How Malcom Mufunde Made Me Eat Humble Pie Through A Concept

Sometimes I don’t even think Malcom is a real person.

Most of the time I find myself questioning and pondering the nature of the person before I tap into the music. I’ve always had my own personal biases towards Malcom’s music and that was mainly because I struggled to resonate with how he delivered his art. Though the art was brilliant, it always felt to me like a childlike expression of newfound great ability.

Malcom Mufunde, to me, always rapped like someone who just realized he’s the smartest person in the room; and believe me, he most often is. A brilliant mind burdened by the curse of always being circumvented by Neanderthals of proportionally lower brain matter. It’s probably my fault for discovering Malcom at the time when he decided to weaponize his gargantuan thesaurus. I didn’t get the chance to follow him during the “Mace Tape” days before he changed his alias from Tha Mind to his birth name. Apparently, those are the days he used to have a lot of substance in his material before morphing into the self-proclaimed "punchline rapper" he is today. So by the time I heard his joint album "Trash" with Lisbon-based Zimbabwean emcee, Synik, I was already conditioned.

Malcom Mufunde Economy
Malcom Mufunde's latest offering is a pleasant surprise

My brother and I have similar tastes in music. In fact, usually, when he critiques art, particularly Zimbabwean hip hop, it’s like he’s mirroring my own convictions. So the first time we heard Malcom Mufunde’s “Trash” we were blown away. The level of penmanship exhibited was mind-blowing. Given there are some things on the project I winced at, they were never everlasting. Sadly for my brother, it didn’t take long before he stopped being a fan.

Music fans are so fickle hey. In a month the Chi town-bred wordsmith had gone from “Top ten in Zimbabwe, bro” shouts to “Haa, it’s not for me Mukudzei”. What had changed? Well, it seems there’s so much braggadocious refrain one can take over 31 minutes and 55 seconds. I didn’t last long either. By the time Malcom’s second joint project dropped, interestingly titled “Emcee FM”, this time with respected local urban music curator, Yaad Universe, he had lost me. I had to let him know too, that while the concept of the album was refreshing from the seemingly intentional conceptless “Trash” (I admit, that sentence makes it sound worse than it is), it dismally missed the mark when it came to substance. As each track finished and another started, I felt more and more mystic as I could half predict the subsequent bars on each verse.

Malcom Mufunde Trash
Malcom Mufunde and Synik's joint album was one of 2021's most talked-about projects

I found myself frustrated. Okay, I get it, you’re the best. And there was a reason for it. Malcom mentioned how he felt inauthentic when he tried to address socio-political issues as potently as veteran emcees like Outspoken or Synik would. Or tackling the plight of the drug-ridden youth like fellow Chitungwiza rapper Stiiv or MyCole Biller. Fair enough, albeit noble, I, like every other music lover with an unfair insatiable desire to see artists expand and experiment, wanted more. Thus I’ve always been fascinated by the man behind the mic before the words. I always wanted to probe into the mind, pun unintended, of this suffocating confidence delivered in rhythmic yet monotonous verbosity.

So Malcom, with or without me in mind, went ahead and dropped a sonically sharp, lyrically dense, conceptually invigorating sequel joint album with Yaad Universe, humanized by the soothing voice of his longtime friend Makanaka Kanjanda, “Economy”. An album which has grown to be my favourite work from Malcom Mufunde. Again, who runs the world?

Without fail, as the third time’s the charm, Malcom delivers on this one. It’s a project that jolted an involuntary squeal of infant joy. An LP that jumpstarted a “Yes! That’s my boy”, like a deadbeat father pitching up unannounced at his son’s graduation. Economy is the project I always felt Malcom Mufunde is capable of. He manages to pool together two of his best qualities; punchlines and wordplay. The result? A coherent, heartfelt socio-political commentary from the lens of Malcom, his friends and strangers. Fictional and real-life stories encapsulate the ever-plummeting economy of Zimbabwe. With heady unpredictable production on every single track, Economy thrives on replay value. It’s still an album that the staunchest of Malcom’s fans can rap along too, and that’s a good thing: this is the nature of the artist.

A pleasant surprise on this album has been the quality of the hooks, a majority performed by Malcom himself. My favourite is the one on the album’s closer, “Marara”; the perfect hook for an outro in my opinion as it brings a feeling of hope in an album that captures the hopeless essence of being a Zimbabwean citizen. He sticks to his strengths as well, in execution, at least. Most of them are a clever entwining of puns, alliteration and assonance. Be it the solemnly paced “Ndoda mari Mwari, wani Makati tichasimukira gare gare, zvamanje manje ndarangarira makare kare” on the album’s second track “Mari” or the tongue twisting “Kuna nyadenga vakasika, denga nenyika, pane varikurarama mudenga panyika” refrain on one of the album’s best tracks “Denga Ne Nyika”.

Admittedly, I was a bit worried when I pressed play on the album’s opener “Mbiri”. The keys set the tone so well, Makanaka’s voice immediately grips you, and therefore it was excusable for me to roll my eyes when Malcom’s opening words were “My lines are well rounded…” My PTSD kicked in as I started dreading this would be another 40 odd minutes of Malcom telling me how incredibly gifted he is. But as an infamous urban youth proverb goes, “Don’t judge a man by his first round”. It seems Malcom had some quality pumps in him, who knew?

A myriad of themes are covered in this project yet it still retains its coherent integrity, be it sonically or narratively. From depression and the abuse of the altar to the Zimbabwean kakistocracy and ailments of the youth. Malcom manages to bring his best rhyming qualities while also adding wit to the dynamic, something I feel he should tap into more.

I almost spit out my drink when I heard “I’m a Zim product. I was produced in Zimbabwe but that’s the only thing that we produce in Zimbabwe/ Kids and kids and kids…/”. That was good enough to end the album there.

Lately, I’ve gotten to accept that it’s okay to change your opinion on some things when you’re presented with new information. I was pleasantly surprised by this project. One that felt like a big 'F U Mukudzei, I’m amazing.'

More of the same, please.

This article is the second installment of my ongoing "Justify My Bias" series. Read the first article here if you missed it. You can stream Malcom Mufunde's "Economy" album here, or anywhere you stream your music


Mukudzei Mlambo

A bit of Romans 7:15 and 90s Hip Hop & RnB. I write words about things that fascinate me in Zim hip hop on my column series "Justify My Bias"

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