Malkovich has a long history with the city I live in. As a member of the BLX crew, he was an underground fixture of West LA for a long time. Putting out tapes “that you bumped for four years straight / with no fucking break!” And with his new collection of songs, Great Expectations, he’s proven that while his address changes more than my toddler’s Batman underpants, he’s still the same old dude.
The music doesn’t wallop you over the head. It also isn’t experimental by any means. The production is a solid collection of beats that seem hand-picked to marry with Malkovich’s delivery. Songs like “Storm Chaser” and “Bedbugs” take the jazz-infused lazy river route, while “Great Expectations” is a straight up head-nodder.
I have an obsession with 30-something rappers. It makes me feel like an old man that I can’t stomach the braggadocio and nerve of these young bucks. The beats are often flawless, and the fantasy rap content would serve a Saturday night at the Spearmint Rhino without pause. But I don’t ever do that shit. I got kids. I have a job. I have responsibilities. I’m looking for voices in hip hop that continue to speak to my life. Isn’t that what rap has always been about?
I’m a little more jaded now. Cautious. Not as easily impressed. I never, ever believe the hype. It’s the realization that lots of these rap cats was lying out their ass and street escapades and codes were little more than a means to an end. The minute the pockets was no longer bone-dry, to say scripts were flipped would be an understatement.
Enter Malkovich, rapping about the Middle East, Midcity Los Angeles, NYC, and New Orleans, a well-travelled veteran machete-ing his path through the overgrowth of this culture the old-fashioned way. He works his fucking ass off. And I can get with that. Celebrate it even!
Great Expectations is a record for rap fans that don’t particularly look-up to rappers, but have lived it. Know how brutal the game can be. How fruitless the harvest. How bitter the pill. And yet we’re still here because it was never about anything other that a compulsion, an identity, a well of an art form that has nourished, comforted, and saved our asshole lives.
I used to live right down the street from Woodbine Park, the park that saw Snoop Dogg catching a case. If fact that neighborhood is the genesis for anything hip hop I’ve managed to do in the last decade. “Palms” had me reminiscing those times because BLX and Malkovich was running through those same alleys, copping smokes at the same Egyptian liquor store, eating at the Jack in the Box behind bullet-proof glass, buying white Ts at the same strange surplus store. Just like those times, that neighborhood ain’t there no more. It’s been updated, gentrified, and shitfaced rappers like us have been priced out. But it was a fucking joy to get taken unexpectedly back there.
Palms could be any where, you know the old stomping grounds. LA is a city of shiftless nomads and Malkovich might wear the crown. Great Expectations could be the coronation. Malkovich is all about that life!
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you definitely ain’t about that life! And this record isn’t for you.