By Mohamed Lalej
By Mohamed Lalej
Rabat – Talet “the Third” is the third installment by Moroccan rapper Don Bigg in a series of albums consisting of two previously released successful albums, M’gharba Tal Mout (2006) and Byed w K’hal (2009). The record was the most anticipated rap album of 2015 in Morocco. Once released, it was met with mixed reviews, but, according to some of Don Bigg’s many fans, the record lives up to the expectations.
There is no doubt that opinions change over time, and it is always difficult to pass judgment on recently released records. These records usually need some time to be fully understood and properly reviewed. For that reason, I revisited the album one year later without any expectations or anticipation.
Don Bigg was often criticized for the vulgarity of his lyrics, which are usually loaded with what some people perceive as offensive and (sometimes) shocking language. This criticism was met with a response from Bigg, who decided to release Talet void of any explicit language and instead placed emphasis on wordplay and metaphors rather than the shock value of blunt language.
Ironically, Talet turns out to be the darkest record ever released by the Moroccan rapper, proving that shock does not necessarily stem from explicit language, but can be stimulated simply from the way subject matters are tackled, especially when the artist is characterized by a distinctive storytelling style. This detail gives the album an exceptionally dark and personal tone in terms of lyrics and content.
Bigg’s maturity in his personal life is reflected through the writing style he adopts in his latest album, which sounds deeper and more poetic, and contributes directly to his artistic maturity as well. Furthermore, the use of different forms of narration in several songs shows the literary influence that imposes itself as an important part of the writing process.
Whether Bigg, and the artists involved in the writing process, are aware of it or not, the story telling methods used in the record show a decent knowledge of different narrative modes; the third-person omniscient perspective L’merd Lekbih / Ghatchathi / Melli Kount Sghir, the interior monologue Ana, the focal character L’mizane, the use of the first and third person viewpoints, and the embodiment of Maliach in which Bigg addresses Moroccans from the perspective of objects (e.g. a garbage can, a bus, etc.) an impressive and artful feat.
Musically, Don Bigg rises in opposition not only against the restrictions of the public narrative regarding a number of topics and attitudes, but also against the fictitious limits, self-imposed by many rap artists, which lead him to break free from the conventional structure of rap/hip hop productions.
Accordingly, Talet turns out to be a rich record that features an interesting diversity of sounds, melodies, and genres (Rap, RnB, Pop, Funk, Electronic music, Soul, Jazz etc). The idea of fusing diverse sounds from different genres and subgenres together into one large and multilayered coherent sound takes a lot of flexibility and artistic courage just thinking about let alone putting into effect.
Bigg, alongside his DBF team and other artists with whom he collaborated, managed to raise the bar higher than expected, mainly due to the unrestricted mentality they adopted while working on, what can now be referred to as, a “classic” of Moroccan rap.
The diversity of the album is not limited to music, but extends to the topics tackled throughout the record as well. It explores the chaotic mind of the rapper from different perspectives through which he raises awareness of subject matters like pedophilia, social and economical injustice, cancer, prostitution, ecstasy, death, religion, and lack of opportunities in a country full of brilliant minds as well as personal and retrospective material such as TJR, 2006…2014, and Gaama Ala Balna.
However, the weak point of the album is the ambiguous, and sometimes irrelevant, choice of the titles of some of the songs.
In Melli Kount Sghir (“When I was little”) for instance, the title suggests that the story is told from the perspective of the antihero, but Don Bigg recounts the teenagers tragic life using the third person narration, which sounds a little unrelated to the title despite the fact that Marwane “plays” the role of the antihero in the chorus and the outro of the song.
In the same manner, the titles Ana, Maliach, Ghatchathi, TJR, among others do not reflect the nature and the mood of the tracks, nor even have the strong impact conveyed by the content of the songs themselves.
Such lack of imagination concerning the titles could easily undermine the seriousness, creativity, and value of the whole material if we take into consideration that there are people– a minority, one would hope- who judge the book by its cover before reading it.
Nonetheless, as a whole, the album is full of crafty songs that are well-written, well-performed, and well-produced.
Hopefully the likes of the Talet album, and similarly valuable pieces of work, will stimulate a new form of competition amongst the hip hop community in Morocco, fueled by creativity and quality rather than the “fast food” mentality of some artists whose only concern is to stay relevant.
Edited by Andrew Mines
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