Tag Archives: Chali 2na

Album of the Week: “No More Heroes” by Solillaquists of Sound

solillaquists-of-sound-no-more-heroes

Daniel’s Thought:

“I wrestle with a number of routine judgments and trials,” Alexandrah sings on “The Curse.” “They’re counting down the days till I’ll be dead, or change my style. Assumptions made by stranger’s everyday, like they’ve read my files. Laymen relate with jokes they make. The catch to my laughter is I’m forcing a smile.”

This is Sollilaquists of Sound (SoS), the hip-hop quartet from Orlando, Florida, and sprawling over No More Heroes are themes of social exploration, political and governmental injustice and the media’s far-reaching hands. It’s an accomplishment to get these topics on point throughout the length of an album, but what really stands out is that No More Heroes writes itself as a detailed self-reflection by a group that is merely trying to understand the due process of life. “It’s the curse of pioneer, but I know I got a good thing going here.”

It’s quite easy for an artist to fall one of two ways when constructing conceptual pieces like this. On one end, you can easily trade meaning for melody and fall prisoner to being melodically obsessed. On the other end, you can sacrifice all aspects of melody in order to display a concise project. With these options, an album can be strong, but it’s far from complete. However, No More Heroes pushes both sides evenly, as it neither strays nor conforms on thematic atmosphere.

The obvious thing revolving around No More Heroes is that it’s an effective social outfit. On the electric bubbling opener “Marvel,” which cross-bends up-tempo breakbeats and flow that’s soaked in classic OutKast influence, SoS tackles being socially conscious. By the near end of the song however it starts to become apparent that this is also one of many points where the quartet questions ones self (“Take a little credit for your faults/Halt that personal closure towards your vault.”). Elsewhere, the album covers the media’s negative persona (“Popcorn”), exploitation (“Harriet Tubman, Pt. 2”) and an artistically drawn tribute to the late great J Dilla (“Death of the Muse”).

Although the subject matter gracing No More Heroes is nothing new, it’s presented in both a detailed and melodic stance, further proving that message without melody is meaningless. The variation provides a process for the listener that isn’t boring, and in the end it’s rewarding to find out that the album has many peaks. Spanning just over 60 minutes, No More Heroes lends us a hand in further understanding the world and what encompasses it; furthermore, it teaches us about ourselves and that there is no restriction to thought and what we can accomplish.

Gus’ Thought:

The 2008 album, No More Heroes, by the Sollilaquists of Sound is a first-rate listen from start to finish because of the musicianship, lyricism and message contained within it. The quartet made up of MCs Alexandrah, Swamburger, poet Tonya Combs and producer Divinci hailing from Orlando deliver an album combining spoken word, rapping, singing, live instrumentation and inventive beats. The first song “Marvel” begins with a womp-like bass line that quickly transitions into a deliberate drumbeat layered with synthesizer. From there, we move to “Harriet Tubman, pt. 2” where the group examines the consequences of exploitation in the United States due to the obsession with making a profit. As Swamburger states, “Now eeny-meeny-miny-mo/Aunt Jemima, Sambo/Uncle Ben and Mammy too/Which one are you black people? Forced to package soul in boxes.” No More Heroes is important because of how it confronts social issues with thoughtful lyricism and good music.

Within No More Heroes, there is a continuous shift between fast, medium and slow songs. This makes the album enjoyable to listen to because as Swamburger continually demonstrates his skill as an MC, Alexandrah will swoop in out of nowhere, counterbalancing Swamburger’s rhymes with her beautiful and melodic voice. For instance, “Popcorn” and “The Curse” are slower, more reflective songs that are made by Alexandrah’s voice. Following these is “Dolla Dolla,” a groovy, faster paced piece accompanied by a New Orleans style brass ensemble. At this point on the album, it seems that it couldn’t get any better. Then, “Death of the Muse” drops. This song features J Dilla’s mother Ma Dukes, J-Live and Chali 2na. Highlighting hip-hop royalty, “Death of the Muse” pays tribute to the legend that is J.

As a musical composition, No More Heroes is a tour de force. However, what makes this album even more remarkable is the political, social and economic messages embedded within each song. On “The Roots of Kinte,” Swamburger spits over sample hand drums. “Hello my name is whatever the game is/Whatever it’ll take to make you famous.” In “New Sheriff in Town,” Alexandrah describes: “Case of break, rape of address/Vacant cranium, man do the rest/Found best kept secret property of government suddenly/Now youth owes rent, tenant of stress.” Some music is pleasurable to listen to because of the musicality, but lacks any sort of consciousness or message. I am not saying that every song has to have some sort of political meaning. However, in the case of No More Heroes, the critically conscious messages embedded within the music makes the album an entertaining, and educational experience.

Must-Listens:
“The Curse”
“Marvel”
“Death of the Muse”

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Album of the Week: “Power in Numbers” by Jurassic 5

"Power in Numbers"

Daniel’s Thought:

One of the most influential aspects of an album comes from within, spreading as if controlled by the sprawl of a story or concept. Usually constructed through varying themes and messages and having them intertwine, these albums have added value, something that is harder to achieve than the ones that simply go through the motions. Jurassic 5’s third studio album Power in Numbers not only strides high on this characteristic, it winds it into a complex that rises as one of the best themed hip hop albums of our time.

Perhaps the biggest credit to this should be given to Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark and their approach to Power in Numbers’ production. Unlike Quality Control, where the beats were more of a front-stage showcase, Power in Numbers grants more freedom to the group’s four emcees as they sling tales of poverty, urban remembrance and government enforcement. On “Thin Line,” which features Nelly Furtado, Jurassic 5 strikes passion in a deeper sense. “Man too bad that we became friends first,” Zaakir spits, “I’m not an expert on how relationships should work/But from the minute it was known/It changed the whole tone on how we spoke on the phone.”

Further on, Power in Numbers also makes you realize how great these artists are when they’re together.

Songs like “If You Only Knew” and “Freedom” display the group’s ridiculous skill at twisting four-bar verses effortlessly, and even when these songs eventually feel like they should be dragging, someone steps in and pushes it along with force and viscosity. Whether in the delivery, flow or cadence, Chali 2na, Akil, Zaakir and Mark 7even keep everything fresh, while at the same time bombarding the listener with interweaving storylines from lush thematic landscapes.

On the surface, Power in Numbers may play like any other culturally bright Hip hop album, but after several listens it becomes apparent that it’s much more than that. In every sense this album consists of capacity whether it be the flow of the verses, the plinking and plunking production, the special guests (Big Daddy Kane, JuJu, Kool Keith, Nelly Furtado, Percee P) or the messages themselves. Hitting so many platforms and launching like the unique vector it is, Power in Numbers is a must for any definitive Hip hop fan.

Gus’ Thought:

The first song I heard off of Jurassic 5’s 2002 album Power in Numbers was “If You Only Knew.” I was captivated by the fresh jazzy boom bap that to this day makes me nod my head every time I hear it. I feel this way about most of the songs on this album; “What’s Golden,” “Break,” “One Of Them” and “After School Special” are bangers. If this were an instrumental album, Power in Numbers would stand out. However, once you take a step back from the syncopated beats, jazzy guitar samples and hard-hitting synth chords you realize that MC’s Chali 2na, Akil, Soup, Marc 7 and Zaakir are providing important social commentary though their lyrics in critical, honest and clever ways.

In “Freedom,” Chali 2na explains, “Got people screaming free Mumia Jamal/but 2 out of 3 of ya’ll will probably be at the mall.” In the hook of “If You Only Knew,” we hear, “If you only knew the trials and tribulations we been through/But if you only knew, we’re real people homie, just like you/We humble, but don’t mistake for some corny-ass crew/What we do, is try to give you what you ain’t used to.”

They aren’t bragging or boasting about their escapades with women or proclaiming themselves as the best rappers of all time. Instead, J-5 is explaining what they’re about musically, and the struggles it took to arrive on the scene. In this album, you will find poignant critiques of our social and political institutions. The group also takes the time to discuss matters of love, romance and friendship in the song “Thin Line” featuring Nelly Furtado. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, “A Day at the Races” will play. This song features rap legends Big Daddy Kane and Percee P, that show they can still hang with any of the young guns in hip-hop.

This album is an essential listen to anyone interested in Hip hop because it is an illustration of how a group can combine original musical production with inventive lyricism that moves the conversation about how we live, and what we value to the next level.

Must-Listens:

“If You Only Knew”
“What’s Golden”
“Freedom”

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: