Occasionally in this tired game of rap I come across something truly unique â€“ never before can I honestly say that I’ve come across a 4-member DJ crew from the Middle East. That’s because Soulico is the first of their sort, at least that’s what they argue (and I’m in no position to argue). Their music, as heard on “Exotic On the Speaker,” is a creative blend of dancehall, techno and hip-hop influences.
The album starts out with a smashing electronic beat on the track “El Nur” accompanied by an Arabian flare. Ghostface Killah starts the album off on a positive note with a short, but show-stopping guest spot. Next, the female vocalist who handles the chorus duties sounds very similar to Shakira as she howls lyrics indiscernible to this reviewer due to my monolingual limitations (4 courses of Swahili). Somehow, someway, the various elements of the track both musically and lyrically all mash together collectively to create an entertaining track.
A few other marquee names join the party on “Exotic On the Speaker.” Those emcees include; Del (“Politrix”), Lyrics Born (“Put â€˜Em Up”) and Pigeon John (“S.O.S.”), respectively. Del delivers for the most part but his track gets robotic, whereas Lyrics Born really has the most interesting, and consequently best, joint of the three. It starts with the ominous sound of an old western pistol duel before breaking into an up tempo stomper. That idea of the music transforming within each track becomes a trend as the album progresses.
However it’s the other lesser-known artists that keep help this album afloat throughout its duration. Axum shows up on a handful of cuts like “Pitom Banu” â€“ a strictly dancehall number in the vein of Pitbull. And Rye Rye emerges as a quality female emcee on the title track, “Exotic On the Speaker”. Her squeaky voice sounds akin to a young Lil’ Kim demo tape without the relentless sexual references; the slamming synthetic beat atop what sounds like a frenzied fiddle doesn’t hurt Soulico’s cause either.
Of course on an album that is so musically ambitious there are moments that are either strange or plain don’t work. “Come Back” featuring Onili sounds like half Britney Spears pop and half break beat. The closer “1,000 Nights” is infused with culture, but takes out the entertainment value.
I was understandably hesitant to dive into Soulico’s “Exotic On the Speaker” because of fear of the unknown. The more I listened, the more I believed that this was something truly unique; hip-hop orchestrated by 4-member DJ crew from Tel Aviv. The product turns out successfully as all of the mashing of languages, musical influences and lyricists mesh nicely without sacrificing the most important raw element of our music: fun.