All Solo's albums: Reviewed

2018-02-04 00:00
 
Solo

Dreams.A.Plenty

Solo’s debut is a certified gem and I’m incredibly upset with myself for not listening to this 2014 release sooner. The beats are mature and refined, with jazzy nuances. Solo approaches his music like an artist, and not just a rapper, so certain standards are always adhered to. On the opening track, My Corner Office Too, he uses an instrumental that sounds like the beginning of a mob movie.

He does a lot more than just string rhyming words together on his records. He’s a classy wordsmith and his style reminds me a lot of the dominant sounds of the era when Tumi was still with The Volume and homies’ raps sounded a bit like slam poetry.

Tumi and ProVerb appear on the remix to Star Dust, which is a cut that should be housed in an African museum of hip-hop. This is a fundamentally sound record with menacing penmanship by all three spitters. One of the many peaks on this album is The Shame, featuring Buks. Building with each verse, a slow and soulful progression with the vocals on the chorus soaked in distortion and reverb, gives the track a sinister feel.

Dreams.B.Plenty


Solo keeps all the unease of a second full-length album at bay with 2015’s Dreams.B.Plenty – the second instalment in a trilogy that will end with C.Plenty.Dreams. At the top of the album is a soothing ballad featuring Kabomo, called Benchwarmers. Kabomo finesses the hook with a vocal precision that never sounds like he’s doing too much. In between this, Solo rides the beat, dispensing his conscious, clean-cut style. The album takes you on a journey, with well-made interludes of Solo at the boarding desk of an airport.

Solo flexes his comprehensive grasp of language and the intricate lingo of hip-hop, changing between English and Zulu effortlessly and effectively. The track Overtime injects major heat into this record. He kicks a scheme about actor Jerry Mofokeng and how people act as much as they want, but they have to keep their good eye on Solo. Quite witty if you’re familiar with Mr. Mofokeng. Solo has a twangy delivery that could alienate certain listeners, but his ability to create rhymes can’t be questioned.

Solo x Buks: We Need A Title

This was the birth of what would become a fruitful partnership between Solo and Buks, who formed The Betr Gang, dosing the listener with a combination of brash deliveries administered by Buks and a Solo that’s more fiery than usual.

This 10-track record comes in and out of it a bit more than the other albums. At times I would’ve liked them to be even more intricate with their lyrics than they were, but the two work well together. Their beat selection and construction are unmatched locally. None of the instrumentals sounds expected, even when this tape shifts from jazzy beats with distant synths screeching in the background, to a jumpy trap feel.

Most of the tracks come with some witty verses and soulful hooks, as heard on track three, Van Gogh, which is quite infectious. They then trade bars with each other, reminiscent of US hip-hop group The Lox in the early 1990s.

The two drop a minimalist jazz joint, Come Back Down To The Ground which tries too hard to be profound. I prefer a brash delivery of knowledge as heard on my pick off this album, The Heist. If you’ve heard Jeru The Damaja’s You Can’t Stop the Prophet, you’ll appreciate this. On the whole, this was a decent foundation on which to build the crew’s legacy.

Solo x The Betr Gang: Tour Dates


This collaborative concept piece takes the listener on an audio tour of the country. Each track is a stop in a different region where one of the locals jumps on and reps their section. The Betr Gang and their multifaceted approach to creating aid this record tremendously and allow for the guests to excel.

The opening track is how I’m accustomed to starting off a new album – with a bang! No cute tricks or some kind of intro that will only be listened to once. Instead, Solo and the Betr Gang unchain L-Tido, who as of late has changed his style to be a little more youthful for the kids. Not on this track. Here he sounds like the L-Tido of old who had his bars firmly aimed at a certain AKA.

Moon Over the Jungle unleashes the gritty word play of the K.O of old, who spits a dark 16 addressing the long and winding road to the riches and the threats he has faced. The beat is earthy and tribal.

This is followed by The Light, featuring 2017’s lyricist of the year, YoungstaCPT. It’s a nostalgic, soulful boom bap track. Yes, you read correctly. Not one of these hybrid boom bap joints, just clean break beats and a hook that transports me back to the days of Floetry. This is probably my favourite cut on the whole offering. Love Metaphor is the first of two stops in Pretoria featuring Rouge. Together her and Solo spit over a slightly more pop-influenced song with playful raps about young love. A bit cute for me, but it works.

At times I wonder if the idea of a tour and being in these different regions could have been homed in on a bit more. I didn’t hear too many schemes about roads and hoods, but perhaps that’s an expected move. These artists are many things, but never predictable. I wonder what Solo and The Betr Gang said to DreamTeam, who come through nice for Durban on Ngeke Bas’tshele, one of the best tracks on the album.

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