Savage - Mayhem & Miracles
Anyone looking for evidence of the seeming split personalities at work within hip hop culture -- gangbangers who love their kids etc -- need go no further than this enjoyable if sometimes puzzling mix of strutting braggadocio, sensitivity, faith and family referencing . . . and a fair bit overt but low range sexism in the hilariously addictive Twerk ("Get your ass on the floor . . . can you bounce a little more?")
From the album's two-way title and the excellent dramatic cover art (by Elliot Francis Stewart, the inner sleeve is even more evocative) there are a few personae adopted here.
Savage offers confident assertion (the opener My Time with Shaxe and L-Dubs where "failure is not an option") and All In ("no sacrifice, no victory") where he outlines a grim autobiography he has risen above and says "I'll be damned if I let my kids see the shit that I did" and how he's "gonna raise the bar". And again on I'm a Polynesian (with Mareko and others) there are claims to gangsta culture, which seem directed at an international audience.
Equally however he nods to faith and hard times on Because of You (with a sentimental hook and offered in tribute to family and people of South Auckland), nails in the tough message of making money while gloating over those who nod off on the job (the highly effective Get Paid featuring Monsta and Jah Free, and which is grounded in Tupac's sense of drama) and Everywhere I Go -- like Twerk -- which is aimed at booty-movin' on dancefloor.
And after more swagger, this closes with I Promise featuring the powerful voice of Ria as a Seventies-sounding soul diva while Savage tells his partner/friends that no matter what, he's gonna be there.
After the massive success of Swing, there was doubtless some internal pressure on Savage to deliver something as big (which is where the memorable Twerk comes in perhaps?) but also to stay true to the audience and place which gave him his foothold.
If some of this comes up a little short, then he can at least say Mayhem & Miracles keeps his end of the bargain.
Review courtesy of Graham Reid from Elsewhere.co.nz