The Awakening (II)
Reviewed by Kahron Spearman, Fri., Feb. 3, 2017
No such thing as a sure thing, but 20-year-old Brian Baptiste has pitched his trajectory upward as Malik on these well-purposed chronicles of a young soul teetering in the balance. Continuing the Austin rapper/producer's existentialist series, The Awakening (II) follows his ultimately hopeful The Principium with a sonically dense spiritual reverie turned burner. Oozing confidence, this spectacular offering is rife with trap, jazz, and trip-hop cadences, its production lush throughout. On lead single "Alone," he tickles the keys and goes full-on PBR&B singsong over layered flourishes. The album's best track goes to atmospheric stalker "S.M.S.," where he calls out rap's spiritually bereft subculture: "The secret's minimal, keep it subliminal/ No one's born a criminal, but we can get him there." On "Something / Nothing" and "Exodus," he makes use of eerie touches and strange clangs à la Brixton's old trip-hop/electronic acts. Malik eschews preachiness, not necessarily even delivering a Christian message – which is the trick.