Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reviews:: Soulstice - Dead Letter Perfect

Every time I get to thinking that today's hip hop has nothing for me, an album comes along and delivers a pimp-slap to my uppity chops. Well, in the case of Soulstice's Dead Letter Perfect, it's more like a gorilla-pimp slap, as this is really a great album. Hailing from Chicago but currently representing Washington DC, Soulstice has the kind of charisma and natural flow that produces incredibly listenable hip hop. And that's not even mentioning the fact that his lyrics are really quite thoughtful and intelligent. Why haven't I heard of Soulstice until now? No idea, but that's a wrong I'm happy to right with this review.

I'm almost hesitant to mention what Soulstice, aka Ashley Llorens, does at his day job. it turns out that Soulstice has a Masters Degree in Electrical Computer Engineering, and currently works with the Department of Defense. This is certainly impressive, and the only reason I was hesitant about mentioning it is that I didn't want the novelty factor of a rappin' Military Engineer overshadowing the quality of this album. I think it's more than strong enough musically to stand on it's own. But I mentioned it because it raises an interesting point: Soulstice has a job, he doesn't need to rap to eat. So why put himself through all the nonsense of the music biz? I have to assume it's because of his love for hip hop and the desire, that most of us who grew up on hip hop still have, to be part of it in some way. As cliche as "doing it for the love" is when it comes to hip hop, it seems like it might actually be true in this case. It could also be a big reason why this album doesn't suck, as many hip hop albums tend to these days.

I should also mention that the production on Dead Letter Perfect is excellent. Soulstice has assembled a group of lesser-known producers, guys like Oddisee, Analogic, and SBe Audiologist, among others, and they've done a good job in providing Soulstice with melodic boom-bapish beats that serve his style rather well. Most have a kind of modern Primo feel with solid drums backed up by strings or other instruments that feature the sudden tempo changes that Primo used so often. Soulstice did a good job choosing his beats, as the album manages to have a very consistent feel, despite the range of producers.

The delicious vinyl static (you know what to do G! I know, terrible) and pumping bassline on the raucous opener Southside Ride provide a solid platform for Soulstice to let loose and let everyone know where he's coming from. The chorus pays homage to Soulstice's aforementioned day job: "Chi-town, ride down, southside we live, got a sick night game plus a 9 to 5". Soulstice runs down his life in hip hop thus far on the stuttering, old school flavoured Book Of Days which features a bassline that wouldn't be out of place on an old Black Moon album, a kick drum that could Van Damme a hole in your chest, and some excellent scratches. One of the best tracks on here, a solid outing for Soulstice and Oddisee on the beat. World's On Fire features Soulstice and his Wade Waters comrade, the awesomely named Haysoos, putting religion and shady politics on blast.

The honest Be Strong finds Soulstice providing advice and comfort to a female friend dealing with an un-expected pregnancy. Considering hip hop often portrays men as preferring the Shawn Kemp or Travis Henry school of parenting, this is a nice change. Dreamer has the perfect beat for a hip hop song of that title, with big drums and wistful strings providing the backdrop for Soulstice's ode to following his hip hop dreams. More big drums and catchy strings mix with old school sounding female vocal samples on The Time, a mature and modern look at love, which is always refreshing. Great song, compares to The Light (take your pick, either Common or Pharoahe Monch) as far as modern hip hop love songs go. Wordsworth joins Soulstice on No Chance which is a great pairing as Soulstice reminds me of Wordsworth both in flow style and subject matter. It also features a nice beat by Analogic, another great song.

Since I'm breaking out the cliches for this review, I'll drop another oft-repeated jewel: this is an album you can listen to from start to finish. No lie. I honestly don't think there's one song I would skip past if the iPod cued it up shuffle style. That's rare these days. Not sure what else I need to say on this one, if you're willing to dig a little deeper for an album that could restore a bit of your faith in hip hop, check out Soulstice's Dead Letter Perfect. Cop it from Soulstice's own Wandering Soul records when it drops in October.

MP3:: Soulstice - Book Of Days

MP3:: Soulstice f. Wordsworth - No Chance

Posted at 8:32 AM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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