Malcolm Eppz - RNR, Vol. 1
The artwork for RNR, Vol. 1 by Malcolm Eppz has hues of pink, purple, blue and you see Eppz on the cover with a city scape below — while this cover is beautiful, artistic and shows us that there is something to know about this artist (what city is below, why did he choose those colors? are the colors indicative of the content?) When you hit play on the album it does not give you pink skies or colorful tones but a story of grit before luxury; a telling of getting it out the mud. Cleveland native Malcolm Eppz that now currently resides in Hawaii created an album of raw testimony without an obsession of self but celebration of the oppositions and obstacles along his journey. In RNR, Vol. 1, Eppz uses subtle self-references that also highlight where he has been and heading towards. Throughout the album you’ll find soulful production with some dusty loops that sounds like a contemporary boom bap sound. Within the first few songs, “Beijing Reyjene” and “Good Lord,” we learn intricacies about Eppz hustle and what he did to set himself up for success and away from a rougher environment of Hough Heights. In “Beijing Reyjene” Eppz notes,
“in the military, 20-somethin, I tell you I was on a mission, buzzin / I wasn’t goin to be a statistic”
This line infers that at a young age Eppz came to terms of his reality as a black man in the United States and wanted to avoid that statistic that is known and apparent everywhere. The second track, “Good Lord,” opens production by Sheed The Buddah and Eppz lacing the track telling us about his rise from Hough Heights in ’89. Eppz has great storytelling ability that often leaves the story up for interpretation on whether it is a personal lived experience or another’s experience that he noticed — or maybe it’s both.
“Eppset Bomb,” is the third track on RNR, Vol. 1, with production by SAV that brings this aspect to the forefront,
“I rather play chess with frenemies than be some ordinary nigga pickin through bud stems simpin’ over underwhelming women”
While we can wonder if Eppz is talking directly to his life or not it does allow us to understand how one can take control of their destiny even in the presence of fear or uncertainty (playing chess with frenemies.) Either way the lines serve as a statement to get out and go get it regardless of the opps/obs (opposition and obstacles.) Additionally, the line infers that it is often easy to sit in despair or lack of ambition out of fear, but you must proceed anyways.
As we fade out of that track a more political statement is made on “Panoptican.” On the first listen of RNR, Vol. 1 this track caught my attention because of the politics embedded within and my own knowledge and weariness towards the concept/theory of the panoptican. I was instantly interested if Eppz would expand on how the concept/theory is used in prisons, our communities, schools, virtually/digitally and essentially everywhere. In the track Eppz raps,
“eat your turkey burger — play with your watches, the panoptican / watching us through binoculars / it’s more than cops tryna stop ya, the panoptican / surrounded by opps with no other options”
This was a pivotal moment in the listening of RNR, Vol. 1 because the line represented that Eppz is far more than a wordsmith but a wordsmith with content that many rappers are not necessarily engaging in. There’s a lot of dialogue about what the cops are doing to us as “black” people (it’s more than cops tryna stop ya) but hasn’t quite expanded yet to other ideologies that allow for continual state violence of civilians but specifically “black” civilians. Additionally, when actually listening to “Panoptican” there is certain tone that Eppz holds that signals that “We The People” can also use the knowledge and awareness of the panoptican to our advantage.
After a track that advises you to look beyond the politics and realities in our face the album transitions into a real player-esqe production with a smooth hook, “we want the chips and the paper.” Another strong suit of Eppz is his use of double entendre. As you vibe out and want to take a cruise with the track “Chips & Paper” playing, Eppz shows us his skill in the very memorable line,
“I rather ride the Cadillac / wave out the top like JFK / I just want the paper — give me the masters, fuck bein’ a slave”
This line serves as a social commentary towards record labels in relation or comparison to similar ownership portrayed in slavery (master/slave.) The line also is a self-declaration or vow of independence to keep/own one’s masters to not become a slave to someone else’s ownership. Also, throughout the album you will hear Eppz call himself “Malcolm Eppz” and some references to Detroit Red which then alludes to a double entendre on his name. Is he calling in the ancestral spirit of “Malcolm X,” is he calling on himself, “Malcolm Eppz,” or is a combination of both? Does his elevation of self resemble the transformation of Detroit Red to Malcolm X to Malik el-Shabazz? “The POP” has a very gritty, underground/basement type feel and production. This was a track where I wished the vocals were brought forward a little more but was still a great song regardless. A notable line,
“masculine, fashion-forward, Gucci slippers with the ankles out”
I enjoy this line because it expressed that Eppz isn’t afraid to be him despite opinions. It represented that he is comfortable in his masculinity and it can look like whatever he wants it to — don’t take his fashion-forward appearance for more than what it is. A declaration of “being fashionable does not make me any less masculine.”
Next on the album was “Popular Slut Club” which has a beautiful sample that contributes to the flawless production by Racks Nicholson. This is the only track that I can say was not my favorite but nonetheless was still interesting and valuable towards understanding aspects of Eppz. What was initially interesting to me was how the title is somewhat vulgar, but the actual contents of the song are not very vulgar at all. The most vulgar part is the line,
“she put the pussy on my mustache / now I’m in a trance,”
which is modest considering countless other vulgar Hip Hop lyrics. A very memorable line because often sexual lyrics point to the woman doing something to please the man (not saying that eating pussy is not,) but the lyrics often denote submission instead of assertiveness of what may please her instead. I expected the song to be vulgar or a pussy-popin’ anthem but it’s more of a recalling of a one-night stand while out with the crew (you hear their voices and laughter come in and out of the track.)
On “The Glow” Eppz shows us more of his entrepreneurial free spirit that points at his evolution.
“I burn one, I used to move them by the pound now I smoke them by the O.Z.”
Additionally, he has other lines that speak to finding independence when it comes to the weed or in general to be more mindful of certain products you use,
“all the new flavors I don’t trust ’em / only like the calm shiht / if you grow your shiht that’s boss shiht.”
Another moment of political commentary that points to holistic health. The commercialization of weed and how processed and detrimental it can be — an advisory to grow your own if possible, you never know what could be done to the flower you ‘bout to smoke.
On “Dunder Butter,” Eppz is very reflective of where he came from but also tells us how he is presently moving into his future created by his ambition and hustle.
“this that dunder butter / we break shiht down / move racks to pounds / we losin count.”
As we move into the last two tracks of RNR, Vol.1, “Volumes” has gorgeous production and the song serves as a thematic wrap up of the album. But, again, Eppz does it in a manner that doesn’t come off redundant. He makes a couple references in the hook, “stay tuned for the next volumes” and surely, I’ll be looking forward to the next releases of this series.
The final track on RNR, Vol. 1 is “Late Night Cruise” where the production puts you in the mind state of cruising beach side through a city at sunset. The chorus of the track,
“late night cruising/ we all under stars, palm trees and bomb weed, speedin,”
enhances the mind state with your crew and celebrating wins but figuring out how to level up again.
I found RNR, Vol. 1 to be a cohesive project that was sequenced very well to tell a story through several stories and experiences. I appreciated the space in his story and how he doesn’t give us the same stories or part of him repeatedly. Instead, he offers controlled doses of his story — every track there is story of where he comes from and what he’s doing it for. Eppz has a strong voice and confident delivery that has you wanting to catch every line. It’s very obvious Eppz is an authentic artist who delivers a rawness that is only present when it’s brought out the mud or through gritty circumstances with soul still intact. I look forward to see/hear what Malcolm Eppz delivers next and how he levels up and makes his next moves.
11 songs, 31 minutes