Proper education, or rather the shortage of proper education, is a big problem for black minorities in the United States. Highschool dropouts are a common sight, and the percentage of Afro-American students that enroll into community college or university is alarmingly low. A lot of kids decide that a career in the music business will get them a steady income much faster than some abstract degree. Chi-City MC Soulstice and Maryland resident Haysoos also chose music, but they did finish their degrees. With their joint effort “Dark Water,” made under the alias Wade Waters, they want to set a positive example, both lyrically and musically.

It is quite unusual to see two MC’s pursuing a successful professional career while still staying on the grind during the nightly hours. Haysoos is a teacher at the University of Maryland, and attracted some attention on the East Coast underground circuit. Soulstice is the better-known half of Wade Waters, because his solo debut “North By Northwest” got a lot of positive reviews in the indie scene because of its innovative Chicago approach to hip-hop music. Soulstice still works 9 to 5 at the Department of Defense, and has a Master’s Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Do these guys ever sleep?? Apparent about “Dark Water” is the dedication of both MC’s to express themselves about life, love, work, and society. The name Wade Waters could well be a symbol for their struggle to put their thoughts in musical form. Forget about the unimpressive opening track “What More,” and get familiar with the Wade Waters sound on the Shuko-produced “Rock Solid”:

“It’s been a long time coming
Long time running, long time gunning
Long time, keeping strong rhymes coming
Soulstice coming to a theater near
Spitting heat in your ear
My peeps rolling deep this year
It’s a soul music movement, superhuman
Keep it moving like civilians, where troops are shooting”

That last line could get Soulstice in trouble at the office, but overall he leaves a lasting impression with his confident delivery and precise flow. Soulstice spits conscious flows with enough depth for the intent listener, but without the intricate metaphors more abstract MC´s like to use. Shuko’s drum beat collides with some uplifting piano strokes that are a perfect match for the Chicago MC. Former Terror Squadian Cuban Link sounds rather out of shape on this track, but Haysoos, the other half of Wade Waters, shows he is equipped enough to team up with Soulstice. Haysoos´ voice is distinctive, but doesn´t stray too much from Soulstice tone-of-voice. The latter is unmistakingly the better MC, but Haysoos delivers his lyrics in such a focused way, he doesn´t ruin a single bar.

After the marvellous start, Wade Waters continue to display their ´soul movement´ with lyrics that are all about what it takes to be a musician and decent human being. “Man to Man” deals with an irresponsible friend talking trash about them behind their backs. Most MC’s would be talking about stapling lips to car bumpers, but Soulstice and Haysoos prefer to talk it out “Man to Man.” “Tread That Water” is a manifest for working hard to achieve your goals in life. “Speak On It,” the lead single featuring AZ, is an analysis of the pitfalls people in their own community encounter on their path.

The production team behind Wade Waters succeeded in creating a consistent, soulful sound. Almost every track on the album originates from a gospel song or soul ballad. The uniformity is surprising, since five different beatsmiths assisted the MC’s musically. Kev Brown is the best-known name on this shortlist, which is replenished by upcoming names Shuko, Analogic, SBE Audiologist, and Speaks. The earlier mentioned “Rock Solid” is a definite banger, and Kev Brown’s “That’s My” features a hollow drum loop, solemn saxophone tones, and subtle guitar notes, which yet again confirm his status as one of the most respected production wizards around. The other beatsmiths try to equal Brown’s finesse with mixed success. Especially Analogic used the pitch control a bit too much. Pitching samples is a great tool to put together a strong beat, but if you overly make use of it, it gets annoying and predictable.

Wade Waters positive stance towards life is refreshing, but a rather large part of their lyrics lack the edge which´ll keep the listener’s continuous attention. Soulstice’s debut “North by Northwest” got noticed because of the original approach of subject matter, but on this collaboration he is not in the same great form he displayed on that album. Soulstice and Haysoos´lyrical delivery is on point, but since the content can be generic at times, it is hard to stay in the positive mood they evoked in the first part of the album. Maybe a couple of songs need to be removed in order to keep the album lively enough.

Since the positive message Wade Waters wants to display is so radically different from most hip-hop recordings, I doubt these dedicated cats will get much recognition. Let´s hope they will keep sleeping little, and making more music. After all, they are musicians that could inspire kids to stay in school.

Wade Waters :: Dark Water
7Overall Score