Soul Mafia’s musical makeup is the very definition of eclectic. Their frontman is a saxophone player and guitarist turned rapper who looks like he’d be more comfortable fighting in the UFC Octagon, complete with shaved head and bicep tattoos. Their keyboard player is a classically trained pianist who is infatuated with vintage 1980’s music. The drummer on the beat bangs all the way from Brooklyn but pounds the skins like a Seattle rocker, and their vocalist is a foster kid from Indianapolis. Thus you have the four man crew of GC, Prism, Lil Dee & Iam Beck, a group who are prepared to take the country by storm on “MK Ultra.”

It’s undoubtedly easier to describe this group visually than it is musically. Their closest analogue would be Linkin Park, but to say GC is another Mike Shinoda would be a cheap copout. He also bares some similarity to Jonny 5 from the group Flobots, but that doesn’t quite capture his style either. GC takes turns on the mic and the sax on “Born Again” and may be more compelling at the latter. The other members are even more enigmatic. Beck goes from Akon to T-Pain to Lil Wayne within the confines of ONE SONG on the aforementioned track as well as “All I Need.” Lil Dee may be the easier member to pin down, but that’s because (no offense Dee) his contributions to most songs on “MK Ultra” seem to be an afterthought. He probably gets the most shine on the album’s self-titled song simply because it’s all instrumental. From their lead single “I Can’t Get Enough” it’s clear though that GC is the star and the one who will propel the group the furthest:

“I chase like I’m (free)basing, the bass in the places I’m placed in
Make my heart beat rttttt triple what a sensation
I try to be patient, basically faithfully waiting
But I can’t stop pacing and pacing, mind like a crazy inmate’s is
Feel like time’s just wasting, I can’t wait til I taste it
The limelight, I climb right back into its embraces
The race that I’m facing, at the pace that I’m racing
Probably put me down like Belushi, pronounced dead on location
But til my heartbeat stops I got what you need y’all
The rap, the Start, and the sax, that’s one hell of a speed ball”

One would get the impression from “I Can’t Get Enough” that Soul Mafia is aiming for that same nebulous region occupied by the likes of Kevin Rudolf and Lil Wayne – not quite rap, not quite rock, somewhere in the uncertain in-between. Most of their other songs reflect that tendency. “Rainbow Girl” is part Prince and part Fred Durst. “Live Forever” is part Black Eyed Peas and part Kanye West (at least the Heartbreak version). In the end after listening to Soul Mafia’s album several times, it’s actually BEP that I find they have the most in common with musically, minus the dynamic lead singing of Fergie. While Soul Mafia has a few songs on “MK Ultra” that are arguably pop hit material, I’m not sure their material will fit comfortably in most rap music rotations next to Jay-Z or Chamillionaire – not that it really appears they would care. Their limited appeal in hip-hop gives them much broader access to the mainstream, and if they get picked up by commercial radio they’re sure to succeed.

Soul Mafia :: MK Ultra
5.5Overall Score