Malcolm Palmer Between the Womb and the Tomb

[Orange Van; 2005]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: conscious rap
Others: Common, Saul Williams, Dead Prez

You should never be too conscious of what you are. Malcolm Palmer seems to be well aware of what he's doing. He fits and nudges himself into the street poet/folk troubadour role so fervently that his wardrobe includes a bucket hat and a suit, while his songs contain Chicago drug addicts, prostitutes, and lowlifes. It's a role. A role we've seen before.

With the consciousness and the Chicago setting and the sepia tones, Common circa One Day It'll All Make Sense comes to mind. Like Common, Palmer's flow can be criticized, albeit for slightly different reasons. Palmer works within a rigid rhythm, causing him to sound almost amateurish, especially with the level at which his vocals are mixed.

The beef with "conscious" music, rap in particular, is how broad””how general””it is. Yes, cops are bad, corruption surrounds us, injustice is commonplace, poverty prevails, but please, dig a little deeper, for our sake. Supply us a few more details. You've succeeded in outlining society's flaws, but now give some valuable insight. Prove you know something about your complaints, something other than jargon, something other than what everyone already knows, and we beg of you, don't get off track and start saying how you are the musical answer to it all. Rap is arrogance, but you are not saving anything, not in the least, by telling us the media's relationship with  the government. The kid in Doc Martens told us that in seventh grade.

The music backing Palmer is well done””nothing mind-blowing, but rudimentary playing, efficient playing””what you'd expect from a hip-hop backing band. It's really a crime to call this poetry though, even that old rap crutch, "street poetry." Malcolm Palmer claims to have a message, but only the image is shining through.

1. Nothing Ever Changes
2. Preferred Form
3. Useless Blues
4. Awkward Situation
5. Music and Words
6. The Moment
7. Pennies
8. The Prostitute Song
9. The Sermon
10. The Restless Resented
11. Underfoot
12. Asleep In the Fire

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