Sole's a bit of a confusing bloke. He's arguably one of the best hip-hop artists around, yet a lot of people don't even consider his music as hip-hop. His songs never rhyme and are as lyrically abstract as caP'n Jazz. He's more punk than Simple Plan or Fall Out Boy. Basically, he's awesome.
Although it wasn't my first hip-hop album, Selling Live Water is what made me love the genre. Miles apart from Eminem and friends, Sole's third release is intelligent, passionate and weird enough to even appeal to pretentious indie kids and post-rock fans.
The album starts off slow with a track called "Da Baddest Poet." While initially not sounding all that promising, what with Sole sounding a little more monotonous than usual and vaguely 'gangsta'-style lyrics, the song picks up with some hating of white people (it's okay though, cause Sole's white!), and some amazing electronic beats towards the end. Track two, "Shoot the Messenger" is one of the album's highlights, with a haunting ambient beat and, in contrast, some insanely fast vocals.
Yeah, Sole can get fast. Where 50 Cent trips himself up on the simplest rhymes, Sole often seems like he's almost going too fast for his own beats, using far too many words that chase each other around the beats, sometimes flowing perfectly and sometimes shuddering into place with a jarring quality which isn't exactly unpleasant, just different.
Track 6, "Tokyo" is kinda similar to "Shoot the Messenger", with lyrics so fast and long that Sole sounds like he's gasping for air by the end of them; a beautifully mellow ambient beat accompanies it, along with pulsing bass, static-drenched drums and the haunting, echoing line "Run rabbit, cause when they catch you they'll kill you."
The track ends with a bunch of radio voice samples which fade into "Plutonium," the album's second best track. Combining some looped piano and a jazzy-sounding guitar with a vaguely industrial feel, this track also features some weightier vocals. Usually Sole sounds like a deeper, angrier version of Sage Francis (who I really cannot get into because of Sole), and those aspects are pushed to the limits in some aspects of this track. A chant of "Must be the plutonium in me..." carries the track into "Sebago," a track with a desperate feel brought out by the siren-esque noises and juddering electronic beats.
A few weaker (well...not quite as brilliant) tracks stand between this and "Pawn in the Game Part 2," a nice and slow yet sad number with vocals on the chorus that remind me of the Gorillaz. The track fades out slowly as pulsating electronics give way to ambient noise which in turn gives way to a deep, fuzzy reprise of one of the earlier verses.
"The Priziest Horse" features a trumpet intro that sounds really familiar but I can never place it. As the drums and those amazingly fast vocals kick in, it seems to vibrate along in the background, keeping the pace and dictating the mood of the song. The track's chorus is brilliantly quiet and deadpan in contrast to the verses which combines with the trumpet to create a somewhat creepy mood.
Next up, "Teepee on a Highway Blues" contains a childlike music-box style melody and as the vocals become increasingly echoey and incoherent and someone starts humming along, it seems like it wouldn't be out of place in
"Donnie Darko"'s weirder scenes.
My favourite on the album, the penultimate track "Selling Live Water" kicks off with a rock-influenced riff that gives way to quiet piano and pounding electronic beats as Sole gets the angriest he's been for the whole record, spitting out his anti-war and anti-capitalist lyrics with force that should impress at least some of you punks.
The final track, "Ode to the War on Terrorism" is slightly disappointing, opening with 30 seconds of silence and a disjointed spoken word sample over a simple ambient loop. After the passion of "Selling Live Water,"
it seems like somewhat of a letdown. If you look at it as an epilogue to the record, letting you down gently before you're released back to your consumer society and punk albums, it kinda works.
Seeing as how this is a hip-hop album, I've said relatively little about the lyrics. Like I said, they are, at times, as obscure as some of caP'n Jazz's were and I think you'll appreciate them more if, instead of me telling you what I think they mean, you find out a meaning for yourself. This is, after all, the thinking man's hip-hop record, bursting with intelligence and creativity. If you're stuck on MTV's presentation of hip-hop, you might want to consider educating yourself a little.