By Ayana Archie
The EP is only three songs. Just three. But in those three songs, Moody, the latest work of University of Maryland alumni and Hip-Hop Orchestra founder Marcus Moody, compacts an incredible, awe-inspiring amount of expressiveness and intricateness.
“Numb3rs with Ra” is the opening song and undoubtedly the standout track. Moody is the executive producer of the EP, and Ra provides vocals for this track. Here, the production and the story have a mutual relationship, pushing, pulling and driving one another. Alone, neither would be as dynamic.
The long, repetitive drawn-out strings give the song a wailing component, helping Ra to peel back a lifetime full of unprecedented responsibility and brokenness, layer by layer. Under such circumstances, certain experiences stick and can’t be shaken, which is why the numbers become so potent.
“Five. The number of years before I would fear Vaseline seemingly suspended in midair, lubed finger suggesting that I come here,” she recites. “Six. The age I became aware of voices that sounded like God and instinct.”
There are hurried drums, with an emphasis on cymbals, giving the song a lightness it would not otherwise have. As the song progresses, the production becomes almost hypnotic.
Around age 10, the bass drops, an age characterized by summers in terry cloth shorts and cut bangs. Jubilance. A time that was carefree. But the bass dissents around age 14, replaced by decrescendos and whispers of a time that was “so savage,” in which the speaker loses her virginity at 12, then becomes pregnant at 16 and again at 18.
The narrative is told with pure eloquence and a mastery of phonics. The cadence and delivery is seamless.
The bass eventually returns when the speaker gets wrapped up with selling drugs and “the nine I was given in case I had to peel caps back.” As the timeline progresses, the bass coincides with the speaker’s newfound confidence in the discovery of self, even if heavily flawed.
“This ain’t no sob story,” Ra recites.
Next is “Are You Happy With Kosi,” a reminder to evade outer influences with the purpose of working toward inner prosperity.
“Spit on the mic ‘till it glow. Been on point with the prose, they try to dull it with smoke. Bet they poisoned all our water ‘cause they scared of our growth,” Kosi raps.
Michael Jackson’s forceful “yeahs” and “whoos” are interspersed through the track. The modernity and context of Jackson’s voice is refreshing, serving as an exclamation of freedom and free will.
“Started stargazing and you can say I threw up my blue pill,” Kosi raps, referring to the pill in The Matrix that makes a person gullible and sheep-like. Each of Kosi’s bars is delivered with strong affirmation and resoluteness.
“It’s okay to be broken. It’s okay to be broke. It’s okay to be broken,” Kosi raps.
The production is grand, but humble. There are chiming sounds, an organ, prominent drums, and about midway through the song, a super silky electric guitar.
The EP wraps up with “Have Mercy with Friends.” This song is especially meaningful, as it is dedicated to Moody’s friend Mercy Evans, who recently passed.
Moody samples two songs to build toward the song’s message—Donny Hathaway’s “Tim’s High” and Eryn Allen Kane’s “Have Mercy.” The choices are evidently purposeful as both songs, when standing alone, heavily use the phrase “have mercy” and are extremely cathartic.
Interestingly, the phrase itself is not used in Moody’s rendition of the songs.
The intro to “Have Mercy with Friends” is parallel to Hathaway’s. It is strikingly ominous and literally spine-chilling, largely due to lengthy, creaking strings.
“I wanted to express what it felt like to hear the news unexpectedly,” Moody wrote in a text message.
This then transitions into Kane’s soothing “oohs” and “aahs” as she sings, “When I count all my blessings, all my blessings, I can’t even be sad anymore, can’t even be sad anymore.”
Moody adds much depth to the samples with a humming percussion and bass strings, and later, 808 bass. The added sound effects give off a soothing, twinkly sound, vaguely reminiscent of an Alabama Shakes song.
The back and forth between Hathaway and Kane, but especially Hathaway, builds a very intense sense of anguish and yearning, only getting stronger toward the end.
After this cleansing of emotion, Evans’ loved ones reflect on her life with a series of adieus and memories, which seem to salve some of the wounds that often come with grieving.
“I also wanted to express what it felt like to be around so much love even in this terrible situation and to feel the love she would’ve wanted everyone to feel because that’s just who she was,” Moody wrote. “I wanted it to console myself and my friends who didn’t really get to say goodbye.”
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of Marcus Moody on Twitter.
Ayana Archie is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.