¡Mayday! ‘South Of 5th’ album review

Life in Miami isn’t just all beaches and bar-hopping. Reggae-hip hop stunners ¡Mayday! know the city all too well, growing up on the less desirable streets south of 5th – where watching your back isn’t a precaution, it’s a necessity. Signing to Strange Music in 2009, the band has pumped out album after album, escalating in the ranks of rap alongside label mates Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, Murs and more. But, unlike the others, ¡Mayday! holds true to Caribbean beats, rendering an equal blend of reggae and rap that most struggle to achieve.

¡Mayday! is paying homage to their roots with a hometown tribute LP…

Now on their 6th full-length album, ¡Mayday! is paying homage to their roots with a hometown tribute LP, South Of 5th. Setting the scene with film noir-style narration, the album’s introduction paints a picture of Miami from yesteryear – a once civil and safe place for “seekers of fun in the sun”. Strings accompany the orator as he describes a myriad of Miami leisure, similar to classic movie and documentary scores; just look at the middle-class Smith family enjoying a hot beach day! Splash splash, laugh laugh. The exposition fades to the sound of crashing waves, alluding to the fact that, like ever-flowing ocean currents, times have naturally changed. Radio static concludes this artsy trip down memory lane and the listener can only expect a reckoning of the ‘right now’ to come crashing next.

And, what contrast. Track two, “Next To Go” or the first single off the forthcoming LP, consists of DJ scratchs, rapped lyrics and a pistol whip of hood mentality. “You don’t know ‘til you’re next to go,” ¡Mayday! forewarns, so might as well live every day like it’s your last. In this neighborhood, your days were numbered from the start, anyway. Track three “Shelter” furthers this dark, ‘life or death’ attitude, positing the question “if we keep goin'”, will we even get to where we want to be? Can we ever be sheltered? You can graduate out of an impoverished state, but once raised in it, it’s ingrained in you. Welcome to the lifelong mental crippling of the destitute. In layman’s terms – once hood, always hood. With a booming bass and vocal echoes, “Shelter” creeps into the deep crevices of your mind, waiting for you to figure yourself out… if you even can.

“We Ain’t Sleeping” featuring Danny Acosta brings forth a slower tempo, a bubble organ and some bongos. Although a track that could be considered a ‘feel good, nightlife’ one, this song leans more on the side of lamentation than living it up. “You’re all dressed up with nothing to do,” chants the ¡Mayday! crew and the “clubs keep closing on you”. Bummer, just when you wanted to escape your issues for a night… But, MC Bernz and Wreckonize chant, “Stay with me… please don’t leave me ‘til I’m sober.” Misery loves company; this one goes out to all the damaged and distracted! This segues into track five, “Run Up”, which is the BUSINESS. Running the streets comes with the flipside of being run up – lest we forget, it could be you. Strange Music co-founder and CEO Tech N9ne cameos on the bridge, adding his signature bullet speed to an already gangster message.

The rest of the album continues in this preaching style, with lessons subtly embedded in every track. “New Blessings” says to manifest your own destiny, “Magic In The Smoke” says sanity can be manufactured, “Life Times” says “struggle is beautiful” and “Broken Mirror” says stay motivated despite your circumstances. Optimism balances jaded timbre every, single, time. Reggae meets rap, ladies and gents. What stands out on the release is the track “Unfamiliar”, a song about a derailed relationship and how bad experience can lead to loss of identity. The ethos is to stay true to yourself, but the ominous “oooh”s of the backup vocals predict that’s just not going to happen. Self-pity is a hell of a drug. The track’s distorted guitar sound is also an obvious juxtaposition of someone you once recognized morphing into this whole other foreign entity. Real life problems, insane track mixing.

Nothing like a last-minute arrangement with accredited artists to end an album worth notifying the Academy about.

The last song on the album, “Close So Far”, features GRAMMY-nominees Common Kings and ¡Mayday! comments on the collaboration:

“They called us with no warning saying they had 24 hours in town and wanted to get into some vibes. Needless to say, we all rushed to the studio and basically threw a party. So many people in the room, it was hard to know who did what! In the end, what came from it was a really beautiful song.”

Nothing like a last-minute arrangement with accredited artists to end an album worth notifying the Academy about.

South Of 5th will be available on all digital outlets as of this Friday, September 7th. To celebrate, ¡Mayday! is set to embark on a national tour starting in, of course, Miami on September 8th. Happy album release party to all! From the east coast, the band will head southwest and circle up to the northeast from there, hitting 24 states before ending on November 18th at Charleston’s Pour House. Can’t make the album release party in Florida? ¡Mayday! is throwing an album release pre-party September 6th in Los Angeles, hosted by hip hop extraordinaire and label mate Murs. For more information or to grab your tickets now, head to www.maydayonline.com.

Pre-order South Of 5th album:

Track listing:

  1. South Of 5th (Intro)
  2. Next To Go
  3. Shelter
  4. We Ain’t Sleeping (feat. Danny Acosta)
  5. Run Up (feat. Tech N9ne)
  6. New Blessings
  7. Unfamiliar
  8. Magic In The Smoke
  9. Life Times
  10. Damaged Goods
  11. Broken Mirror
  12. Time Is Up (feat. Stige)
  13. Close So Far (feat. Common Kings)

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Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.

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