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Splice Today: Mullyman’s Harder Than Baltimore


So yeah, more off-site content…but I was really happy to get to rant about the new Mullyman album somewhere other than this blog anyways, because Harder Than Baltimore really deserves some praise. It might be my rap album of the year–at least the best thing since Starlito’s Renaissance Gangster–and I think I touched on Mully’s weirder qualities, which are pretty much always overlooked.

Also, Harder Than Baltimore really functions as a kind of meta-commentary on the major label rap album–something I don’t mention in the review because I’m tired of rap reviews that just straw-man the industry/scene to big-up one rapper–as it’s basically all over the place, but never compromised. The dance songs are Baltimore Club-informed (and produced by DJ Booman no less), so they aren’t cheap dance tracks, they’re talking to a dance genre that’s as hard as hip-hop.

Both the title track and the last track, “Deal Or No Deal”, do that thing where you steal a really famous rapper’s voice for your hook, but here, they’re almost commentaries on those rappers. If Jay-Z can brag he “go[es] harder than Baltimore” on a song, well Mullyman’s from the city, you know? If Drake, a former child actor with apparent industry connections is going to fucking brag “Everybody got a deal, I did it without one”, well Mully can actually say that–he started Major League Unlimited right when majors were courting him. The song’s a quiet affront to big-shot self-loathing, self-mythologizers like Aubrey. Mostly though, this is just a really brave, fun, and impeccably put-together album.

Mullyman is a hard-assed, occasionally sensitive rhyme obsessive, who shines on street tracks but possesses the rarefied talent to make pop and dance raps that are just as sharp. Like Baltimore’s version of T.I., he’s versatile but consistent, and keeps his content relatively simple—mostly bragging and stories of growing up in Baltimore—while exhibiting a wider and weirder frame of reference than is really necessary…

Written by Brandon

July 6th, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Mullyman ‘Got It’/'Oh Baltimore’ (Major League Unlimited, 2004)

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A-Side: ‘Got It’ featuring Clipse & Famlay
B-Side: ‘Oh Baltimore’

No Baltimore Club today but here’s some Baltimore rap. Mullyman is one of Baltimore’s best and most well-known rappers. I had heard his name tossed around here or there for awhile, but I first saw him open for Vast Aire and the GZA in the summer of 2004 and was surprised when he put on a better show than either of those rap legends. It felt good to see the guy’s name pop-up more and more, not only because a local rapper with some success is always great, but because it sorta validated my ear…no one was telling me to like or not like this guy, I experienced his music on a pretty pure level; if anything, he had a lot going against him because I just wanted to see the fucking Genius but Mullyman captivated me: A kinda short dude who came out like he wanted- no, needed- to be there and spit for 45 minutes, walking into the crowd and everything…

The tracks above are from his release ‘Mullymania’ and are ripped from a single that preceded the album’s release. ‘Got It’ was (I think) produced by Rod Lee and is a fairly eccentric rap-club single track but it’s hard to ignore the Neptunes derivations, especially due to the appearance of Star Trak’s Clipse and Famlay but still a good song and as interesting as anything the Neptunes have released in the past few years. ‘Oh Baltimore’ on the other hand, is a perfect rap song. ‘Got It’ was obviously intended as the introductory, club-friendly single, further buttressed by some big-name guests, but ‘Oh Baltimore’ stands on its own as just a great song and definitive Baltimore hip-hop. It should get extra points for being a song from 2004 that didn’t chipmunk-ize the soul sample even as it comes from the Roc-A-Fella production style of lots of horns, baroque-but-sorta-subtle-too strings, and ill soul samples. The Nina Simone hook for the chorus is really interesting for the way that it actually brings the song down a few notches instead of exploding triumphant, like say, Just Blaze’s ‘What We Do’ (Mully’s cadence in the first verse pays homage to Beanie Sigel’s verse from that song).

Most soul-rap beats tease the listener with a shorter version of the sample somewhere in the verses but here, it comes in understated and low, replacing the thick drums and regal horns with Mullyman’s ad-libs nearly taking it over. This is more appropriate for a song about Baltimore because well, for better and worse, Baltimore isn’t New York or any other super-famous rap town, so an out-and-out anthem of triumph wouldn’t make a lot of sense, especially because the song is a realistic portrayal of Baltimore tempered by the minor victory: “But somehow, a chicken box makes it all good”. There’s plenty of other lines worth quoting and discussing, I really like the stuff about the former hustler now being homeless and it’s all delivered in a style that sort of sounds like the T.I heard on ‘King’ and the better parts of ‘T.I vs. T.I.P’ but of course, ‘Oh Baltimore’ predates both of those albums.

Mullyman’s feature for ‘Show & Prove’ from May 2005’s XXL; click to read it:

Written by Brandon

November 27th, 2007 at 8:53 am

Posted in Clipse, Mullyman, Rod Lee