May the revolution continue and shall all the under-appreciated saints reach more and more folks. Emcee Sole (Tim Holland) from Portland, Maine, active since the 1990s, a member of several groups and a veteran of numerous labels (including one he cofounded: Anticon), is seemingly restlessly productive, having released many great conscious-hip-hop albums over the years with Nihilismo (April 22, Black Box Tapes) being his latest. It is produced by Madison, Wisconsin’s DJ Pain 1 (Pacal Bayley), who has worked with some of the mainstream’s most recognizable artists, so it’s a tiny shock that he’s the second major credit on the underground Sole’s newest project, yet the fresh agreement by both sides and the meshing of skills and talents at work here are truly amazing. Sole upheaves the retched establishment with conscious, spirited, directed lyrics and Pain 1 brings into the mix drum-heavy rock, sweetly flavored musical phrases, one dancehall-inspired track (“Walk The Plank”) and another derived largely from trap sounds (“Our Words”). Above everything, the scorching indictment of the nonsensical, irresponsible modern day modes and ways for which Sole prosecutes the developed world is right on, a dutiful trial all should witness.
By the end, you’ll see that deep down Sole knows exactly what’s wrong with the world, and he’s not afraid to voice his concerns. He exposes inherited wealth, Native American genocide, privatized education, slave-employment, vanishing democracy, fracking and more in “Generation F*cked,” the intro. In “Too Small To Fail (DIY),” he spreads more awareness, this time about big brother taking over our time and lives, and “Capitalism (Is Tearing Us Apart)” is his pop-anthem decrying how neoliberalism and out-of-control free markets are crushing the world. Nature and people are visited in “Flood” with topics on chemically and genetically modified foodstuffs, women being pushed into the workforce away from their children and families, and white privilege versus black despair. In fact, his epiphanic observation there about how whites can freely run weed stores while blacks get jail if they sell the same product is extremely telling and embarrassing for America.
“Hostage Crisis” is concerned with the very usual practice of the US, NATO, OECD nations, really any of those entities, being at perennial war with third world countries and their seemingly endless, restricting imperialism overseas. Sole’s got incredibly conscious knowledge, criticizing leadership when the shoe fits, describing the last days, extending end-of-the-world feelings, even polemicizing those people who are actually afraid to die (“Exodus”). DJ Pain 1 is likewise right there with Sole in essence, matching all the lyrics with fitting sound pieces note by note, tone for tone. It’s all brought together at the end with Sole’s intelligent accelerated lyrics saying people everywhere pretty much think the same and agree on many of the same values in “Our Words” with family struggles and the fortitude to work through them being the focal point of “Battle of Humans,” the one spot where Sole gets really personal about his own life. Nihilismo is one of those rare wonderful moments in hip-hop when artists really focus on the painful conditions of real people all around the world, not catering to the agendas of corporate machines. It’s a sign of the times, a cry to rally around the common cause for good and a sign of cohesion in hip-hop – in this case one proven undersurface rapper linking with a supremely gifted producer from aboveground. Nihilismo explains why nihilism is prevalent these days but makes it its goal to find a better lifestyle and philosophy.