Sole & DJ Pain 1 :: Death Drive :: Black Canyon Recordings
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Death Drive] James Timothy Holland Jr. is one of the most unsatisfied and non-conformist artists in hip-hop. This is not an idle statement. Sole can't find one label to hold his weight, or at least one he's comfortable with being the sole purveyor of his message. He was too anti for anticon. and looked at Fake Four and said "Gimme five." Don't twist it around to imply he's currently beefing with any of these people. When I say that Mr. Holland is unsatisfied, it's a deep rooted affliction that would not go away even if he had a perfect distribution partner and millions of dollars in the bank. He's a GONZO rapper. He was born to be misunderstood, and if he's not upset about something he's probably not breathing, so when those two things are combined he's going to bounce around more than a basketball.

"Whether it's the world or my flow, they say it's sick as f#%!
If I went and saw a shrink they'd say I'm sick as f#%!
OCT with my ADHD
Exactly how Bill Gates raised me to be
Everywhere at once, nowhere to be found
I'm in the air - too underground for the underground"

The title track of "Death Drive" sums up all of Sole's anxieties, neuroses, issues with "Twitter ass kissers trying to buy verses" in "a world of living hell/but it's better than a jail." As with so many of his albums to date Sole is not just uncompromising - he's intentionally antagonistic. Before you say there's something wrong with Mr. Holland there's a problem here - I LIKE IT. On a purely visceral and unapologetic level it's fun to listen to Sole scream at the world, knowing that they're likely to take the bait and scream back at him. In fact he anticipates their responses before they're even issued, going all the way back to his earliest rap records, dismissing himself as "a bundle of nerves held together by gravity." This could be an incredibly self-indulgent exercise if it weren't for DJ Pain 1, who gives Sole a minimalistic and rock-tinged backdrop with just enough beat thump to keep things moving forward and give Sole the ammunition to fire off his verbal bullets. On songs like "Old Gods Ain't Dead" he comes across like across between Rage Against the Machine and Hunter S. Thompson, tearing his vocal chords out with sheer antipathy toward everything.

"In a crowded-ass world, what's the difference between self-defense and murder?" Sole doesn't ask the questions just to provoke you to think. He comes across like there's a spigot attached to his brain, pouring out words at full blast, and since he can't stop the flow he can only channel the rage in productive and fortunately musical ways. There's no room for comfort on "Death Drive" as Sole has as much disdain for fatcat right wing conservatives as self-congratulatory left wing do-gooders. The scathing "Hey Liberals" should be written down and handed out as a pamphlet at the Democratic National Convention. You can hear the sarcasm dripping from his voice as he sneers "Obama stickers with the peace sign/Obama stickers with the daily drone strike in Yemen/this is going out to all the baby boomers/and your bought and paid for unions." It's even more amusing that he delivers lines like "put down the latte/pick up a Molotov cocktail" in a breathy LL Cool J "I Need Love" style flow.

It comes up at least once in almost any Sole review that "his style is not for everyone," but more than any of his albums in a long while "Death Drive" embraces that and takes it to purposefully obstinant extremes. It's the rap equivalent of putting the cross in a cup of urine and calling it art, knowing that people won't see the beautiful glow and will instead react to the perceived sacrilege. Society needs provacateurs and button pushers though, and even though I think Mr. Holland may be doomed to perpetual unhappiness, his grim sentiments like "I hope you land in a war zone" are the remedy to glibly accepting the status quo without question. He's not YOLO he's "YDELO," looking at the masses and sneering "You don't even live once!" Hopefully Sole gets some satisfaction out of knowing his message is getting heard - maybe not by the people who need to hear it the most but as he'd no doubt smile and say sarcastically "It beats not getting heard at all."

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: June 17th, 2014