(Note: This review also appears on national hip-hop blog abovegroundmagazine.com.)
Sol’s debut album, The Ride, blazed onto the scene in February of this year and was met with a very welcome reception. The young rapper’s beyond-his-years confidence on the mic and particular brand of intellectualized battle-rap was a welcome addition to Seattle’s hip-hop landscape. The LP was aptly titled too, as it made a perfect riding companion whether creeping along Alki Beach or whipping northbound on I-5.
Now, Sol has decided to jump on the Free Download Bandwagon with the release of his Dear Friends, EP (get it here), a brief, six-shot to the dome dose of new material that succeeds in the same way The Ride did, with straight-forward, driving beats paired with Sol’s razor-sharp flow that can be as cold and technically proficient as Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning.
Dear Friends doesn’t fully represent a true musical progression, as the acoustics remain mostly in the same vein as The Ride. It’s all good, though, because the formula is a pleasing one. “Hyyy” finds Sol musing about his nascent success as a rapper over a hazy, chronic-induced interlude. “Millions” (featuring Scribes and Philharmonic) seems like it was made for the radio with a melodic, understated hook and repetitive piano lick that sounds a little like what KUBE was playing in 1997 (that may sound like a bad thing, but here it works just fine). The best track is “Cash Rules!”, Sol’s blatant but still dubious ode to the almighty dollar. The track has a thumping, sparse beat and tense string arrangement; it’s by no means groundbreaking, but still goes hard in the most satisfying of ways.
At this point in Sol’s career, the shorter EP format works to his advantage. The beats on The Ride were dope in a familiar but not-quite-fantastic sort of way which, after 16 tracks, ultimately led to a slight tediousness that never totally crossed the line into boring repetition. A six-song EP doesn’t allow the content to become diluted and Dear Friends stays fresh because of its length. The complaints over Sol’s music at this stage seem petty when considering the huge amount of talent and potential he still possesses. Dude is only 20 years old, and his voice is still emerging. Everything from Sol thus far suggests even better and brighter things are on the horizon.