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No Malice Finds God But Loses Some Fire On ‘Hear Ye Him’

No Malice, formerly known as Malice, built a career on cocaine. As one half of beloved 2000s rap duo Clipse, the Virginia MC, along with his younger brother Pusha T, painted grimy pictures of the drug game through intricate lyrics that were as creative as they were clever. Rapping about drugs was nothing new to hip-hop, but the brothers Thornton managed to make it sound fresh and inventive again, despite talking about kilos on almost every other verse. They created some of the best music to ever come out of the trap, which is saying a lot considering the talent that has tackled the topic before.

So when the older Thornton announced he had found God and was repenting his days on the corner, concerns arose over how this would affect Clipse’s music. As it turns out, we may never get to find out; both No Malice and Pusha T have decided to put the group on hold indefinitely and pursue solo careers. While Pusha finishes up his debut, No Malice has decided to release Hear Ye Him, an album that acts as both a declaration of his repentance and a look back at his life before God, from his days selling crack to touring the world as a part of Star Trak. The results are both compelling and trying to the listener.

The first thing that is evident on this album is that No Malice can still rap. His voice, a nasally drone, is unchanged and his flow is on point as ever. It’s the subject matter that’s different. Right off the bat, he addresses his new faith, rapping lines like “it’s my spiritual abortion” and “clearly Malicious is something I should have never been, here’s to the death of him.” The wisest decision No Malice makes here is that he doesn’t ignore his past. Instead, he gets more personal than ever before. He raps about how he feels responsible for his older brother’s drug problem on the album’s title track, his demons from dealing on “Unforgettable” and his regrets over the demise of his former manager Anthony Gonzalez, who was sentenced to 32 years in prison for running a drug ring, on “Different.” He uses these insights to explain why he had to leave his former life behind, which is fascinating at times. But elsewhere, his enthusiasm for change becomes repetitive, like on “No Time,” the album’s closer, when he raps about how he’s “in a different place” for seemingly the millionth time. Sticking to one subject is nothing new to No Malice, but he’s unable to describe his newfound faith in the bible as creatively as he used to describe his faith in the street. Lines like, “We all fall short of the glory that is God, but something about these rappers reek of a façade” don’t have the same bite as past lines like “The coke that I push is as pure as a child’s heart.”

Hear Ye Him is also hurt by its production. The beats, no longer full of the synth-laced bounce of Pharrell, are mostly carbon copy affairs. The lurking keys heard on “Bow Down No Mo” sound like they were ripped directly from an old Lex Luger beat, and the lively rhythms of “Unforgettable” sound too much like the material electronic duo Ratatat released years ago. The album’s most impressive instrumental, a dancehall-influenced thumper, comes on “Shame The Devil,” which features the album’s only appearance from Pusha T. On it, the brothers sound just like old times, and No Malice delivers his sharpest line, ironically about coke, when he spits, “Mozart never tickled this many keys.”

But moments like these are only brief lightning strikes of nostalgia. On “Still Got Love,” No Malice talks directly to all his former cohorts—Pusha, Pharrell and even Sandman—and announces with confidence that “everything must come to an end.” Unfortunately, this also could signify the end of the witty punch lines and captivating storytelling that drew listeners to Clipse in the first place. -Reed Jackson

  • one who loves truth music

    I beg to differ, this hear ye him album is straight FIRE!!!! writer of this review is a straight up clown and a hater…. im sure he (no malice) had continued spitting lines glorifying drug pushing and womanizing he would of gotten XXL… shame on you and your ignorance…you need to be fired.

    • https://twitter.com/KB_116 Mr. 116

      THIS ALBUM DESERVES AT LEAST AN XL.

      • Robert Spears

        Atleast… ya digg? XXL for lyrics and originality.

  • NYClater

    Good for no malice, praise God and thank God! I never really stopped believing in God but I did waver sometimes in my faith sometimes cus deep down inside I guess I always felt there is a God.

  • https://twitter.com/KB_116 Mr. 116

    XXL, I’m done. How in the world could you give this album an L?

  • CALI for life

    it’s more than obvious that the reviewer at XXL hasn’t got a clue on rap music. a (L) on this album is more than disgraceful, tasteless and idiotic. he,(the reviewer should be fired and relieved of his duties….. he’s an amateur at best and i’m being lenient…..

  • J. Charles

    The writer of this review is a fucking idiot!!! XXl gives bullshit ass “Sha shabba ranks” singing Asap Ferg an “L” for lyrics and you give the great (No) Malice, 1/2 of the legendary Clipse the same???? You are smoking crack. Clearly XXL aint what it used to be and has an agenda to push drug infused, back pack hippie music to the forefront. No Malice “Hear Ye Him” is a classic! Lets see what yall rate Pusha if it ever comes.

  • the real real

    Reed Jackson is a fucking idiot.how in the world could XXL hire a retard as a freelance writer. if a big shot industry fagot spits poison to our children, he gets a XL or a XXL, if a industry big name feeds poison and glorifies gang banging and pimping women and killing our own brothers on these streets, he gets a XL or a XXL. IF A INDEPENDENT artist is trying to spit some positivity and some real shit, he gets a L…. FUCK XXL.all of you can choke on a dick!! for real!!!! ( HEAR YE HIM ) ALL DAY FAGGOTS!!! the streets have spoken!!!!!!!!!

  • Cwigg

    Shameful review. Medium on the beats?
    This album is a XL for sure. In fact, when Pusha drops his album I have a feeling there will be a debate about which brother had the better album!

    • http://www.kijanamokiwa.com/ Stephen

      shameful review indeed!!!

  • mangocrusher

    Beats was hella wack…lyrics was dope…

    • hulk

      Mangocrusher, continue crushing mangos. its obvious you are retarded because that entire album is fire!!!! lyrics and traks. keep your day job !!!!

    • Robert Spears

      I agree. Most of the beats. The good beats are flawless.

  • thor

    RIP CLIPSE

  • no hate

    The project was a complete, conceptual piece, in the same vein as Kendrick’s or Wale’s, but with a different agenda. By saying that I mean it feels like when hip-hop albums were ALBUMS instead of random collections of songs. It was cohesive in it’s approach: his beats (even the few I didn’t necessarily care for) and rhymes fit well together! No Malice’s vocal inflections deliver a sense of emotion emcees nowadays don’t or won’t use, opting for an almost standardized monotone, one-note delivery despite the cadence. Honestly, the subject matter was repetitive throughout, but no more so than the average rapper’s d-boy, ballin’, pimpin’ strong, smokin’ good bravado. I’m not saying it was perfect, but the L rating is wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked of (the whole) truth.

  • JMG

    I think dude is spittin heat as much as ever I just think he is in a transition so he is spittin more emotional and personal. And the punchlines will catch up and he will be bigger beast then he ever was all around with depth and not 2 dimensional like before. I think it’s his first drop since his transition started so the gloomy end of this review is a bit exaggerated we will all have to see what happens with his next mixtape and albums to come to know.

  • doubleclutch95

    The album was tremendous! This writer obviously didn’t truly listen to it cuz no malice was spitting better then ever!

  • Lefty 2 Gunz

    First thing first MALICE IS A TRUE LYRCIST the nigga is Cold. I think he doubts hisself and he truly believes pusha is better than him when if you listen to the Hell hath no fury and lord willin malice has the most quotables. Pusha is better artist .. but Malice is a Better Rapper. He need to Push that aside Tell niggas how Dope he is .. Now I would say the album is to “churchy” But if you read you his book you understand where he is at in his life and why this album sounds like this . My Problem is with all the bible quotes he kinds shits on his fanbase tho. the clipse Fanbase are made of College Kids with No Religion or OG Drug Dealer who either HAvent Found Jesus yet or are Muslims like me.. and sometime grow tired of that bible bashing… But My god this nigga malice clever with his metaphors and similies .. IM on the fence with tihs ablum its Only enjoyable to a Mature and open mind which unfortunately happens to be a small population of his fanbase the L is right on the money tho .. and he needed better Produciton but lyrically should have gotten a XL and the beats a small the orginalty a large

  • simpleton

    album is straight heat