ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Existence’ by Malcom Mufunde - A Trip Into The Abstract

What Malcolm Mufunde shows us in this project is that whatever our societal problems are, in our country and globally, they can be properly addressed through philosophical existential concepts. The abstract may seem blurry, but we cannot avoid it. 

Existence album Malcolm Mufunde zim hip hop



The inimitable and exceptionally prolific hip-hop wordsmith from Zimbabwe Malcolm Mufunde released three albums in 2022. And that is a self-explanatory statement of intent.

His first solo project release was Halcyon Days in 2018; and last year thus saw the release of 2020 (an album penned in 2020 during that wild lockdown era),  and Economy. These LP releases were then followed by the very seemingly abstract Existence. All ably anchored on the invaluable assistance of Yaad Universe Premiere.

On our end at ZimSphere, we felt deeply obliged to convey a quick analytical and appraisal piece on the album Existence. Its title, when one first looks at it, gives off an enigmatic aura —seemingly, a convoluted auditory exposition of sheer sophistry. But, far from that.

Existence is an album showing Malcolm Mufunde revelling in his top-notch lyricism: but for Malcolm albums aren’t mere lyrical exercises of showoff; he conveys, unflinchingly, the most problematic subject-matters that go to the very root and essence of our existence.

He is unafraid to confront, with profound artistic reverence, the bizarre yet blissful universal condition called being. To some unacquainted listeners, Malcolm may seem to be exuding proclivities for prevaricating under a thin veil of abstract philosophy.

But with enough patience—we do admit that there will always be a hip-hop listener/fan base without enough steadfastness and patience to fully appreciate the nuances of this rap type—one soon realizes that what Malcolm preaches is the most relevant message of our [demoralizing] times.
Malcom explored the existential and philosophical subject-matters of existentialism, in the process drawing parallels with nihilism and death in a very abstract format. Abstract in the sense that it evades rigid and strident artistic classification.

We can at least assume you’re curious about this perplexing art form just from the concept. And we’re going to be a bit philosophical too.
Why Should We Care?

“Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes.” ―Arshile Gorky
The continuing interest in Existence lies in the album’s ability to inspire our curiosity in mental, spiritual, intellectual, existential, and material terms. The limits of our imagination.

Here’s the unfiltered artistic manifestation and contradiction of life: the potential for man to create [whatever created], and the barrier in our minds laying bare our frustration with the fact that there’s no universal agreement or answer to this ineluctable, sobering question: “Who am l in the grand scheme of things?

Still, what’s important here is to look at that humanistic and existential dilemma as an opportunity rather than a roadblock. And to do that without a didactic diatribe on what an “existential crisis” is.
Existentialism is the philosophical belief that we are each responsible for creating purpose or meaning in our own lives. Our individual purpose and meaning are not given to us by gods, governments, teachers, priests,  or other institutional authorities. Ditto Jean-Paul Sartre. Basically, we first come into being, before we conjure up whatever meaning or purpose we’d love to believe in and pursue.
We see this unavoidable struggle with fate or even faith throughout the album, it seems. There’s a discussion of the meaninglessness of life. Again, ditto Sarte’s concept of nothingness.

There’s palpable tension and angst with this dichotomy: we are ultimately responsible for our choices, yet, we lack a clear, precise, and infallible [psychological and material] framework for knowing if the decisions we make are the right ones, or if they even matter at all.

This tension is generally accompanied by the suspicion that, beyond the everyday trivialities and dreadful issues, beyond the mundane and the lethal, there lies a deeper human need that natural science and traditional religions have not been able to fulfill. Oh, Malcolm, look at the trajectory you choose, one would assert. It can be unsettling.
A Bit Philosophical…

Malcolm presents a fascinating way of thinking about the world, as well as our place in it. The philosophy of existentialism of course goes much deeper. In a nutshell, originally defined by Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, existentialism is the ethical theory that we ought to treat the inherent freedom at the core of human existence as intrinsically valuable, this being the foundation of all other attendant values.
Are there pre-ordained paths or objectives that are assigned to any of us; and that do human beings possess any inherent value more fundamental than the fact we exist? In other words, is being conscious of our own existence the most fundamental thing about what it means to be a human being?

Now, given that the album does not have as much tracks—with only 8—one can be left with a longing that perhaps Malcolm could have fully explained this abstract trip, via his usual artistic tools regarding words, in more tracks. But, for such abstraction, 8 tracks will do. It is a delicate balance—for with such albums the risk of being superfluous is always too close to disregard.
Existence also incorporates elements of moral pessimism and religious skepticism. Moral pessimism  presumes that nothing good can happen because there is nothing good capable of truly existing; in essence,  goodness is a construct that is subjectively different for everyone.

Religious skepticism is questioning religious authority and it is not necessarily anti-religious but skeptical of specific or all religious beliefs and/or practices. Which is a component in nihilism. This, either with a perceived goal in mind or not. If nothing can never be inherently good, it is axiomatic that religion is a fallacy.

Yet these concepts of goodness and religiosity are a massive smorgasbord of centuries-old traditions continually undergoing innumerable permutations in line with the current order and interests of the day—creating a very peculiar existential burden.

Now, the following crystallization of nihilism as gleaned from its classic sense and from the album is going to be truncated below.
Nihilism is a broad philosophy that describes a belief that there is nothing certain in human existence and all values are relative. Nihilism is the rejection of fundamental truths often used to describe or govern human life, such as the rejection of morals, assumptions, or knowledge.
Life for a nihilist is innately meaningless because there are no absolute truths to explain why we exist or how to exist correctly. In other words, nihilistic perspectives conceptualize the world as a chaotic, varied place wherein everyone is randomly placed for no reason.
It’s prodigious how much can be packed into and extracted out of an 8 track album. Such is the perplexity of a Malcom Mufunde album. There’s a lot to it sonically as well as the lyrics and general abstractness. In Malcolm Mufunde, hip-hop in Zimbabwe must pay due attention to the eccentric but greatly poised genius in their midst.

What you may refer to as “social messages and issues” addressed by the album are, at their very root, existential in nature. All of it. Hence it is named Existence.

Stream/download the Existence album by Malcolm Mufunde below and share your thoughts.

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