Review Summary: Who got the props? Who got the props?
When it comes to rap in pop culture, there are two types of people – those who generalize rap as a bad form of music that’s “just talking [over a beat] about drugs, sex, money, and violence,” and those who like the terrible, simple, monotonous garbage that infiltrates the radio. But, since 1999, there has been a man who defies the stereotypes all the while re-setting the standard. A real street poet who lives the gospel he preaches, One Be Lo. After having robbed a pizza parlor in his hometown of Pontiac, Michigan early 1994, he and Senim Silla (his former partner that he formed Binary Star with) were sentenced to 3-20 years in prison for armed robbery. After being released, One Be Lo formed Binary Star with Senim Silla, but after two albums, they broke apart. His third album, S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. is indicative of the higher intelligence present in hip-hop – a musical oilfield just waiting to be found.
As seen in the typical underground rap album, minimalistic, alternative lo-fi production is present, but for a different reason. Rather than being present because of the lack of good producers willing to create beats for the album, it’s to set up a thinking atmosphere. Rather than what most rap attempts (a one-two punch of bass and synths) the production is comprised heavily of percussion, old school DJ techniques such as scratching, some acoustic elements, and old movie sampling. The production on S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. deflects interest from itself, putting emphasis upon One Be Lo.
Further, One Be Lo’s smooth delivery, laidback voice, and uptempo, but somehow relaxing, flow only further allow me to sink into the easy listening environment, which highlights One Be Lo’s philosophical, deep lyrics. One Be Lo flips topics and provides converse to typical rap subjects, rather than talk about sex, money, bullheaded violence, and drugs. He speaks about religion; love; poverty, peace, senseless violence, flaws in our society, and human flaws in a creative way with metaphors, analogies, and wordplay. Just like shallow rappers, whom put emphasis on material things, remind me of what I one day hope to have (beautiful women, tons of money, nice cars, and a big house) S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. reminds me of how lucky I am to live the privileged life I do.
S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. is excellent political, religious and philosophical rap. It sets the standard for what rap should be, and shatters the ever-present stereotype that rap is shallow, materialistic, and violent. One Be Lo is a real philosopher on the microphone and, and, dare I say it, a learning experience created in the form of rap. And unlike the kids who “can’t do homework ‘cause they homes don’t work,” I was able to, and I actually appreciate it this time. There’s good rap out there, and despite what you may think, it’s not that hard to find.