In what is simultaneously the most chaotic and thought-out album that I’ve gotten to write about, Unconscious Prophet, also known as Malachi, shares his voice and his ear for the different sounds littered throughout various art forms in his newest album, Universal Pace. I don’t know too much about Unconscious Prophet; while most artists write up detailed stories of their undying love for music and how it developed during their formative years, UP keeps his story fairly under wraps. In fact, in his e-mail to me, he mentioned that he was from Los York, New Angeles. I was way too stoned to comprehend this, and I will openly admit to googling it to see if, by some chance, it was a real place. You can never be too sure, and that’s just about the only defense I have for that. So maybe that means UP is between New York and LA, I’m not really sure, but I’ve already spent an embarrassingly long time trying to decode it. By looking at his Instagram page, you get a small window into how the gears turn in his mind. To find an artist whose way of life is pure artistry is a joy, and his feed provides his followers with a medley of music, beautiful drawings, and bizarre sketch/meme-like comedy (what the hell is the proper term for this?). And yet, every single Instagram post seems to explain the album further and further while at the same time, leaving me puzzled that it’s the same person creating all of this. I’m extremely excited to be writing about Universal Pace, although I am a bit anxious that I won’t do it justice just because of the moving pieces that have gone into every song. Malachi has listed every sample that has gone into each track on his Bandcamp, which I’ve listed to demonstrate the wide range that he’s incorporated into this project.
- Evil Star (Live in Adelaide, Brussels & Paris ’19) by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
- Audio from the Motion Picture, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
- Death of The Sun King by Malachi Navi Wahy, which samples The March of the Black Queen by Queen
- Audio from the Motion Picture, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”
- I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye
Before the song started, I had it in my mind that I would decode every sample used. As soon as it began, I scratched that idea. I want to treat it like a puzzle so that all of you can try to discover which part uses what sample, although some are a bit more obvious than others. This first track feels like it harbors every chaotic Pink Floyd introduction into one, with the discomfort of the beginning of “Time” coming to mind. You hear bits of UP rapping faintly, intercepted by the samples, and it fuels my curiosity about the juxtaposition. It makes me wonder if he simply chose those movies in particular, because of the fact that they take place in different realms, or perhaps he just has a personal tie to them because they’ve become classics that have played a huge role in a lot of our upbringings. Either way, listening to this, especially while looking at the colorful cover art designed by Malachi himself, makes me feel as though I’m being catapulted through a vortex of space and time to a place in which only Malachi can understand; one that frightens me and yet piques my interest. “Phoenix” is quite the introduction, and while it wouldn’t appeal to everyone, there’s no doubt that it’s a work of art; one that requires multiple listens to hear the beauty in the mayhem.
- The March of the Black Queen by Queen
- Audio from commentator Jim Ross during WWE & NJPW Live Programing
- Might as Well Get Juiced by The Rolling Stones
- Overview: Malachi by Bible Project on YouTube
- Ten Commandments of Love by The Wailers
“Phoenix” incredibly enough fades really well into “Slag Expansion.” While the commotion is still very much evident as the song begins, it also evokes new themes, including enlightenment, possibly religion (or rather the antithesis of it), and even hints of an intergalactic world. It’s both futuristic and historic, and the dichotomy is just one of many examples that occurs throughout the album to create a push and pull effect. We finally get to hear a bit more of UP’s lyricism, although I would have liked the levels on the production to be lowered just a tad to hear him a bit more clearly. I really enjoy the sudden switch up at 1:10, and Malachi’s flow that comes in at 1:30 is really dope. His ability to wrap his lyrics around the beat is really impressive. About 2 minutes in, we finally get to hear UP as the sole focus, and the way his name reflects both his style and his subject-matter for his raps is incredible. He speaks like the prophet of this world he’s transported you to, giving you direction to help steer through the bewilderment. The song is SO dynamic, to the point where it’s a little overwhelming, but I feel like that fits well with the mood of the album. I think my one issue with this is that it makes it a bit difficult to recollect the whole song, especially because it’s lengthy. With that being said, at the same time, it makes you feel a bit disoriented, so I don’t think it was done without intent.
Prophet Peace Poems 1,2,3
- Ten Commandments of Love & Lonesome Feeling by The Wailers
- Here I Am (Come & Take Me) by Al Green
- Offertorium: Domine Jesu from Mozart’s Requiem by Academy of St. Martin in the Fields & Sir Neville Marrine
Once again, UP gives us a perfectly titled track that fits his persona impeccably. The song starts off with the sounds of a Church Choir elevating his words with background vocals as he preaches to his listeners. About 45 seconds in a train in the background takes us on a journey, traveling to a completely different setting. One that feels black and white, with industrial factories shooting smoke out of the chimney to cloud our thoughts as Malachi literally transports us to another place. That transition was so incredibly clever. By 1:40, we get a new backdrop for the song, taking on a more serious tone, as if we’re being met with a villain questioning everything we’re being told. Interestingly, he used a religious approach to denounce so many beliefs about religion, instead advocating for a logical thought process while still holding respect for it. 2:06 to 2:35 might be my favorite lyrical moment throughout the album, and it really gives us a good idea about the inquisitive mind that Malachi has. This one song all on its own felt like a piece of black-and-white cinematography, and it’s a real stand-out track.
“Tea Leaves” is one of my favorites. I get RTJ vibes from this one. 1:35 features a new intensity highlighted by UP’s staccato-like flow, and it’s really cool to hear. It’s also interesting to listen to this track right after the previous song, which felt a lot older in style in comparison to this futuristic, extra-terrestrial-like production, style, and diction.
Oils of Craniate
- My New Haunt by The Roots & Elvis Costello
- ’98 Freestyle by Big L
“Oils of Craniate” has a cool feel to it, but it feels a bit repetitive after “Tea Leaves.” That is, until the 1-minute mark hits. I love that dark direction that the song goes in. The way Malachi spellbinds you into “the sunken place” right after that line is absolutely bonkers. It feels like you’re being carried down the rabbit hole, and you lose all control. Also, the production is SO wild. The little details of the high-hat in the background keep you speculating, waiting for what’s going to happen next, and then it just ends!
Prophet Peace Poems 4,5,6
- Audio excerpt of Roger Waters, taken from an interview with band, Pink Floyd, in 1972
This may be one of my least favorite beats off the project because it’s a bit distracting. It felt disconnected from the first “Prophet Peace Poems” besides the subject matter that Malachi is rapping about. Unfortunately, I find it a little hard to keep focus because of some of the layerings in the production. I do love the little ’80s flip that occurs at the 45-second mark, though. It feels minuscule in comparison to the first half, and yet that minimalistic approach is what makes it so hypnotic. It builds up the anticipation while putting the spotlight on Malachi’s words. I’m not crazy about the lack of transition into the 3rd part of the song, but I love the filters layered over Malachi’s verse.
- Audio from the Motion Picture, “Up in Smoke”
The introduction to “Brilliance Progenitors” definitely caught my attention, especially as Malachi sounded like a being from another planet, attempting to communicate with his listeners. His flow picks up in rhythm at the 28-second mark, and he doesn’t hold back. Around the 45 second mark, he starts rapping in Spanish, and the effect is amazing. The pronunciation of each word fits the beat so well, and I really enjoy seeing his flow be the prime focus while still using elements of the production to highlight his rapping skills. The way he emphasizes just how different his two sides of his family by trading off the use of English and Spanish words is really cool, but I think the lines “_ really hated my English/_really hated my Spanish” hold so much weight, that a bit more could have been done with that. I think the idea was brilliant, and I would have just liked to see a spotlight on that. The ending of the song was beautiful; it was a sense of overt optimism that we haven’t seen Malachi openly display throughout the album, and the sentiment just felt so much stronger after contrasting it with the issues he faces with his family. As someone who’s struggled a lot with their identity, especially in regards to their culture and background, I related to the second half of the song quite a bit.
Kavorka One and Two (Splendor & Yearn)
- Sensuality by The Isley Brothers
- Audio from Television Series, “Seinfeld”
- Son & Daughter by Queen
The production in this track is one of the simpler beats; it’s a pleasant change of pace. It gives the listeners the ability to sit and just hone in on the stories of UP’s sexual escapades while allowing him to demonstrate a sense of cockiness that we haven’t gotten to see. The disparity between his vulgar lyrics and the holier than thou motifs displayed earlier in the album is quite comical, but UP’s story-telling skills are so captivating that you want to explore this new side that he’s bearing to us. With that being said, the vulgarity isn’t crass in any way, it’s descriptive, but still beautiful to listen to. I did love the break in the song to highlight that Seinfeld audio clip; I think this fits the idea of viewing Malachi as the prophet perfectly. The flip at 2:15 into the more grunge/rock sound may be my favorite switch-up thus far; it’s like you have a whole new song while still linking it to the preceding 2 minutes. It was a really clever stylistic choice, showing Malachi embrace his sexual allure.
Nest on Weak Branches
- Beware by Al Green
I fell in love with this beat as soon as I heard it. The Al Green sample was used wonderfully, and I definitely got mad J Dilla vibes off of this. This feels the most like a solid old-school hip-hop track, but for me, it’s just another example of one of the many styles that Malachi has successfully harbored and executed. The versatility exhibited throughout this album is wonderous. The transition at 1:15 is very reminiscent of some of the earlier production in the album, and the connection is really interesting to see. I prefer UP’s flow on this half of the song, but I love that it still fits well from the beginning.
Los York, New Angeles
- I Wish You Were Here by Al Green
- Interpolates, Shootouts by Nas
- Work Me by The Black Keys
I think it’s safe to say by this point that Los York, New Angeles is not a real place. 😦 Another FIRE beat though! Sheesh. These samples are executed beautifully. I think it’s also important to note that Al Green was kicked out by his extremely religious father, so there’s a lot more thought that goes into these samples than I’ve given attention to, unfortunately. The lyrics about living through shoot-outs in the wild west truly make me think Malachi is a time-traveler throughout the project. He manages to transport you to wherever he’s talking about, no matter the decade, country, or planet. Whenever the more futuristic/intergalactic production hits is when Malachi throws the filter on his voice, and these segments have started to feel like PSAs in which he commands my attention, and damn straight I’m going to listen. The darkness conjured up in this production is so unsettling, and I love feeling like we’re about to enter unchartered territory, blindly following UP.
- heherezadeh by Aziza Mustafa Zadeh
- (The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up by The Ronettes
- Heartbreaker by Led Zeppelin
As soon as the song started, I audibly said, “what the fuck,” because now we have Malachi rapping effortlessly over a classical beat. Don’t worry, Malachi, I also still don’t know what I’m doing. His flow felt particularly poetic on this song, and I loved when he rapped, “Hell, I escape it. Heaven makes me laugh, just live the essence of the bravest.” I love the polarity of the lyrics and the production; it feels as though UP is mocking the elite, while still demanding respect. There are so many off-handed one-liners throughout this, and the humorous jabs are so entertaining to hear, especially with the sounds of people murmuring and conversing in the background. This is easily my favorite lyrical performance from the album, with Malachi constantly spewing vivid analogies and endless knowledge. I’m not crazy about the second half until the Led Zeppelin sample kicked in, and I really appreciated the fact that Malachi found a way to tie both a Classical and Rock sample into one track and make it work.
“Fermented Grains” had a really interesting start. It leaves you puzzled, wanting to decode the message. I think it would have been interesting to just cut the first part and make it its own track, because in my opinion from 0:40 to 1:30 is just wasted time, especially this far into the album. I don’t think it offers anything new for the narrative, and if anything, would normally cause me to just skip to the next track. I think by the time the second part of the song hits, I’ve lost interest.
I love this track. Honestly, I would love to see this in a movie. The production is wild, building up the protagonist as they gear up for some galactic battle. It’s just such a vivid beat. I love the intensity from 1:15 to 1:35; it’s so hard to focus on anything other than what he’s saying. And 1:40 is absolutely insane to hear; it works perfectly with the first part. His flow and the effects he chose mirrors this robotic, systematic motif, and it’s really interesting to listen to from start to finish. I would say out of the whole album, this is my favorite song from start to finish.
Toxic Frantic Aspirations*
- Audio from Video Games, “NBA Live 2009”, “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”, “Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus”, & “NCAA Football 2008”
First off, the choice in samples for this song is really cool, especially because he opens up the song by discussing how video games give him control of something outside of just his body. It brings him down to this human level which is so vastly different from UP’s persona throughout the album. Like, was this whole experience a video game, or some sort of simulation? It makes you contemplate what this means for the album as an entity. The production incorporates so many different elements, some tribal and natural, others synthetic and digital. I wasn’t particularly into this song until the 1:30 mark, where that deeper bass started hitting. I’m not crazy about the disruption at 2:20, but I do love how it transitions into the melodic last minute of the song. It was a welcome change.
Life Born Prophet
- Knife by Grizzley Bear
- Sparing the Horses by James Blake
- Audio from the Motion Picture, “The Karate Kid”
- Audio from GP – Penitentiary Life by Wes Watson on YouTube
- Audio from the Motion Picture, “Peter Pan”
My maintenance guys are currently working outside my door and I’m sure they think I’m in a cult as this started playing, but it feels like an appropriate and on-brand way to end the album. This is one of the first tracks in which the levels of the production have been turned way down, and it makes you appreciate the intricacies of the beat that much more. There’s a sense of exhaustion in Malachi’s flow here that contrasts with his earlier confidence shown all throughout the album, and it’s once again reminding us that we’re at the final chapter. A lot of his lines create the idea of the puppet master in my head as Malachi emphasizes that he pulls the strings and controls the narrative. Even if fallacies arise, we’re going to believe what he says.
After completing the album, I am in awe of how much thought and precision went into each and every detail, no matter how small or large. I don’t even want to classify this as just music; it truly is an experience. Although there were parts that I wasn’t crazy about, I could never discount it as not being brilliant. It’s not the type of album I can listen to all the way through 100 times, but I know that every time I do revisit it, I’ll find new pieces of it that I hadn’t noticed before. Unconscious Prophet’s abilities as an emcee, producer, visual artist and overall musician are not to go unrecognized by any means; he demonstrated strength in every single one of those categories time and time again, and his ability to command the listener was beautiful. Every single beat was carefully crafted, and the use and variety of the samples were incredible. It’s not a comfortable album to listen to, but I think that’s why I appreciate it so much. It’s amazing to see how easily we fall into someone else’s control; a way of life for most of us. Malachi earned our trust as listeners, making us believe every word he said while pointing out just how dangerous that sort of ignorance is; this is his story, and he’d be damned if it went any other way.
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Sponsored by Unconscious Prophet.