04 September 2014

Mali Music

Jamaal Pollard professionally known as 'Mali Music' is an EXTREMELY talented, 26 year old American musician. He has released two independent albums but is now making waves with his new album titled, Mali Is..., having signed with record company, RCA. There is really nothing this guy can't do. He sings, he raps and he plays both the piano and guitars with a high level of proficiency. His studio release, 'Mali Is...' has a Soulful, RnB, HipHop, Jazzish feel but watching live performances by him will quickly make evident that he can really do any genre. He is certainly sure of himself and confident and brings great energy and feeling to all his performances.

Jamaal has come under great criticism for his decision to take a different direction from what he has previously done with this new professional release, particularly by the Christian community. Before, his music was outright Christian but his new album, Mali Is..., while carrying several hints and undertones of Christianity is certainly one that is ambiguous (at best) as far as his faith is concerned.

Jamaal has explained this departure as no departure at all. He has said that he is simply using the opportunity that he has been given with his record deal with the bigger audience, bigger production and bigger associations that come with it to take his faith to the world on this new platform.

How are we to respond to this?

This is not a first. Many talented people and groups that have grown up in the church and say they are Christians begin to release albums and songs that have a more subtle message of God and Christ to 'break into' what is popularly referred to as the mainstream. My mind immediately goes to the Christian rock band, Third Day, with their 2004 release entitled "Wire" which was so tailored to appeal to the mainstream that it is their most 'Christless' album to date.

I love Third Day and I also love their Wire album and so when I call the Wire album their most 'Christless' album to date, I am not trying to be brutal or harsh but simply trying to hit the nail on the head. By making albums and music that lack Christian language apart from subtle hints to that effect, musicians hope to appeal to the wider audience out there and get air play on secular radio stations that would otherwise not play their music.

There is a concern here. It maybe true that Jamaal and Third Day would preach the true gospel in their concerts if they managed to pull mainstream audiences to their concerts. It may be true as Jamaal said, that getting into the mainstream would also allow him to preach the true gospel to mainstream artists that are secular and know nothing of Christ but there are concerns here. It's worth mentioning that Third Day's attempt to break into the mainstream with Wire was unsuccessful and they quickly came back with an album which was outright Christian, Wherever You Are, with a lead single off the album titled "Cry out to Jesus" (talk about going from a most "Christless" album to a most "Christfull" one). I can't help but wonder whether they would ever have released any "Christfull" albums had Wire been successful.

Well then, what is the concern? Is there room for the likes of Jamaal who want to reach the mainstream audiences and musicians by being more subtle and producing music which is only subtly Christian?

I'll be honest. I'm skeptical.

You see, there's only two options here. Either Jamaal and all others make this shift sincerely to reach a larger audience who need to hear the gospel or insincerely, for their own hunger for success and recognition. The latter is wrong and needs no discussion. If it's selfish, it is sin.

If, however, you make music that is less "Christfull" for the sake of getting God's message out there, I don't think God needs you to employ such measures to further his cause. Jesus Christ himself is a good example. While he associated with tax collectors and sinners, he did not attempt to make his message more subtle in order to break into the mainstream or to create opportunities to reach larger audiences. If he did, he, no doubt, would have reached a far greater audience. But he did not. He did not employ such measures to get his message out there. He spent time with sinners but never modified his message in any way either in quality or quantity. The message he preached to the churched is the exact same one he preached to the un-churched. The message he preached to the saints, he preached to sinners alike. A compromise of the message makes me a little uncomfortable. Does that mean all ones music must be littered with Jesus Christ? Not necessarily. I think there is room for a Christian musician to compose a 'love song' on his/her album. After all, who are we kidding? We all listen to secular music from time to time depending on what we are going through or what our preference is at that time. Obviously if we listen to more secular music than Christian or if our collection of music is more secular than Christian, it speaks volumes as to the condition of our hearts.

So, Jamaal/Mali Music, brother, your music is fantastic. Your new release, Mali Is... is on repeat on my audio player at the moment just as Third Day's Wire is from time to time but it won't be long before it is relegated to the bottom of the playlist because it is spiritually bankrupt. The music that remains at the top of the playlist is that which speaks of my Lord and Saviour and what he has done for me. My only message to you is this. Jesus could have made his message more subtle for the very reasons that you have, i.e., to appeal to a larger audience and get the truth to them but he didn't. I don't see why you should. Speak the truth brother and don't dilute it. Don't make it easier on the ears of the non-believer. Preach it like it is. If the Lord and his holy word truly fills your heart, do not hold back from letting it fill your music as well for the sake of appealing to the mainstream, for from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Let your music say what your heart overflows with and let God worry about getting what he has filled your heart with to mainstream audiences and artists.


Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

signing with a secular music label does not mean you have tone down your music listen to the album mind you not all Christians listen to secular music

Alan Lester said...

In order to write an outstanding song, a songwriter must be driven by passion. If a song I am writing is not centred on Christ, there seems to be no theme big enough to fuel my passion to write. Just can't get away from Romans 1:16 in this regard.

Unknown said...

Question: Have you ever been to a Mali Music concert, post-transition?

I have...two times in the last year...at BET's Music Matters (Yes a secular showcase) and his Mali Is Album Release Concert; both in NYC. I too was skeptical at first before the album dropped, but once I went to his concert...there was no denying that that man was a true "116" unashamed follower of Christ. As a Christian DJ, I can't hate on him for moving to this route. Listen to the Christian radio stations such as K-Love...he would never get burn on there. You know where he has tho? BET Awards, Love and Hip-Hop, and other several major secular music outlets. He's able to bring the best production and creativity possible now with this new phase in his career which is more than evident if you look at the production value between Mali Is and his previous albums. So before you condemn Jamaal, maybe take a step back and possibly applaud him for stepping out in faith as a Christian artist, and maybe even see the blessings God has poured out on his life since Mali Is for being obedient to his calling.
(Just another view point, that's all)

B howell said...

Very we'll said! Amen!!