This is a record that wears its dark heart quite literally on its sleeve
Angus Taylor 2008
The campaign to return hip hop to weightier issues continues with this defiantly gloomy and wordy effort from East London MC, sometime Triple Darkness member and Malachi Z acolyte, M9. The M stands for Melanin, a key motif in Dr Z's Nuwaupian teachings, while the title of his album 144,000 refers to the 12,000 members of each of the 12 tribes of Israel as mentioned in the book of Revelation. If you enjoy being schooled on a variety of subjects with your music, this album’s curriculum is as packed as they come.
In addition to their more numinous ingredients, the lyrics exhibit a keen interest in science, during Dark Matter and Table Of Elements, as well as the arts and humanities throughout Paint Brush. A mystical world of ancient scripture and eschatological prediction is contrasted with the harsh here and now of life in the protagonists' district of "Crackney" cast as a place of poverty neglect and myriad petty disappointments. Crucially, unlike some other underground artists (whose rejection of mainstream hip hop masks the uncomfortable truth that mainstream hip hop wouldn't have them) the capabilities of M9 and his Triple Darkness affiliates Cyrus Malachi and Nasheron are impressive to say the least. Some of the beats - by Chemo, Beat Butcha and John Phonics – take their inspiration from the jazz loops and hi frequency noises formula of Premier; many are strewn with spoken word samples such as the Easy Andy scene in the film Taxi Driver.
At a hefty 18 tracks, the unrelenting grimness and didacticism of these tales and revelations may wear on the uninitiated. That said, you can't deny the proficiency on display, and, since this is a record that wears its dark heart quite literally on its sleeve, if you buy it expecting something different, you have only yourself to blame.