Underground artists have helped smash some of hip-hop’s most pernicious stereotypes, showing how the genre can be intellectual, socially conscious, and even gently seductive. Sole is more of a fighter than a lover, but he wields his belligerence in noble ways, using clever rhymes to call bullshit on the Man.
But what would happen if he joined forces with a more mainstream success, someone who tends to collaborate with the likes of Young Jeezy and 2 Chainz? Something spectacular if that artist happens to be DJ Pain 1, Sole’s partner on Death Drive.
The duo examines the concept of heroism through beats and wordplay, taking aim at idols like Steve Jobs and Sigmund Freud in the process. Sole introduces himself as “too underground for the underground” in the title track, warning listeners not to peg him as a rapping Woody Guthrie. Pain 1 bolsters this statement with blistering guitar licks that loop through the song with palpable aggression.
Sole sees Guthrie as an artist beloved by people whom he just can’t get behind: liberals blinded by privilege. He spends an entire track (“Hey, Liberals”) taking this group to task. Protesting in pretty, peaceful ways doesn’t suit him; Sole needs to express anger and fear, the two emotions that remind him he’s alive.
Political arguments are filtered through a party jam in the excellent “Baghdad Shake,” which combines the heightened emotion of an Occupy rally with the rebellious spirit of a dance club willfully violating a noise ordinance. Here Pain 1 shows off his trap talents, mixing in a juicy bass and highly infectious beats.
It’s unclear what’s more memorable, the urgency of the groove or Sole’s two-pronged attack on mindless EDM and military conquest: “We on the dance floor, but it’s looking like a board game / And the party ain’t over ’til every roof is fucking bombed in.”