Sol doesn’t care if his music goes pop. It’s the first thing he says on “Paint,” the decidedly upbeat Imogen Heap-sampling track from his sophomore full-length, Yours Truly. It’s a good thing, too, because with this record the accomplished (and still rising) Seattle MC has a terrific collection of songs that succeeds in connecting the universal pleasure principles of pop music with legitimate hip-hop artistry. Spinning through Yours Truly for the second time I couldn’t help but think this is what Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers should have sounded like.
Sol’s early 2009 debut, The Ride, introduced the EMP Sound Off! finalist and University of Washington student (now graduate) to the area hip-hop scene. His gravelly register and laser-precise technical ability helped him to stand out from a sudden rush of similarly-aged MCs looking to get on in the spontaneous combustion that was the Puget Sound rap scene. With the subsequent Dear Friends trio of EPs, Sol took a definitive turn away from the underground boom-bap that dominated The Ride and moved to a more soulful mix of R&B and blunted pop-rap.
The culmination of that transition is the 12-track (plus one bonus) Yours Truly. You can blame Sol’s affinity for weed or his advancing maturity (probably a bit of both) for the easy-going sensibilities of this album. Like all intelligent and skilled MCs, Sol has learned his life and career don’t hinge on spitting the best bars or realest shit ever written on each subsequent verse; consistency is important, too. Establishing a relationship with his listeners is what Sol values most here. He plays the part of both critic and member of his particular generation on “2020,” urging his peers to shed what he perceives as an identity-threatening ambivalence and stand for something. He also loves the ladies, or, more accurately, the ladies love Sol. On the whimsical “Ugly Love” (featuring Shaprece) he recognizes his status as one of the city’s circumstantial rap sex symbols and uses (presumably) learned experiences to both celebrate and lament the profits of his cachet.
My estimation is that Yours Truly will be a hit among close followers of Seattle hip-hop, especially with the younger set that leans toward the more Clear Channel variety. That’s just fine of course — equal representation is important in establishing a holistic listening environment, after all. Heads who don’t favor this brand of vodka can rest in the edification of a track like “Rap Life.” The standout Jake One-produced banger is a reminder that Sol’s hustle is rooted deeply in the hip-hop fundamentals and, at the very least, his growth sprouts from an unadulterated love for the art. Yours Truly is quality, independently-produced music with the artist’s full stamp of approval, and if that’s synonymous with “honesty,” then the effort is always above reproach.