REVIEW: Muja Messiah is a paragon of indie rap longevity on new album

Submitted photo Muja Messiah

Muja Messiah’s hustle never stops whether he’s in or out of the recording studio. But it’s the studio he seemingly can’t get enough of; he loves and lives to rhyme.

At this point, Muja may be the quintessential Minneapolis rapper. Among other characteristics to consider, there’s his longevity, as he continues to consistently drop solid music even into his early 40s, with his own son Nazeem prominent on the Twin Cities music scene. 

Adjacent to Rhymesayers Entertainment in some respects (but never officially signed to RSE), he takes that uniquely Minneapolis indie-rap spirit in more sinister, streetwise directions while leaving plenty of space for his natural sense of humor.

He continues to hone his distinct style of lyricism, cranking out unfailingly clever and funny internal-rhyme sprees that delve into (or at least touch on) everything from his rap superiority, to D-boy logistics, to forgotten movie characters, to today’s political topics. He routinely raps with an audible grin too, like he couldn’t be more pleased with how good his pen game is. 

His new album, Lucky Bastard, is one of three projects he has planned for 2019, and it sets the bar high for the two still to come, details about which have yet to be revealed. In recent years, Muja has liked to work with just one producer for some projects (like 2017’s Saran Rap EP, produced by NYC cult rap stalwart Roc Marciano) and multiple producers for others. 

Submitted photo Muja Messiah’s latest album Lucky Bastard

Lucky Bastard technically falls into the latter category, though five of its 9 songs were produced by Minneapolis’ Naj Bagdadi, who, being relatively little-known compared to some of Muja’s past producers, qualifies as a secret weapon. Save for some brighter, jazzier moments like “The Equalizer” and “Living by the Code,” Muja mainly raps over dark, immersive, almost psychedelic beats, sometimes laced with movie dialog that somehow fits with Muja’s own themes.

While Muja’s beat selection and his choice of guest features are on point, his sheer rapping remains the main attraction. You can read Muja’s lyrics on paper, without hearing him rap them, and still know they’re his. On Lucky Bastard, it doesn’t take long for him to deliver some of his idiosyncratic, vivid scene-setting: “700 for the quadrant at the Olive Garden/ Paranoid like Joe Stalin, I know po-po plottin’,” he admits on the epically beat-switching opener “The Secret.” 

Elsewhere, on “Headless Horseman,” some outlandish retrospection: “I’ve been a boss since Oshkosh B’gosh/Rumors I was washed had me poopin’ in my drawers.” Or, from the album’s finale, “Pho79,” something more political: “I’ll slap the savage out of a MAGA hat-wearing maggot.”

Those are just a select few bars from an album that is absolutely to the hilt with memorable, quotable lines. It’s almost like no lyrics stand out, because they all do. “It’s the greatest since Sammy Davis and Wilt Chamberlain/That 15 minutes that y’all had, that sh*# came and went,” Muja raps on “Amazing Grace.” 

Muja is more than justified to underline his own endurance and renown in the Twin Cities and beyond. He’s proven to be the ultra-rare MC who gets better with age.