Markus Alandrus Randle a/k/a Childish Major (and not to be confused with Childish Gambino) got his first break in 2013 when he produced Rocko’s hit single “U.O.E.N.O.”, and has since charted a path to his own career as a solo emcee. Since “Dirt Road Diamond” is only available as a digital download or via streaming, I’m going to assume he produced the album himself, but you know what they say about assumptions.
Major is an interesting dude. Given he got his start with Rocko it would be reasonable to keep your expectations low, but not only does he exceed those meager standards he does something totally unexpected — he sings and it’s NOT obnoxious. Childish Major is not a mumble mouthed and totally tuned emcee. As his singing and rapping illustrate on the “For You” single he’s well skilled at both flowing and crooning, able to shift up gears between one and the other at a moment’s notice.
“Dirt Road Diamond” is only 33 minutes long, but eight of the 11 tracks clock in at over three minutes, so it’s fair to call them SONGS and not just the often chemically induced woozy studio sessions where emcees say what they are thinking and call it good before passing out. There’s fully thought out and realized tracks on this album in terms of production and writing. From the heartfelt “love on another level” of “Bro” to the new age funk of “Tenfold” and the whimsical “No Sweat” duet with Ludacris, each element of this album loudly says it should have been pressed up physically.
Major is replete with Southern charm even though he was born in Minnesota, but he was raised in South Carolina and now associates closely with the Atlanta rap scene, which is why he’s often linked to EarthGang, Spillage Village and J.I.D. among others. Those ties serve him well as EG in particular has that new era Dungeon Family soul that I feel like hip-hop so desperately needs this decade, and that has either rubbed off on Childish Major or vice versa. Whatever the case may be I was pleasantly surprised by the vocal tone, delivery AND singing of “Dirt Road Diamond” to the point it gets an unqualified recommendation to be added to your playlist.