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Hollow Shell of a Better Man (A Painful Representation of an Unsatisfying Existence) by M. J. Meyers

Written by James Lawson

Up and coming hip-hop artist M. J. Meyers has released his debut album called Hollow Shell of a Better Man (A Painful Representation of an Unsatisfying Existence). As you can probably gather from the title, it’s an album containing numerous difficult topics, the umbrella term for all these issues being mental health. Now, I know it sounds like a tricky listen, but trust me; the way in which M. J. Meyers has crafted this body of work is nothing short of incredible. So don’t let the gloomy undertones put you off, because this album is worth a listen, and then a few more.

The start of the album is very fitting in that we hear some very hollow sound effects that M. J. Meyers speaks alongside, with his voice sounding hollow too. He slides in the name of the album in a very clever way with a sly little rhyme, “what follows is a hollow shell of a better man…”. I only heard this satisfying rhyme on my fourth or fifth listen of the album, and I feel it’s going to be one of those albums that you keep hearing more and more in, the more you listen.

There’s a couple of occasions in this album where I found myself doing a sort of double take. What caused this? The unexpected psychedelic guitar parts that crop up twice. I did not expect to hear some Jimi Hendrix-esque guitar in the middle of a hip-hop rap album. The first example of this is in Hollow Shell, the album’s second song; at about 1 minute 40 seconds into the tune, the vocals stop, and we get a majestic 40 seconds of psychedelic goodness in the form of a guitar solo that sounded like it got lost on its way to Woodstock ’69. The guitar returns again at the end of Bad History, the only track on the album that was released as a single.

M. J. Meyers’ song writing game is strong, to say the least. He’s really got a way with words; it’s clear he’s a natural poet. The way his lyrics are so witty and interestingly phrased becomes even more impressive when you consider the deep and personal topics he’s writing about. It takes a determined artist to push through life’s hardest times and still manage to produce such touching art, whether that be music, painting, or poetry. The assumption that he’s a poet is confirmed when, at the very end of the album, he recites a poem that he wrote once the album was all written; it’s a retrospective and inward-looking piece that reflects on his feelings and growth as a person over the past year.

This album is brilliant, and I urge everyone to listen to it. It doesn’t matter whether this is your usual go-to genre or not, it’s a great piece of work that deserves to be heard. Furthermore, the topic of mental health isn’t often used as an overt influence for an album, but that is the case here. It’s refreshing to see a young man speak so openly about his mental health struggles because society has taught many men that this is a sign of weakness. Meyers deserves great respect for his braveness, proving the twisted ideas of society and the patriarchy wrong.

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