Copenhagen, Denmark is hardly a hotbed of rap music, but nobody told that to Maylay Sparks. The Philadelphian expatriate was left behind in Scandinavia following a leg injury at the monstrous Roskilde Festival and decided to stay put where his posse put him. There’s no way to tell from the music, though, as Sparks sounds as East Coast as they come: all languid symphonic snippets over brashly thumping beats, his rhymes crowded with violence and streetwise class, like Nas’s little brother trying to get a break with Wu-Tang. It’s competent and rather stylish; Sparks holding court for a series of producers (ten different names spread over twelve tracks), while still managing to churn out an impressively cohesive album.
Truth be told, cohesiveness may have a lot to do with the way Sparks follows the steps of his influences, never really bringing much new to the plate, instead retreading the paths of his heroes. Graymatter sounds uncomfortably like some watered-down version of his obvious predecessors. Sparks is a skilled enough rapper, but he struggles to make himself known here. Basically, it’s hard to actually believe his lyrics, and his musical solutions remain pretty tidy throughout, rarely challenging the listener in any particular way.
There are moments where Sparks demonstrates his potential, and his voice, in particular, is authoritative and classy. As of now, though, Graymatter sounds too much like an underground rapper willing to offer it all for a chance to play with the big boys, rather than the self-confident and brash record it pretends to be.