Society always celebrates the records that top the Billboard 200 album chart. Back of The Billboards is a Music Times weekly segment that looks at the opposite end: the new record that finished closest to the back of the Billboard 200 for the previous week. We hope to give a fighting chance to the bands you haven't heard of. This week we look at 'Malta Bend,' the fourth album from independent rapper Stevie Stone.
WHO: Stevie Stone
WHAT: Malta Bend
Strange Music has had a good year thus far during 2015. Gauging a strong or weak year for the most successful independent label in hip-hop is rather simple however. It usually revolves around whether Tech N9ne, the bestselling independent rapper ever, released an album or not. He did (Special Effects) and it went as high as any record he'd ever released (no. 4 on the Billboard 200). Aside from Tech, Strange feels blessed to land an album on the charts. Murs broke the Top 100 during May and now Stevie Stone has just barely made it, hitting no. 192 with Malta Bend.
That's a long drop for Stone, even if it's an admirable accomplishment for the majority of Strange's curious collection of emcees. The rapper's last two albums on the label landed in the 70s. The fall for Malta Bend doesn't necessarily reflect a drop in quality but one has to wonder.
Stone's approach isn't that far from Tech, his fellow Missourian: Occasional time spent with introspect, while the majority of the momentum dedicated to drugs, liquor and wild sex. It's not rocket science, nor is it Pulitzer material. Tech gets the benefit of the doubt because of his ability to deliver the lines like a ShKAS, but Stone is stuck in a more semiautomatic state. A less interesting and less dangerous gun, ultimately.
The highlight comes with the single "Rain Dance," which features the headliner and his label boss sitting with Mystikal, another emcee noted for his gruff tone of voice. Cultural appropriation aside, it brings the party harder than the rest of Malta Bend.
SIDE NOTE: Although it wasn't the back of the Billboards, this week's chart was noticeable for including Lee Greenwood's American Patriot for the first time in its 20 years of release, no doubt thanks to the July 4th holiday.