A few years back, No Malice [formerly Malice of The Clipse] had an epiphany. It was one that placed him in a musical hiatus, where his fan base questioned the possibility of him ever returning. As part of The Clipse, the artist born Gene Thornton, helped usher in a new generation of “coke rap,” which ultimately changed the game as we know it. During that time, the Virginia Beach native felt he was at a spiritual low. He parted from the group [his brother, Pusha T, went on to align with G.O.O.D. Music and become a solid solo star], and mended his relationship with God. Now a changed man, No Malice delivers Hear Ye Him, a project that he hopes will deliver a positive message without being masked in the corniness of other artists’ attempts. It’s not that far off for No Malice. During his Clipse days, there were always religious undertones, they’re just more overt now. He checks in with Life+Times to discuss his journey back to music, his “ah-ha” moment, and if there will be a Clipse reunion of some sort. We can only hope.
Life+Times: So you took a brief break in the game and now you’re back and better than ever.
NM: Aw, thank you!
L+T: What did you notice was different when you came back? What did you notice had changed over the few years that you took a break?
NM: You know, I’ma be honest. I don’t see any change, and I’m just being real! I just feel like rap is rap and there’s some guys that’s pretty good, you know, and I don’t feel any big, significant change or anything really different. I feel like I’m picking up right from where I left off, and I’m just trying to get this album out and try to share the message that I’m sharing.
L+T: How do you feel your outlook has changed from when you first started with The Clipse?
NM: I think from the time I first started with The Clipse to now, it’s just…I’m seeing the things that I believe really, really matter. Things that are really and truly important, and I think I should be deemed as credible because I’ve seen both sides, you know what I’m saying? I really believe in people listening to music and enjoying themselves. I think that’s healthy, I think it’s good. I just am totally against listening to music and living your life by what is portrayed and trying to emulate certain things and getting caught up in materialism. These are all things that I once did, so I’m not exempt and I’m not trying to be like I’m above all of that. I just definitely believe it’s a time and a place for everything. I do believe it’s a time that people have to grow up. My focus basically is I guess kind of geared toward the younger generation, and also those who may not have a positive influence in their life. So I’m just trying to bring another spectrum to hip-hop.
L+T: Do you feel like you have an advantage? To your point you explained, you’ve seen both sides of the coin and when you listen to certain types of hip-hop, Christian rap is a prime example, a lot of kids don’t want to hear it. They dismiss it as corny or preachy or something in between, but for someone like yourself who has the lyricism who came from your background… The Clipse were the soundtrack to several generations of kids, and the fact that you can deliver that message, and you can still – as you’ve always done with The Clipse – have some sort of an undertone of religion without coming across as categorical Christian rap. Do you feel like that puts you at an advantage to really talk to these kids about what’s going on?
NM: Right! I really believe that it does, and I don’t believe in shaking your finger at people and trying to tell people how to do things or what they should or shouldn’t be doing, I think the best way is by an example, and I can honestly say if somebody had came off to me in a preachy kind of way, I would be more apt to turn them off and not listen, you know? And because of my belief in Jesus and how real he is to me and I’m very sincere about it in that I want people to know about him, I’m definitely not going to come off and try and turn them off. If this was just something I was trying to do and if he was Santa Claus to me and if this was something that I just wanted to try and do or whatever, I wouldn’t care how I came off. But this is real to me, so I have to be sensitive to how it’s delivered. I know what music turned me off, I know what positive music that turned me off. People trying to be positive or people being too preachy, I know what turned me off. Just because this is where I’m at in my life right now, it’s not like I don’t remember what I didn’t like or what I thought was corny or whatever, and I believe this is my gift. I believe this is my gift that God gave me, I believe that this is my platform and I think that people that know The Clipse and know where I come from, I’m hoping that they will find me to be reliable.
L+T: Why did you decide to write a memoir at what felt like so soon in your life? Was it to conclude that one part of your life and to start a new one?
NM: What I believe is that from 12 years of doing music and establishing a fan base – and you know, our fans, our core fans, they’re real fans, they’re passionate about our music. Our music is very real, it’s very real, genuine music and they know that. They know it’s real, and I just felt like it was only right to tell what I’m seeing now. I told them what I was seeing then, now this is another facet of my life. Now if they wanted me to go on and continue to not make them aware of where I was at in my life and just live out what they were introduced to, that wouldn’t be real! Yeah, you got to know me then, now I’m giving you a different part of my life. This is where I’m at now. People grow. As much as we want things to stay the same, things don’t stay the same. Things change, and it’s honest. My life is just brutally honest. I just feel like it’s only right to give them the entire story, and I believe God gave me this platform. That’s why he put me on this platform, because I thought like they thought, I did like they did, and then I saw something different. Not everybody’s going to listen but I guarantee you there are going to be some that listen for the better. I’ve seen it and I see them and they come up to me at gas stations, grocery stores, wherever I’m at, somebody is saying something as to the new movement, and to me, that is all that matters.
L+T: Was there some sort of a moment during your career in The Clipse where you were like, “I’ve got to change this. Something’s gotta give”?
NM: Yeah, yeah. To be honest, there were quite a few. It hit me with a barrage of punches of things that just really opened my eyes. What I did was – and this definitely comes from the Bible – but what I noticed was all I had to do was admit that this isn’t right, or this is right or wrong. I didn’t have to try and change it. First step I had to do was admit it, and once I admitted what I believed was wrong, then my actions started to change. For so long, I just did what I wanted to do. I got friends that even to this day, that they just do what they want to do, and they think it’s their right and they owe it to themselves and they’re in charge of themselves and they do whatever it is they want to do. Well of course they’re never going to do right, because they don’t believe nothing is wrong. So you have to first believe. Even if you continue to do wrong, at least when you look at yourself in the mirror, be able to say, “That wasn’t right.” Now you’re dealing with a real person, not a robot.
L+T: I read in your memoir you went through a period of time that when The Clipse were at their peak, spiritually and emotionally you felt like you were at your worst. How did your brother [Pusha T] take that? Like when you came to him like, “I can’t do this,” what was his reaction?
NM: He understood. At first he didn’t know why, but I think he respects me enough to not even question it. Like, if that’s what I’m going to do, that’s what I’m going to do. I can’t even see him fixing his mouth to say, “What do you mean? What are you talking about?” If I say I’m doing something, he’s going to be like, “You sure?” just like he did. Then he’s going to be like, “Alright, that’s what it is.” I didn’t go to him asking, I was telling him what’s going on with it. I was telling him what was up; he respected it. That would be the same thing I would do if he came to me that way. People for a long time thought we were twins…we’re not twins. We’re brothers and we’re both grown men, and we came together as Clipse, as a group, and we benefited from it, but that doesn’t mean we’re obligated to stay in that unit. It’s not like we’re built into this institution and we have to stay here together. We benefit from it, and then get what we can get out of it, and then if one of us wants to do something different… You know, the only obligation we have to each other is to love and support each other, and that’s what we’ve always done.
L+T: Yeah, despite what the media seemed to have thought during all that time.
NM: Yeah! But you know why? They just couldn’t fathom it not being any animosity, I guess because that’s what they would go through. “That’s what it must be! It must be something wrong, it must be a problem!” No, never not once!
L+T: It wasn’t like you were telling him to stop rapping, or to stop rapping about the things he was rapping about.
NM: Exactly! Man, you said it! You said a mouthful right there. You’re exactly right. Straight up!
L+T: At this point in time, you and your brother have arguably fundamentally different approaches to music. I know people keep hounding you about the possibility of a Clipse collaborative album, but could there ever be something like a Speakerboxxx/The Love Below like Outkast did where one album’s yours, one album’s his?
NM: Yeah, you know I keep open a possibility. It’s certain doors I do shut, don’t get me twisted. There is a level that I just will not compromise, but what I do hold out is hope. I hold out hope for some kind of an even playing field that won’t contradict what I’m doing, you know what I’m saying? But if not, I’m fine with it. If not, he’s fine with it. I keep hearing about reunions and Clipse reuniting and it’s like, we ain’t never went nowhere, to us. So it’s all good.
L+T: Do you have any reservations with putting this album out? Are you nervous at all?
NM: Let me tell you something. Let me tell you something right now! I’ve heard what has come out. I have NO reservations about putting this album out, I promise you. And really, I can’t wait to see the reaction because I think people already have an idea of where I’m going with it and I just can’t wait to wake them all up. They think because it’s in a different direction and that it’s totally going against the grain, that it’s got to be corny or it’s got to be preachy. It is none of that, and matter of fact, that’s all I’m hearing from people who have heard the album, which I already knew! I just cannot wait to share it. I don’t feel like this has even been done before. I feel like this is going to be so breakthrough. You know what I’m saying? It’s definitely the first of its kind, definitely.
No Malice’s Hear Ye Him drops August 20.