Soul Position :: 8 Million Stories :: Rhymesayers/Fat Beats
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

If you peeped the "Unlimited EP" by Soul Position, then there's little doubt you were highly anticipating the release of "8 Million Stories." Few things in life are worthy of a perfect 10 (except perhaps J-Lo's booty) but Soul Position's last release achieved that rare mark on the strength of Blueprint's stellar rhymes and RJD2's fabulous beats. Both have and are perfectly capable of making a mark in hip-hop on their own, but their union formed a hip-hop superduo of stellar abilities whose sole goal was to achieve even greater musical heights together. While underground rap fans fiended for the follow-up like a junkie does smack, Blueprint and RJD2 labored in the studio like chemists until at last they came up with the perfect hit. Without a doubt, unlike Bill Clinton, Soul Position both wants and ENCOURAGES you to "Inhale":

"I'm willin to take trips into the dark and unknown
corners of your subconcious where the climate's cold
Use me, to the foolish it'll never get old
Forget about her thingies and the things you've been told
Some people use me as a courtesy for things bought and sold
Let me be an example of how to break the mold
Use me as an innocent, you need to break the hold
Use me 'til I'm gone, use me 'til I'm gone"

Even KRS-One never dreamed about being this blunt. Blueprint is the type of rapper who you might suspect was either born different or did hits of acid at some point in his life, because his mind conceives things in a way the average person simply can't, yet relates them to the listener in a way that they might get a glimpse inside his stark reality. "Look of Pain" epitomizes the dichotomy - lyrically 'Print is on another level, but RJD2's harsh yet oddly melodic production brings him down to Earth so that he can communicate with the rest of us about the world:

"I've seen cracked shells in broad daylight on park benches
Old folks watchin from the window in they kitchens
Convinced the police don't care and won't listen
Hopin that they got some undercovers takin pictures
They ain't tryin to be the ones that gotta save the system
For every five thugs, maybe one'll go to prison
The other four are left to intimidate the witness
Go to trial against them and you might come up missin
Lookin at the odds it's a no-brain decision
Unless you wanna jeapordize your family and children
So they keep they eyes closed, continue feeding kittens
Then open up the blinds again when the sale is finished
Then hope that dope never invades they fam, but
how would you cope if yo' moms was smokin grams?"

You might think such a brutal examination of humanity's failings would make Blueprint a bitter cynic, but it's his very ability to talk about what's on his mind and reveal the truth that gives both him and the listener hope. The aptly named "Survival" featuring Greenhouse Effect is just such a case, where Blueprint shows that he hadn't given up the struggle by a longshot:

"Leavin no stone unturned, my eyes burn for higher learnin
Pushin my pen to deconstruct, like like a surgeon
Determination, it takes great patience to operate
inside closed minds with limited time"

Combined with scratched in samples of Inspectah Deck from "C.R.E.A.M." the total effect is a masterpiece of vivid musical colors in both dark and light, counter-balancing each other into a perfect whole. Blueprint and RJD2 paint broad strokes, matching moody beats with powerful messages, and then surprising the listener with simple yet engaging raps like "Candyland Part 1" where Blueprint takes a journey into the world of TV:

"A-Team, Batman, Battle of the Planets
Berenstein Bears, Brown Horney, Bugs Bunny
Bullwinkle, Captain America, Captain Caveman, Captain N
Care Bears, Deputy Dog, Dragon Slayer
Droids, Duck Tales, Dungeons and Dragons
Ewoks, Fantastic Four, Fat Albert, Flintstones
Force Five, Foghorn Leghorn
G.I. Joe, Ghostbusters, Gigantor"

It might read like nothing more than a list in print, but hearing Blueprint speak each word clearly evokes a different memory, causing him to pause longer on some and give more emphasis to others - and as a song is undoubtedly designed to evoke the same feelings in the listener. You can't underestimate the amount of thought that went into the song, and why RJD2 chose the specific beat that he did which helps you trip down memory lane along with 'Print. The same effect can be observed on the soulful groove of "Share This," where RJD2 and Blueprint work together to give off a positive vibe. It's personal, poignant, and powerful:

"Study this as you study your first born
My first song was pain, personified in song
The longest sequences looped for days on
Where bass kicks are fierce, and snares are known
to drop a lot quicker than a child's tears
And drown out the drama that I didn't want to share
The load that I wouldn't wish upon my enemies to bare
The times I used to tell myself you didn't want to hear
until the reason in my rhyme became clear
Now what I write makes the load a lot lighter
The story of my life epitomizes imperfection
as a musical, where every scene seems to lack direction
And I stand center stage, stunned by what's happening
Blinded by the lights, cameras, action
Although I never asked for this lead role
It seems that God decided it a long time ago
I was chosen for this - given the gift
to gain and, maintain the crowd's cheers
I break, bread over beats with like-minded peers
And share the story of my last trip into the atmosphere"

In the rap world MC's clearly exist on different levels, and as the ground is to the sky Ma$e is to Blueprint. Rappers who can only talk about their flashy cars or flashy jewels are unable to see the hidden jewels inside their own souls, but Soul Position is aptly named as their ability seeks to find the place in the mind that goes beyond the shallow waters of materialism into the hidden depths of humanity. Don't get it twisted on some hater shit - there's nothing wrong with enjoying the superficial every now and then. If one can't enjoy the simple pleasures in life now and then, what's the point in living? Nonetheless if you're fed a diet of nothing but candy, sooner or later you're going to crave the nourishment of fruits and vegetables. "8 Million Stories" is nourishment for the ear that feeds the soul. Thanks to Blueprint's clear diction, well thought out lyrics, and his ability to relate to the audience the words shine as bright as the night sky. Thanks to RJD2's musical wizardry, clean audio production and ability to create wholly new sonic landscapes, the telephoto lens is applied to make those stars even more vivid and bright. Once you listen, you'll never be able to look at rap's landscape the same way again.

Music Vibes: 10 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 10 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 10 of 10

Originally posted: July 27, 2004