can say is that I was hooked.
As an integral part of Los Angeles underground spectacle Gershwin B.L.X., who has come out with albums such as "VocabuDrabs Sessions," "Sunch Punch," and "Vegans Want Beef Vol 1," its co-founder Crag Malkovich, embarks on a new endeavor with his own creation of "Skeletons," produced by Nocturnal Ron, Earganic, ABCDEFG, DJ Obi, and DJ Noble. Crag Malkovich began his journey in 1995 as part of Gershwin B.L.X, which is also comprised of MOLMan, Omnipresent, Sklim Milx, ABCDEFG and DJ See Brown, under the independent record label Bassline Xcursions. Malkovich also stands to be a part of the L.A. collective Halifax All-Stars, but proves that B.L.X. will always be his first passion.
Since BA's last interview with Crag Malkovich in 2003 (refer to the "Crew and Solo Artist Interviews" Section), countless music has been created and formed to only increase the ranks of Malkovich and Gershwin B.L.X. Encompassing a vast array of styles and raw technique that the crew brings forth with every album, Malkovich has remained a true element of B.L.X who has opened for unsurpassed acts such as two of my favorite Bay Area crews, Hieroglyphics and Living Legends. Featured in many EP's, LP's, tracks, albums, and you name it, Malkovich continues to ascend as an emcee, both musically and lyrically.
As the maker of Malkovich Music, Malkovich brings sounds to elevate minds with the sixteen track album "Skeletons," which features artists such as Sklim Milx, Universal, and Ali Abnormal. Trying to achieve a resonance that strays away from the norm, this album clearly reaches this goal. Gershwin B.L.X has been known to generate tracks that "change the sound of hip hop" as quoted in BA's 2003 interview, bringing forth an integration of traditional hip hop, with a touch of conceptual tones to bring it up to date. "Skeletons" versatile tracks exude a variety of flavor, with an overall jazzy, eclectic, abstract quality.
The third track from the album, "Old Soul," was on repeat in my car for the duration of my trip back home immediately after receiving the album. The beat was amazing by far as it built up sound by sound, first with an organ tone, then deep drums, and a hint of a trumpet, until the forceful lyrics dropped as he shows, "This is for the old souls, the solo is all we know souls...Things keep changing and I'll rearrange with them." Like many tracks, here he shows the realness in his everyday existence and what is taken for granted most: life and those souls who have made their mark. It's clear that Malkovich provides life situations as the premise to most tracks, but only makes his music that much more realistic and relatable. Malkovich's rhythm and voice is first-rate in all tracks, remaining clear and concise with each word. Alongside the impressive tracklist, a few tracks provide jazzy, abstract instrumentals that put you in a relaxing state of my mind, as he tops it off with track eight's Malkovich Theme "Skeletons," professing that "Life is so strange."
As a female, I was actually pleasantly surprised to see tracks that conveyed a small glimpse into Malkovich's sentiment towards women. In my experience with underground hip hop, I would have to admit that lyrically, Malkovich is on point with his emcee abilities to generate tracks that tell a defined story and meaning. As a poet, myself, his work seems to fit that poetic cadence that flows in a clear path as he shows in track 10's "To B. or Not To B.":
"Nightimes when I see the memories best
I see them all the time nights when they manifest
I lay in bed as they invade my head
It's so real I can almost feel your flesh
Our lips locked as our fingers meshed
I kissed your breasts like they were the last food on earth left
I stayed up while you slept
To listen to your breath
And I heard the sounds of drums comin' from my chest..."

There's no question that this album should be snatched up. From beginning to end, I was involved in every track. Simple beats, yet complex in it's own way, supplied by Malkovich's clear-cut, refined lyrical content, keeps his musical movement at the crux of Cali's outlook of a more spiritual, message-giving character. I will not be surprised to see Crag Malkovich with Gershwin B.L.X. climbing the ladder in the best of underground hip hop, without fear in showing the bare minimum of their "Skeletons."

Reviewed by: susiq (aka SusiQ) - bastardartist.com


West L.A.’s Malkovich, originally from the controversial rap group Gershwin BLX, follows up his acclaimed debut Skeletons from 2006 with the very inventive release Bankruptcy. Based on the five track teaser released by Malkovich’s PR firm, Bankruptcy doesn’t hold itself to a single style. On “Prohibition” Malkovich conjures up the early sounds off Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the 36 Chambers, while “The Jerk” and “Dictator of Love” are more in the arena of lighter storytelling fare. But the album’s most curious track is definitely “Iran So Far Away,” a song that sounds like an offbeat rap song best suited for an Annette Funicello surfer movie remake starring Carmen Electra. Blending contemporary hip-hop with a heavy dose of ’90s nostalgia, Bankruptcy promises to be a hot rap album for 2009. - southcoast247.com


It takes balls to open a rap record with a mostly sung remake of Flock of Seagull's "I Ran." Even when reworked into "Iran So Far Away," an ode to the immigrant to American struggle of Malkovich's family performed in a faux-middle eastern accent, the fact remains that it's the kind of left field introduction that might leave most hip hop heads scratching theirs. While it isn't the best sonic representation of James Malkovich as a rapper it encompasses the "this is who I am, fuck you" vibe that rises "Bankruptcy" above the rest of the pack.

Malkovich started out as part of the underground Gershwin BLX crew in LA during the late 90's and the manic acid tongue word play of that group remain alive on his current material. Songs like "Prohibition" show off a cocky yet passionate lyrical technique that makes for a snotty punk attitude without crossing into gangsta tough guy clichés.

"Fuck live bands and mic stands
I'll rock the same loop 20 minutes
left hand holding a Guinness
Get with us Saints and Sinners"

Everything from the Wu-Tang worthy sparse 70's movie soundtrack samples and snare production, to the seeming anger of the Malkovich's delivery would insinuate a more violent record than "Bankruptcy" actually delivers. Indeed this record is about as close as Acid rap aggression and Backpack rap lyricism come without really falling into either genre.

The production here is worth a special note, though try though I may to find names of producers I'm stumped and the CD case wasn't marked. The aforementioned "Prohibition" is a definite highpoint of "36 Chambers" worship, but "Fuck Promoters" staggering bass and funk percussion takes the track from angry rant to playful dis track, and helps keep the vibe of the record from getting too bogged down in scene politics. Out of these nineteen tracks there isn't a beat among them that will make you reach for the skip button, a rare feat in any genre let alone hip hop. Seriously, when was the last time you listened to a record from start to finish without fishing for the "Next" button?

The ability to attack the worst of hip hop, behind the scenes and on the stage alike, keeps "Bankruptcy" from running out of lyrical and musical currency. "Dope" features James' most passionate tirade against trend hopping labels and fans, as well as the record's finest lyrical moments.

"What can I say, I got a steep bias
A rhyme mechanic, here to grease some squeaky tires
Waking up in a bad dream
Seeing geek promoters, managers and their geek clients
Now it's so far, nerd raps all the rage
And one nerd signing checks means eight on stage
Put the mic down, go make some daisy chains
This is high intensity, get snapped like celery
I've lived a life of sin and rap's the penalty
It's a life of pain and rap's the remedy"

From the point of view of a rap vet the influx of here today gone tomorrow hipsters in the game has diluted the musical gene pool, and Malkovich isn't above taking the piss out of what he sees as worthless young bucks.

Now if only this dude could get radio stations to take notice and bring some of his righteous lyrical fury to the masses maybe he'd be able to go from album prophet to scene messiah. His blending of killer old school beats and modern day rap politics and storytelling shows Malkovich still has plenty left to bank on, and we should keep paying attention.

Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10 - rapreviews.com


Discography

BANKRUPTCY (2009)
SICKSTEENS (2006)
SKELETONS (2004)

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Bio

Malkovich first gained fame in the late ‘90s as the standoffish founding member of Gershwin BLX, the Los Angeles crew known then as much for their fondness of pocket hammers, acid and petty larceny as they were for their maniac rhyme skills, impossible live shows and three albums VocabuDrab Sessions 96-97, Sunch Punch and Veganz Want Beef. An illegal immigrant barely in the U.S. five years at the time, every LAPD squad car that would roll by was another reminder of the fact that he was not on home turf. Several tours, breakups, children, jail terms and rehab stints later, ABCDEFG, MolMan, Milx, Omni and Cee Brown are the closest thing Malkovich has ever had to brothers, and the rent-controlled wilderness of the Palms section of West L.A. is the closest place he’s ever had to home. Revolutions always leave some of their people floating in the wind. Malkovich is a product of two. The same year Sugar Hill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight”, he was born in Genoa, Italy – the hometown of explorer Christopher Columbus – to an English father and Iranian mother who were forced to flee Iran after the U.S.-backed Shah Pahlavi was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters in a bloody February now known as the Islamic Revolution. After fourteen years of bouncing around Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Malkovich’s family immigrated to Los Angeles in 1992, the year the Rodney King riots and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic put L.A. at the center of the universe, and introduced him to hip-hop, the culture he had unknowingly grown up alongside. Today, hip-hop is the only true allegiance for this man of no one race, no sole religion, no real homeland, able to slip into most any lifestyle – and rhyme style - with the grace and ease of a method actor. His lyrics balance intelligence with soul, chock-a-block with internal wordplay and multiple layers that require repeated listenings, whether he’s laying the words hard and heavy or nimble and unpredictable. To date, Malkovich has toured all over America and the Hawaiian islands, opening for the likes of Murs of Living Legends and Fatlip of Tha Pharcyde. And as time goes on, the question of where home is for Malkovich becomes less and less of an issue. Because what he’s realized is that while he never quite feels at home anywhere, he never quite doesn’t either.