Do you enjoy “mumble” rap? If so, I suggest you stop reading right now. I’m about to tell you about Marlon D and his new album “Shadows 3.” It is as far from mumbling as you can get. Right off the bat Marlon D hits the listener with his unique style of articulating every sing syllable. His words are clear yet there is a roughness to them as well. It is both literary and raw. It is Marlon D.
“Shadows 3” stays in a pretty straightforward lane. Uhm, not lane, dark, narrow alley. The subject matter tinges on battle raps, braggadocio, and a fighting underdog spirit. The pictures painted are not of luxury. Instead they are of hard work, aspiration, and grit. Marlon D does get vulnerable here and there, but does so with a hardcore boom-bap ethos like on “Cry.” Sure, he is reflecting on a relationship, but the drums are booming and his voice oozes with aggression.
On the production side of things “Shadows 3” meanders from a traditional boom bap sound to a more nuanced sound that is sample heavy, but lighter on drums. There are a few songs where the listener might be anticipating for the beat to drop. It never does. Instead Marlon D puts his voice up front and center allowing the music to only support his content rather than outshine it or battle for attention. This style is very evident on “Fine Wine.” But, don’t worry, as hard-hitting drums are present more than not. The opening track is nothing but a hard break-beat. No samples or anything: just drums and Marlon D going to bat.
One highlight of the album has to be “Top of the Morning” where Marlon D turns his energy down a decibel. He is more subdued, but still carries the track with his unique delivery. He shows a softer side just a bit yearning, “I just want to get up and feel no pain”. It is a well-rounded song that ties the album together.
Another stand out is “Stand For Something” where he raps, “United we stand, divided we fall. I know someday we can conquer it all.” Marlon D searches for peace of mind even in the midst of people acting fake and people working and working without getting ahead. Crime and drugs all around and yet Marlon D finds a better path in Hip-hop. It is a hopeful song without being preachy.
And that cautious optimism runs rampant on “Shadows 3.” On first listen, that hopeful message can get overshadowed by Marlon’s strong and overpowering voice. But, by the second and third listen you begin to cheer for Marlon. You want him to succeed. You understand for all the boasting and confident posturing, Marlon D is a human underneath it all. He wants what is best for himself, his family, and his community. That is something you can definitely get behind.
The final song “A Dream Deferred” showcases a beat from Science Green and features News on a sing songy hook and a dope third verse. Marlon D speaks of his pure, passionate drive to be a great emcee that honors Hip-hop. This desire doesn’t rest. It “exponentially grows.”
And you can hear the growth in every word. Marlon D pours emotion and energy and never holds back. No mumbling or theatrics here: just an emcee trying to achieve his dreams. Take a listen and dream on.