Artist: Mali Music
Album: Mali Is…
Four out of Five stars
Savannah, Georgia native Kortney Jamaal Pollard aka Mali Music is a rarity in today’s R&B scene. Somehow, the young man has managed to release independent albums and create a formidable online following with the mature, soulful exuberance that first moved him to play piano at age eleven, for hours at a time (with no formal training) in his hometown church.
“I started making music so I could help put everyone at ease,” he says. “Each Sunday that I came into this building, people were crying, praying, and repenting. My creativity had to be sharp to consistently come up with songs on the spot that reflected the emotion of the room. I had a responsibility early on, and I realized music could make you cry, make you dance, or even change your life.”
Mali Music gives honor to that responsibility with his major label debut, “Mail Is.” The album showcases Mali’s full array of talents of singing/songwriting/rapping/producing with aplomb that hasn’t been seen since Wyclef Jean’s The Carnival era. Like Wyclef, Mali blends different genres (r&b, gospel, pop, hip hop) with a fluidity that doesn’t give pause to listeners who have sworn off any one of his musical influences.
Mali explains in “No Fun Alone” that the simple pleasures in life are priceless compared to the spotlight and grind of the music industry:
Big toys and private planes
It’s like the world’s in your hand
But while on the road,
Sometimes you just wanna go home
To tuck your son in bed
The airy and ethereal “Beautiful” will echo in the hearts of women stunned, outright offended, that they had not heard of the song earlier. Mali’s voice takes on an easy, Will.I.am-esque quality with “Heavy Love,” an ode to commitment that goes beyond what looks impressive on Facebook posts to what stands on its own to become that “Great Grandmamma and Granddaddy… 20-year, 30-year, 40-year love.” The breezy “Fight for You” feels like a heaven-sent letter to the kidnapped girls in Nigeria.
Two of the album’s most striking jewels are the deceptively uplifting “I Believe” and the heartfelt “Johnny & Donna.” The latter grows out of the Mo’ Better Blues theme song and explores the tender heartbreak of a young couple too unprepared raise a family.
Mali Music’s talents, if given proper exposure, will make it difficult for him to be ignored in the future; you may eventually hear a song he’s produced, a song he is sampled in, or a song he has made a guest appearance in to rap or sing within the two-hour rotations radio stations are known for these days. Most likely, just as with talented contemporary John Legend, none of those offerings will compare to a Mali Music album where the man is who he is, on his own terms.
About Dr. William Hobbs
William Hobbs (aka William Ashanti Hobbs, III) is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida by way of Atlanta, GA. While attending Florida A&M University (FAMU), the college junior was inspired to publish Pseudonymous, a collection of short stories and poems and the novel “The Chosen People: Africa’s Lost Tale of Meroe,” all in the same year. Sales allowed Hobbs to publish ” Unconditionally ” in 1996 as he graduated from FAMU. His passion for writing won him a McKnight Fellowship, which allowed him to pursue a masters and doctorate degree in creative writing from Florida State University (FSU).
Hobbs graduated from FSU in 2004 and now teaches Creative Writing at Florida Memorial University. Hobbs has published an essay and poem in Journey into a Brother’s Soul by Kimani Press. Hobbs is married to Dr. Tameka Hobbs and has two sons, Ashanti and Amiri. He has recently published an experimental novel entitled “North of the Grove.”
EM Music Review – Mali Is… | Mali Music