Malcolm London’s “Smokescreens & Magic” is a request that won’t be granted

Malcolm London’s “Smokescreens & Magic” is a request that won’t be granted


“How much of your soul gonna cost you a mansion?”

The unexamined life is not worth living, and the examined life is pain – that was the first thing that ran through my mind after listening to Malcolm London’s newest song, “Smokescreens and Magic”. Set to piano and handclaps produced by BAD CXMPANY, Malcolm examines present day with an eye towards how he got here.

Sleepless nights is a theme running through both verses – in terms of Malcolm losing sleep, as well as having nightmares that trouble him by blending Freddy Krueger and Fred Hampton. Those names don’t just make for good poetry, but draw a very specific parallel between fictitious nightmares of Freddy Krueger, to the very real-world horrifics experienced by Hampton who was murdered by Chicago police while he slept.

London also mentions Malcolm X in both verses, also in different ways as he fluctuates between his own internal issues (drug addiction, finding a solid team, moving away) and the external circumstances that have taken their toll and perhaps led to the internal.

At the end, London has no real solutions here, and doesn’t seem to be searching for those in this song. There is a plea to go back to a simpler time, when we are young, before life has been “examined” and we realize how bullshit everything truly is. London delivers this plea knowing full-well it is an impossible ask.

The song is from his forthcoming #RightAwaySeries, which is releasing on 1/19/18. I personally can’t wait.

Alexander Fruchter

Original co-founder of RubyHornet. President of Closed Sessions