Here's a hip-hop fairytale for ya. A kid in a Swedish small town gets into hip-hop, and after only a few months of studying turns on his computer, downloads the usual audio freeware and begins working on beats. The neophyte soon becomes satisfied with the outcome of his tinkering and starts browsing the internet for possible collaborators. He ends up hooking up with a former Wall Street broker who's in the process of building a record label in Boston. And now, at the tender age of 20, baptized Soul Supreme, the Swedish kid has his own record out featuring heavyweights like KRS-One, AG, OC, Pete Rock and Big Daddy Kane.
From clicking buttons on your PC screen to some of hip-hop's most legendary figures rapping over your beats in a matter of a couple of years? It sounds easy, maybe too easy, but common sense tells us that it probably wasn't that easy. Arguably, some people have more talent and luck than others, but for luck and talent to turn into something successful and substantial, it still takes hard work and dedication. It takes one of art's main ingredients - passion. If your beats and rhymes lack passion, the audience too will have trouble feeling passionate about them. Although in the case of Soul Supreme, passion is like a built-in feature as he preferrably raids soul records to support his sampling habits. He not only goes for strings, horns and other orchestral bits, he'll also take vocals when they come in handy, occasionally speeding them up a notch. In doing so, he clearly rides the coattails of Just Blaze and Kanye West, two of today's most sought-after producers in the game, without quite being able to play in their league and produce straight heaters.
But this doesn't prevent "The Saturday Nite Agenda" from being a highly enjoyable affair. In cooperation with whoever hides behind the moniker Inebriated Rhythm, Soul Supreme balances supporting drum programming and intelligently sequenced samples. Don't typecast him as hip-hop's Swedish soulman, either. "Hardcore Shit" is a dense, dark track, "Worst Nightmare" has sharp-edged sounds tucked under the wings of a thick bassline, and even though everything eventually falls into place, broken down "The Message" is really just shards of sounds competing for attention. And if you're looking for something truly funky, skip forward into the hidden tracks area and discover the remix of "Future Flavas". Still, there is soul aplenty spilling all over this CD. Two standout cuts have already graced last year's "Queen (Hip-Hop)" b/w "Still Searchin'" single. The former, featuring Pete Rock, AG and Unsigned Hype alumni T-Max looks like another ode to hip-hop, with AG's lyric coming the closest to fulfilling the concept.
Maybe this is to time to mention that "The Saturday Nite Agenda" is supposed to be a concept album. Indeed, with enough goodwill you might see, as the label puts it, "modern subject matter" meeting "a seventies black exploitation movie storyline tied together by various movie excerpts and interludes." If at all, that concept exists only in the loosest sense. Unless your name is Prince Paul, the odds of staging a convincing concept album with so many participants are practically zero. As "Queen (Hip-Hop)" proves, even getting three rappers to follow instructions seems almost impossible. That's why the most thoroughly thought out songs will always have one author only. Case in point: the aforementioned single's flipside, "Still Searchin'" by Reks. Over sweet horn samples the Lawrence, MA native seeks to bond with his parents (especially his father), conveying his feelings over the course of three verses, from the apologetic opener "I was a bad little shorty, I know, forgive the rugrat / if it could make us tighter I'd say 'fuck rap'" to the bitter ending "long I waited, through song I state it / I wish that you and mom had never made it."
Considering the bustling hip-hop scene in the Boston area, it's not really a surprise to see the Massachusetts MC's not only outnumbering but occasionally even outdoing their veteran collaborators from the Big Apple. Dezmontero holds his own alongside Ghetto Dwellas Andre The Giant and Party Arty on "Future Flavas", as does Shuman on KRS-One's "The Message" (also included on last year's "The Mix Tape"), while Kai rides shotgun on OC's scary "Worst Nightmare". But sandwich an unconventional character like An Ion: The Transitional between Cali Agents Planet Asia and Rasco on "Hardcore Shit" and witness him come out on top. Or how about Skitzofrenik Checkmark upstaging Big Daddy Kane in "Come Get It":
"Cause and effect's got me rockin' with the Rawest one yet
and I'll slaughter the best, regardless of rep
So you can save a buck or two without callin' collect
Simple and plain, Skitz the name that stick in your brain
And I got one for the money, four-fifth for the chain
I told y'all, when I get in the game I'm takin' over
Baking soda, get it crackin' when you mix me with Kane"
Following Reks' lead, other Bostonians contribute insightful raps to "The Saturday Nite Agenda". L Da Headtoucha has two strong showings with "All In Together" and "The Need (I Need You)". The Electric Co. come forward with the simple but essential message of "Respect Life", drawing from their own past to get their thoughts across. On the surface, Shuman calls out wanna-be thugs living in fear, but deep down "Security" longs for a society regaining one of its most important goods - security. And finally, Wordsworth, Moe Pope and Illin P put it all in perspective with "Regardless".
Where is Soul Supreme in all of this? Having virtually come out of nowhere, the man remains an enigmatic figure, but then again that's not exactly unusual for a producer. But considering it's rare for producers to have their own albums (not counting those who think they gotta rap), Soul Supreme establishes himself firmly early in his career. Experimentation may not be his thing, but he sure knows how to soothe tormented ears with a soulful groove. Add another name to the accomplished Scandinavian beatmakers of international acclaim as Soul Supreme joins the ranks of Denmark's Soulshock & Karlin and Madness 4 Real, Norway's Tommy Tee, and Sweden's QDIII and Embee.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: September 2, 2003