“Huh, anti-social media, I ain’t a meme!
When you click like, generate money for the machine
A popularity contest, privately owned sold and bought
by whoever beg for your time”
One thing Sole has never been is a whore for popularity. As one of the eight founders of anticon. and arguably the most (in)famous proponent of their movement, the Maine rapper has never tried to be anyone’s main man. He has steered so far clear of commercial popularity that this may be your first time reading about him. I’d argue that’s a shame while he’d argue that’s just fine. Some artists create art in search of an audience with the hope it will be seen by millions. Some create just because they are fueled by an insatiable desire to make things and put them out into the world. The creation is fulfillment itself even if no one else sees it. Put those two things on a scale of 1 to 37, with 1 being “I want to be more famous than Michael Jackson” and 37 being “I just need to do this for me” and Sole is at least the mid 30’s.
“I know why communism always fails
A power hungry communist
is as dangerous as a blood sucking capitalist”
The closest artists to Sole that I can think of — at least politically — are Immortal Technique and Zack de la Rocha. He would undoubtedly reject such simplistic comparisons, but he’s not the one reviewing “No Wising Up No Settling Down,” so that’s just like… my opinion man. All three are incredibly unsatisfied the way things are in the United States. They reject the idea government works for the people or that democracy is freedom. “I Think I’m Emma Goldman” distills some of his views into a concise 218 second song. “They say that anarchism can’t work, but all anarchists do is put in work, not for the money but out of necessity […] you’d find you were an anarchist if you took the time to read.” I think he does want people to hear this: “We can bicker over differences, or we can fuck up shit, cause shit’s fucked up and bullshit.”
“Can anything make anybody think in this day and age? It begs the question… why the fuck are you begging?” As much as I admire his ardent desire to question everything on songs like “Geneology of Giving a Fuck” (yes that’s how he spelled genealogy) a thinking listener has to question him right back. To me that seems to be his highest goal. Sole doesn’t want us to simply consume media and shit out waste, he wants us to think about what it means and whether or not it’s good for us individually or collectively. One thing that was clear about anticon. from its inception to its demise is a desire to buck the cliches of rap music, but the unavoidable consequence of that movement was that they created their own genre accidentally or intentionally. Since Sole talks on “Emma Goldman” about how she spoke the common language of the people I’ll try to do the same here with a thought exercise — how can you Rage Against the Machine if you’re part of it?
That might be why Sole left the collective he helped create and renounced his 1/8th ownership of it by the time “No Wising Up No Settling Down” was released… and that’s also a fair point to critique Sole on. At some point avoiding “The Trap” becomes a trap in and of itself. Out of all the artists I’ve compared Sole to only Zach de la Rocha accepted the compromise of being a major label artist and performing for sold out crowds worldwide. You could argue that makes his anti-authoritarian stances ironic, or you could argue it’s the ultimate form of subversive anarchy. Zach can funnel the funds he makes from Rage Against the Machine’s popularity into any cause he wants — food and shelter for the poor, free libraries, clean drinking water in places where none exists. The further you try to get from the machine, the more you distance yourself from the people who are in it.
When you make art for art’s sake it’s an inherently self-masturbatory act. Ahh, I expressed myself, big O face, but then that momentary high is gone. What do you do then? Make more art. I’m not judging that because I AM that. I write album reviews for the same reason Sole writes rap songs — it makes me happy to express myself. Much like Mr. Holland I am also self-aware enough to know that this is a self-limiting proposition. If I want to talk about albums like Sole’s fewer people are going to read it than a review of whatever singing rapper from the Soundcloud side of things is popular right now. Even the idea of an “album review” is somewhat archaic in an age where viral TikTok songs are more beneficial to an artist than a full album. In other words I’m a throwback reviewing a throwback in an increasingly obvious circle jerk, but before we all climax I must point out a painful truth.
As much as I respect Sole explaining his views on songs like “My Veganism,” the production of the track is almost entirely unlistenable. He’s expressing something important here and that makes the awful audio a shame. Sole doesn’t want to be one of those preachy vegans who acts better than you because he doesn’t eat meat. In fact he despises people who are up their own ass to that degree. Good. So do I. He simply doesn’t believe in animal cruelty of any kind, whether it’s on his dinner plate or behind bars at a zoo. “Not trying to tell anyone how to live.”
Thank you. That kind of respect is important in this conversation. We can all have differing views on politics, religion, capitalism, social media, WHATEVER if we express our opinions without imposing them on others. My opinion of “No Wising Up No Settling Down” is therefore not meant to be yours. I appreciate a lot of what Sole has to say here and his genuine desire to make people think and not just listen. As I’ve alluded to already though the easiest way to get people to listen to music with a message is to present it in a palatable way. Bob Marley did. For all my respect for Sole he seems to forget that piece of the puzzle at times. He’s got a lot to say here but unfortunately few people will hear it due to how intentionally far from accessibility the production steers it.