When I was a kid, I always wanted to work in a record shop. When I was a little bit taller, I wanted to work in a liquor store. Simple things please simple minds. Fortunately MaG wasn’t so inclined to spend his days abusing the privileges that free records and alcohol confer. Instead, he’s dropped an album that will reaffirm your faith in hip hop and life in general; an underground gem from an intelligent, articulate, instantly likeable MC.
I Ain’t Going Back To Retail! is a rallying cry to refuse to settle for less; to strive for a better job, better music, a better life. It’s a deeply emotional and ambitious project, that to paraphrase MaG, thinks big, feels big, sees big. Two tracks in and he’s already flowed deliciously over Dilla’s “Donuts (Intro)”, called for Hov to hand the reins over, and compared himself to The Beatles. Now that’s thinking big. But to his immense credit, MaG pulls all of this off without ever coming off as arrogant or overreaching. Sure, he can brag and boast with the best, but his real strength lies in relating experiences, dreams and hopes that we can all share in or identify with.
The themes he addresses are at once personal and universal, “capturing the life of everyday people.” We all live in a world where injustice is present, whether racial, political or via plain bad luck, yet MaG doesn’t bemoan his fate or plead for pity, he makes positive moves for change. He’s by turns provocative, philosophical and inspiring. “Proud, Gifted and Black,” “I’m Leaving” and “Sumthin’ to See” are incredibly powerful, impassioned songs that should get fists in the air all across the land. His message is clear, the delivery impeccable. Every word is invested with the weight it deserves, nothing more, nothing less. And when they come wrapped in the smoothest of flows and smothered in some decidedly sweet production, it makes for something truly special.
The early Dilla loop sets the template for the rest of the album; soulful hip hop with sweeping strings and satisfyingly crunch drums, with excursions into jazz, blues and funk to mix it up. It’s as warm and filling as the rich rhymes that lay on top. It might not make for the most revolutionary album ever, but I haven’t enjoyed a hip hop LP this much since The Renaissance. And that’s on the real.
That’s not to say I Ain’t Going Back To Retail! is perfect; as the man himself says “MaG is now a prodigy,” not the finished article, as a couple of unexceptional tracks attest. But in a way, this just adds to his charm. What you’ve got here is a hugely exciting MC growing into his skills and revelling in the discovery of his talents. MaG’s got his eyes on the stars and he isn’t looking back, certainly not back to retail. On “Sumthin’ To See,” he muses that “to get change, you need to move your feet.” You can make a start by heading in MaG’s direction. And just to seal the deal, in the ultimate rejection of the retail world, this album’s available for free. I’m sold.