It's hard to believe it's been almost three years since Mali Music's RCA debut album, Mali Is…, but now the singer is back to prove he's got more to offer than the box he's often been placed in with the release of his second major label album, The Transition of Mali. While the word "transition" suggests a process of movement, in Mali's case, the new album suggests that he's here to stay. Typically labeled as a gospel artist, this time around Mali explores new sounds, from rock to hip-hop and R&B, yet stays true to his soulful core. The 12-track album shows an evolution of an artist who simply has a love for good music, positive messages and live instrumentation.
Over the past few weeks and months, we've already received half of Transition, including "Gonna Be Alright," "Still," "My Life," "Loved by You" featuring Jazmine Sullivan, a little taste of "Cryin'" and "Contradiction," featuring Jhené Aiko. Now that we have the full project, it looks like we only scratched the surface on the colorful picture his project paints.
The album begins with "Bow Out," with its dramatic instrumentals opening the door to a pulsating track. Mali delivers a strong opening with a catchy chorus about being his true self. After Mali reintroduces himself, the album moves into the Salaam Remi-produced track "Gonna Be Alright," which serves as the album's lead single. And rightfully so, as the single provides the signature sound we're used to hearing from Mali — in part due to his undeniable chemistry with Remi. Part gospel, part R&B and with a sprinkle of hip-hop, it's an easy, soulful listen that can elevate and uplift anyone with an appreciation for music. In the video for the upbeat single, Mali jams to his own track because it's just that good.
We hear a softer side of Mali when he teams up with Jazmine Sullivan on "Loved By You." Mali spits a verse or two on the track as well, proving again that he's a complex artist that can do more than just spread the gospel. “It’s so good, so good / To be loved by you,” the two sing and we can't help but feel all their sincerity in the soulful duet. While we don't want it to stop, Mali continues revealing his softer side on the acoustic cut "Cryin'," which we were introduced to in his Lincoln MKZ ad last year. Another upbeat and uplifting single, Mali switches it up by adding horns and percussion to cheer up and encourage anyone listening.
Not even halfway through the album, you can tell Mali wanted to make people move and does so with "Dolla," which is about getting your good coin. "My Life" is another cut to jam to, where Mali uses rock elements and submerged percussion to get his point across. Just when you thought you were getting a party, Mali slows things down for the remainder of the album. The Savannah-bred artist has been performing in the church choir since he was a little boy, and we hear these old school gospel elements peek through on "Still." The mellow track showcases the soothing qualities of Mali's voice, which puts you in a trance and inspires you to listen to it in its entirety.
"Contradiction" featuring Jhené Aiko and "Sit Down For This" were featured on the soundtrack to Spike Lee's CHI-RAQ, but they fit perfectly into the narrative of evolution and complexity that Mali builds throughout the new album. In "Sit Down For This," Mali poignantly discusses the death of our legends, singing, "Father, I see the light is on / The Grim Reaper is a sleeper / Got his hands on all your people / It doesn’t feel right / I know something’s wrong." As we near the end of the album, Mali continues to bring hope with "Worth It," reinforcing his consistent message of positivity. In "I Will," he uses the power of his keys to talk about love. Using elements of '80s R&B, Mali sounds like he's singing a significant other down the aisle in the romantic cut.
In the last track, "What You Done," Mali reminds his initial gospel fan base why they fell in love with him in the first place. The album ends on a more somber note than its energetic beginning, but that's not necessarily a negative. On each track, he infuses an edge that keeps you guessing because nothing is necessarily "traditional" about Mali. The artist continues to serve in his role as a promoter of positivity and does it by any means necessary on the project. While the final track puts a period on Mali's story of exploration, evolution and growth, he now has our full, undivided attention and we can't wait to see what's next.