We may not be able to get out and around Utica as much as we like these days, but we can always explore our community through the work of our local artists. Utica Hip Hop artist Melz takes us along to the neighborhood he grew up in, Corn Hill, on his latest album “Forlorn.”
Much of “Forlorn” deals with the struggles of working as an artist here in Utica.
“I always write about Utica,” said Melz, whose legal name is Malcom McGill. “And to be honest, it makes my work that much more relateable and transcendent.” He names the late Will Smith, Deandre Preaster, and Josh Wright among his local heroes.
In the albums opening track, Co-exist,” Melz raps, “I drop a track when y’all get sick of all them party songs,” and writes about the difficulties of working hard on your art, but getting less attention paid to it than you would like.
In “Everybody Got a Story,” he reminds his listeners than everyone has struggles, no matter how easy it may look to those on the outside.The track speaks of difficulties many people can relate to, including paying our regular bills as we work on our art.
“The cable bill due, aint even got it. I be on TV, can’t even watch it,” says the stand out line in this song.
Other songs speak out on much deeper themes while still keeping the story in the song focused on his hometown of Utica.
“Glass House” warns of the danger of judging other people, when everyone is flawed, and everyone has made mistakes in their life, while still reflecting on the impact these mistakes have on his hometown with lines such as “You hear somebody died and pray it ain’t a name you know.”
In “Voice of the Ghetto,” Melz speaks of the recent wave of murders of young Black men in our country as a whole, pointing out that white police officers have gotten away with these murders, while noting that a young Black man could never get away with behaving in a similarly violent manner.
Although the album was released on January 1, 2020, the line “Go and kill a cop and they gonna throw the chair at ya…but they kill you, it’s self-defense, they’ll swear it was,” instantly brings to mind the case of Ahmaud Arbery, a young Black man from Georgia who was shot and killed on February 23, 2020 while out for a jog. Two white men, a father and son, decided the jogger was a burglar who had been targeting their neighborhood, and chased him down. Arbery tried to fight his assailants off by grabbing one of the men’s weapons. He was shot and killed. The DA claimed the two were within their rights to chase the unarmed man with a gun. Despite the distance between the setting for Melz’s song and the real murder victim, and the slight difference in the details of the case, one cannot help but think that Melz was reflecting on the lives of local men he fears may wind up in a situation similar to Ahmaud Arbery.
In “Late Bloomers,” Melz returns to encouragement to work hard and focus on your art, as he raps about doing what he loves to make money he can use to help those he loves and lift up the community that launched and sustains his career.
But Utica, New York is not just a setting for the stories in his songs to Melz. Everything about the project supports and encourages artists in upstate New York.
“’Forlorn,” is mixed, produced, and mastered by all upstate New York creatives,” he explained. “That is what I take the most pride in about this project. A bunch of upstate New Yorkers came together to cultivate this sound and feel.”
Melz added that he hopes his music inspires others in his community to follow their dreams.
“I hope my music inspires my fans to follow their dreams, no matter where they are in life or how impossible it may seem at first,” he said.
As a further gesture of support and love for his hometown, Melz offers his music for free on both YouTube and Sound Cloud. Those who wish to support him financially may connect with him on Instagram to inquire about purchasing his merchandise.
“I just want to say ‘shout out’ to everyone in Utica doing their thing!” Melz said. “I see y’all and I support y’all. We are all we got. Let’s show the world what we’re about!”
To enjoy “Forlorn,” and all of Melz’ previous work, visit https://soundcloud.com/melz33 or https://www.youtube.com/user/malcolm1ish/videos
Connect with him at https://www.instagram.com/flyboiidotcom/
Writer’s note: I am aware that the two killers mentioned in the above article have in fact been charged with murder. This does not change the fact that the young jogger is dead, or that the initial response from their community was “They must have been protecting their neighborhood.”
(Photo courtesy of Melz)