“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.
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.
“Death of the Muse”