One beautiful thing about the structure of social networking these days is the ever-growing relationship between the artist and the fan (or as I like to call, “listener” or “supporter”). Although the content of the music is bound to be phenomenal, there is a strong need now for the listener to feel that they are connected to the artist outside of the ten or fifteen dollars they will ultimately spend to access and enjoy the music from their favorite musicians. As an independent artist in particular, it is imperative that your supporters feel that they are walking the same journey with you and are enjoying every milestone that is reached as you work towards turning your idea into a concrete reality. The “old-guard” model of having a large label simply act as a distributor of music from Point A to Point B does not work anymore; there is a uniquely humanistic approach that artists now need to employ to ensure that their fans feel like the art is being shared and not force-fed down their throats.
The purpose of the above paragraph is not to start a discussion about how music is to be shared now, but rather to introduce the journey that I found myself embarking on while following the path of Marcus D’s latest release, Melancholy Hopeful. About a year prior to its release, I found myself stumbling across a Kickstarter campaign that he started to help fund a project that would eventually become this album. The twenty dollars I pledged towards the project ended up taking me through the very journey that I described above, starting with a download of a “prequel” project, suitably dubbed Melancholy Prequel. From January 2012 until the official release date of the album, every listener was kept in the loop as the project progressed, with “Don’t Hold Ya Breath” acting as a precursor of what to expect from the full body of work.
As the final announcement was made that the album would be released through Hydeout Productions, it became clear and evident that every step was a carefully calculated effort on Marcus’ part to ensure that every piece fit together to create a unified excitement about the upcoming release. However, it did not seem to carry the air of a well-executed marketing ploy, but rather a genuinely crafted effort to ensure that every supporter felt just as integrated into the project as he was. I could have just went into this review giving my thoughts about the music itself and commenting about the great quality of it, but I felt that the success of this project was largely attributable to the approach that was taken to make it a reality.
Now, on to the music itself. Melancholy Hopeful, to state it simply, is seventeen tracks worth of honest music with a powerful message. A lot of people confuse “good-hearted” and “honest” work as being synonymous with music that is designed to have your head in the clouds as every worry in the world disappears right when you press play. For those that are looking for that, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. This album’s message is enrooted in that careful balance between hope and struggle… faith and despair… pain and possibility… the latter of which is the title of the last track on MH. The soothing melodies you hear throughout the album are balanced with powerful lyrics from emcees such as One Be Lo, Shing02, and Cise Starr. Even the instrumental tracks walk this fine line as well, with calming sounds being driven by hard-hitting drums that have become characteristic of Marcus D’s sound. The whole body of work sounds cohesive from beginning to end, and never grows tiring due to the constantly-changing interpretations of the project’s theme. Rather than go through and comment on all seventeen songs, I have posted my three favorite jams from the project below (in no particular order) with brief commentary on each one.
Trebles and Blues’ Top Three Jams
(1) Third Person feat. One Be Lo
When I was in Seattle kicking it with Marcus about two weekends ago, we were bumping this jam out his ride on our way to one of Seattle’s favorite burger joints. As the opening piano riff came blaring through the speakers, my mind gravitated towards the track’s melody as One Be Lo’s flow seamlessly integrated with the beat. Right after One Be Lo finished his first two lines in the song, Marcus turned the volume down as he explained to me what exactly he was saying in the opening line. One Be Lo was commenting on “The Symphony” with Craig G, Masta Ace, Kool G Rap, Marley Marl, and Big Daddy Kane while analogizing it with Mozart’s own symphonies; at that point, I just zoned in and listened to what he was actually saying as well. There is an ongoing respect for the hip hop culture exhibited in this song as it also introduces the trials and pressures people go through living day-by-day (as referenced in Robert De Niro’s A Bronx Tale snippet near the end of the song).
(2) One People feat. Shing02
This beat is just straight up hypnotizing and introduces so many different sounds throughout the song. With a beautifully executed violin piece by Adriel Williams and an awesome build-up of instrumentation during the hook, Shing02 takes the opportunity to communicate his thoughts as a political activist into this piece. The vocal snippets of the multiple people announcing their presence during the hooks once again builds on the powerful message that Melancholy Hopeful exudes.
(3) Pain and Possibility
As the final track of the album, I believe that this is a sonic representation of the thesis statement to this project. The track starts off with a melancholic loop that ultimately builds up into a clash of dope drums and strings that bring hope and possibility to the song. In order to sum up the whole project, Marcus D did a great job summarizing the whole message of the album into one strong cohesive instrumental piece.
Melancholy Hopeful is a project that I will continue to bump for a while, and for good reason; to say that I highly recommend this project is a massive understatement. You can purchase a digital copy, but I really don’t think you will get the full effect of the project unless you buy it in its physical form. Why, you ask? Just take a look at this .gif that one of his supporters made that shows you what the packaging looks like (click on the image to open).
Once again, a lot of thought and dedication went into this project, and it is one that I am proud to support myself. Thanks for the journey, and I look forward to your next project, Marcus.