Review Summary: Does Sole’s brand of so-called “insurgent rap” stand up to his credentials? The answer is a resounding yes.
People seem to only think the good white emcees out there right now are Machine Gun Kelly and Mac Miller. In a genre and musical culture almost exclusively dominated by African Americans, it’s hard for a white man make a name for themselves in the world of Hip Hop. If they do make a name, there is a good chance they won’t be taken seriously. You only have to ask Asher Roth that, or examine Eminem’s spiraling career. However member of rap collective Anticon’s Sole (real name Tim Holland) argues otherwise and has some real talk for you at the same time. The Maine born juggernaut has been tirelessly putting out Hip Hop since he was 15. Now, at 35 years old, he has had a career that has spanned longer than many of these new “swag” rappers (ahem, Earl Sweatshirt, Chief Keef) have been alive. But does Sole’s brand of so-called “insurgent rap” stand up to his credentials? Not only does it surpass that, it might succeed in being one of the most conscious and aware Hip Hop albums since P.O.S.’s Never Better was released in 2009.
Sole makes a case for a statement like that within the first few minutes of the highly dynamic introductory track called Introfukyall. Tim Holland’s relentless and spitfire lyrics are delivered over a minimalistic, dissonant beat. One element of criticism that Holland receives from his detractors comes from what they perceive as an awkward flow and delivery. This track, however, throws all criticism like that out the window. The track’s lyrical content spends time briefly covering everything from Anonymous to Holland’s own personal criticism of blubbering conspiracy wingnut Alex Jones. Introfukyall serves, for all intents and purposes, as a condensed version of everything that will be brought to light by Sole lyrically.
What else can you expect when it comes to the subjects that No Wising Up addresses? Well, imagine if Noam Chomsky stopped eating meat and started rapping. Sole is either skeptical or militantly against almost any kind of contemporary social, political, or economic construct that you can imagine. However, Sole is not as pretentious as you would imagine him to be in this capacity. He is able to intelligently ask questions on social matters and get his point across, even if you do not agree with him. This is best exemplified in the song My Veganism where he asks the listener, “I don’t get how pro-lifers wanna save a fetus, but will bash a cows skull in and milk it till it bleeds?” highlighting the logical fallacies of pro-lifers and at the same time questioning the virtue of animal consumption. Other intelligent quips can be found on tracks like I Think I’m Emma Goldman and Prole that clearly highlight that Sole is an intelligent and educated individual whose rhymes are based on hours of reading books and not minutes of skimming Wikipedia articles.
Focusing on the instrumentals, many of these are produced by DJ Pain 1 and Man Mantis. From the bombastic orchestral samplings used in I Think I’m Emma Goldman to synth centric Gangster of Love, the huge mixture of influence gives No Wising Up an unbelievable amount of variety. My Veganism’s mellow acoustic guitar sampling with a deep and dirty base tone is in enthralling while The Trap’s beat is so reminiscent of one you’d find on a Death Grips mixtape that you’d expect MC Ride to pop in at any second for a few verses. Instrumentally, No Wising Up encompasses everything that is special and unique about Hip Hop without sounding too grandiose and over the top at the same time.
One highly impressive track is Civil War. With its beat reminiscent of more traditional contemporary hip hop tracks, Sole uses it to deliver a surprise to the listener in the form of Folk Punker’s Sean Bonnette of Andrew Jackson Jihad. While he most certainly isn’t the voice of God as he proclaims in his part of the song, Bonette uses the natural tone of desperation in his voice to create an atmosphere of urgency and puts the listener in the now, insisting that all these problems are in the now and we are experiencing them firsthand. Civil War clearly takes the cake as the best track for being able to take an enormous risk of taking a person from an almost alien genre and making him feel at home in the track.
Overall, No Rising Up is a mother of a Hip Hop album filled to the brim with innovation and quality. With an almost unreal display of influences and a huge amount of criticism on almost anything imaginable, it might be jarring for a listener at first hand. However, a few more spins of this album will help put any criticism one may have of Sole to rest. Holland’s true talents are displayed from the start, all the way to the finish.