Let’s not beat around the bush: No Malice, formerly known as Malice, was really good at rapping about cocaine. Together as Clipse, he and his brother, Pusha T turned it into a fine art, using double entendres and witty wordplay to glorify their time in the trap. That’s why some fans were so disappointed to hear that he seemingly turned in the baking soda for the Bible on his recently released debut solo album, Hear Ye Him, a project many considered to be a gospel record. But if you listen closely, No Malice is still rapping about the drug game—just the other side of it, opposite of the flash and riches.
“I cannot just tell one side of the story,” he told XXL in a phone interview. “These are my people, who look like me and come from where I come from. How dare I not tell them the whole entire truth?”
The truth, according to No Malice, is that the drug dealing lifestyle will always lead to death or jail. While this may seem hypocritical—he did, after all, rap about slanging for over a decade—one has to realize a lot has changed in No Malice’s life in recent years. To start, his former manager, Anthony “Geezy” Gonzales, was sentenced to 32 years in prison for drug trafficking. What’s more, countless other friends, he said, have gone away, either to prison or the graveyard, leaving their wives and children behind.
Once he realized that almost everybody that Clipse had gone on tour with back in 2002, when the group first came out, was either dead or locked up, he decided to turn to religion. God has always had a presence in Clipse’s music, going back to its first album, Exclusive Audio Footage, which opened with a prayer, but the duo never really praised Him; instead, they usually asked for forgiveness. Now, No Malice wants to focus on the positive, so he won’t have to apologize.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dead… To me, [rapping is now] a hobby and fun, and I get to wash the blood off my hands.”
“I got the good fortune of seeing everyone get locked up and got to see the wives, the mothers and all the children crying,” he said, “I couldn’t live with myself if I rapped about the same things.”
Pusha T doesn’t seem to share the guilt that his older brother feels, despite going through many of the same tribulations; his recent solo debut, My Name Is My Name, is steeped in the same clever drug talk that made up the majority of Clipse’s records. But that doesn’t bother No Malice, who enjoyed MNIMN and believes that no one is “lyrically more true” in the rap game than Push.
This doesn’t mean fans should expect a Clipse album anytime soon, though. No Malice admits that he doesn’t feel comfortable even performing Clipse’s old songs anymore, which is partly why he’s turned down multiple chances to perform as a group in recent months. If the duo were to make a new album, which both superstar producers Kanye West and Pharrell have advocated for, then something would have to change, he said.
“I believe my brother and I… we can get together and pull off anything,” he said. “But as far as my beliefs and as far as me facilitating anything that brings death, destruction and demise, I’m not going to do that.”
This decision to no longer rap about the streets originally had No Malice contemplating retirement. But after he began working on Hear Ye Him, he rediscovered his love for hip-hop. He was once again being true to himself—someone who was much different than the “Bakers Man” that broke on the scene with lines about selling cakes of coke. Instead, he was someone who preached optimism and spent time reading and riding his bike. While this may seem like a drastic change, it’s all part of No Malice’s plan of continuing to grow as an individual.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dead,” he said. “Clipse came in 2002 bro…to me, [rapping is now] a hobby and fun, and I get to wash the blood off my hands.” —Reed Jackson