Assembling a debut album puts a tremendous amount of pressure on an emerging artist. A successful project should address the following questions: What are her best attributes? What distinguishes her from others in the crowded music field? What image does she wish to project? Funk-rock guitarist Malina Moye's first album, Diamonds and Guitars, perfectly illustrates the importance of these issues. While a few tracks display her considerable guitar-playing skills, too many others attempt to shoehorn her in to contemporary hip hop. Her unique image remains somewhat of a mystery.
Moye is clearly a talented guitarist, heavily influenced by Prince, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly and the Family Stone. Wielding her Fender Stratocaster, she plays it left-handed and in a wah-wah style. According to her website, Moye is the first African-American left-handed, female guitarist to be included on Fender's list of endorsees. Having played numerous club and festival dates, as well as with artists such as Prince and Robin Thicke, she is now embarking on a solo career.
Unfortunately her material rarely provides a showcase for her considerable skills. Instead, tracks such as "Alone" and "Girlfriend" focus more on hip-hop; one listens to Diamonds and Guitars waiting for her to let her funk flag fly. "Ain't It A Shame" contains a memorable chorus, but is weighed down by the typical guest rap that sounds out of place with the rest of the album's material. While these singles may receive radio play, they are simply not distinctive.
Another element of a debut album is establishing the artist's unique voice. Moye tends to rely heavily on sampling, not particularly embellishing on the original. "Need Your Lovin'" borrows from Teena Marie's song of the same title (and also uses auto tune technology, an overused element on current hip hop). "Sexxy Man" is Hendrix's "Foxey Lady" with few lyric changes. While sampling can be used creatively, it can detract from the artist's distinct lyrical and vocal imprints. On future albums, Moye should focus more on developing her own material so listeners can discover her impressive musical talent.
A few Diamonds and Guitars songs hint at her true self, such as the Prince-like "Nobody," where she plays delicious wah-wah guitar and explores the lower ends of her voice. She further pays tribute to funk legends on the catchy "Yaah!," which samples Sly and the Family Stone and references James Brown in various lyrics. As on "Nobody," Moye lets some raspiness creep into her voice, adding some edge. Another song, "K-yotic," provides a welcome change of pace, with Moye ripping into solos, demonstrating why she is a respected rock guitarist. She also proves she can handle ballads with "You're the 1," a pleasant slow jam.
In future releases, Moye should select material that will allow her to do what she does best: show off those funky guitar licks. Hearing her take on the blues and funk only, for example, would make for a fascinating listening experience. Diamonds and Guitars provides glimpses into her beginning solo career, but hopefully upcoming albums will enable her to fully develop her distinctive style.