Music has a long-standing relationship with politics. For many, many years, individuals have sought to voice their political concerns through music in the hope that listeners will be inclined to agree or, at the very least, reconsider their own beliefs. This has allowed music of all shapes and forms to reach out to its respective audiences and inspire change within them, playing a hugely important role in political history.
Marla Mase is a multi-talented performer from New York City, where she is known for her provocative, raw performance style and direct lyricism. Mixing genres as diverse as rock ‘n roll, spoken word, reggae and funk, Marla Mase is clearly intent on getting her message out to as many people as possible. Speak Deluxe
contains six additional songs that were not present on the original release, only adding to the diversity on display.
Regardless of which genre she operates from, Marla Mase always tries to bring a fresh perspective to it, with a great deal of influence from world music. Credit must be given to Marla’s backing group, The Tomás Doncker Band, for their unique performance on this album, as they provide a very fitting instrumental performance to back her wide-ranging vocals.
However, the most striking aspect of this release is the political lyrics, with human rights and feminist perspectives on songs such as “Piece of Peace”, “Lioness”, “Scream” and “AnnaRexia” (featuring Garrison Hawk from Bill Laswell’s Method of Defiance). Mase’s message is ultimately a positive one, with themes of love and empowerment that are at once very pragmatic but also very inspiring.
While all of this is ultimately positive, Mase’s lyricism can be quite annoyingly literal at times and this takes a while to get used to. At the end of the day it’s effective, but sometimes feels as though it’s being shoved down your throat, which is never a good thing. Then again, with such an important and universal message it’s difficult to fault a little straightforwardness.
The deluxe edition of the album also hinders its intentions in many ways; with nearly 70 minutes of music to digest, this is a long and occasionally tedious listen. And it must be said that although this is a fantastic display of genre-hopping, Speak Deluxe
never really settles into one style for long enough to find its niche. In short, there is something for everyone here but don’t expect to love all of it.
Marla Mase has an important message for all of us and we would benefit from hearing her out. With more consistency and a more easily digestible lyrical presentation, she could go a long way to becoming an important figure in the political side of the music world.