Malcolm Palmer – Between The Womb And The Tomb

Malcolm Palmer
Between The Womb And The Tomb

In the beginning, there was hip-hop. And it was good. Then in the early 90’s came “alternative hip hop.” Which was not so good. I’m still not sure what that was supposed to be about but Arrested Development had something to do with it. And they unfortunately lasted longer than the brilliant TV show with the same name. This type of hip-hop, folk hop, whatever you want to call it, focused on live instrumentation, a more “organic” sound, and a lyrical emphasis on social issues in addition to having a good time. I’m sure you can lump in early G. Love and Special Sauce with this too. It all sounded too safe, too boring, and too VH1.

Skip ahead a few years and we’ve got Malcolm Palmer, a self proclaimed poet with big hip-hop dreams from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Now he currently lives & bases his rhymes from Chicago but his interest in all things urban began in….New Mexico. Not exactly the most dangerous area but we’ll go with him on this one. Unfortunately, he doesn’t take us far or introduce us to anything we haven’t already heard many, many, many times before.

The title says it all: Between the Womb and the Tomb. Although it’s not a concept album, it’s a more telling title than intended. It’s telling of the obvious and tired rhyme schemes that fill the twelve tracks. If you think this is clever or cute,well,then pop open a cold beverage because you’re gonna be in for a treat. KRS-1 coined the phrase “edutainment” which is exactly what you think it is and this is the approach Palmer tries to take. Every social problem is addressed here from poverty, crime, drugs, boredom, prostitution, the government, the media, blah blah blah. All the topics are addressed within the first song and then for the next 11 songs, without end, and without any fresh observations or solutions to any of them.

The best MC’s in hip-hop and the best folk singers succeed when they are telling a story. Palmer is unable to accomplish this, most evident on “The Prostitute Song,” which for an idea such as this, is a pretty uninspired title. His tale of this poor woman is so poorly told and so overwrought with details it comes off as utterly unbelievable. Every cliché you can dream up about the street walking life is here and thrown at you in such a jumbled mess you feel more sorry for the woman being part of the song as opposed to being a prostitute. On the chorus of “Preferred Form” Palmer attempts to sing and does so in a most embarrassing accent. I’m pretty sure it’s not from either the south west or the south side.

Musically each song is interchangeable with the last with the same verse/chorus/verse structure and no melody or any sort of memorable hook. The acoustic guitar is over produced to the point of sounding new age-y while keyboard flourishes puts them into jam band category. There is no rhythm section propelling the songs or accentuating any lyrical flows nor does the band lock into any groove. As a unit, it all sounds pretty flat.

If the album has proper promotion you could go on down to your local frat house and take a listen to Between the Womb and the Tomb. You’re still left with your guilt, thinking you’re making a difference just by acknowledging the problems Palmer addresses. That’s pretty much all you can hope for as an outcome with an album like this.