erasing clouds

Soul Position, 8 Million Stories

reviewed by dave heaton

Soul Position's debut full-length 8 Million Stories kicks off as an upbeat showcase for Blueprint's rhyming skills and RJD2's skills at creating tracks that are built from classic soul but feel futuristic. Blueprint starts off with battle rhymes against lesser MCs and statements of his intention to rock the mic as well as anyone, delivered efficiently but in light-hearted fashion. By the fourth track, "The Jerry Springer Episode," a "let me tell you about my lady" story that's hearkens back to the early days of Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince, you're thinking 8 Million Stories is fun but light as air. Then with each track Blueprint's lyrics get deeper, darker and more personal, and RJD2 matches him at every step.

"Just Think" takes the "just think, what if you could just blink yourself away" concept from the Roots and builds a poetic expression of life's struggles over it, while "Fuckajob" is a bitter and incisive attack on corporate America (and by association, capitalism) based on Blueprint's job as a computer programmer. In both cases, RJ backs him up with sophisticated, flowing funk tracks that would have fit right in with the instrumentals on his own Deadringer album.

RJD2 infuses the next track, "Look of Pain," with a wickedly dark atmosphere that mimics the song's obsession with broken dreams and a system that generates dead-end lives. From there the mood gets continually darker, not in a "goth" way but as a heartfelt exploration of the pain and sadness of life. Between songs Blueprints drops three "Candyland" interludes where he lists off candy, toys and other remembered elements from childhood; these pieces are a reminder of youthful innocence that make the darkness seem more tragic while offering a hopeful reminder that life doesn't have to be so bleak.

"Study this as you'd study your first born/my first song was pain personified in song," Blueprint begins on "Share This," to a sophisticated soundscape that includes live drums, piano that sounds like it was lifted from a French cocktail jazz album, and a marching-band horn break. Sharing lessons learned from troubles, mistakes and pain is what's on Blueprint's mind here on one of the most personal tracks on an album filled with them. He's all about sharing his experiences exactly as they were. "Share I will/I'll share the nights when fist fights left somebody's body still," he raps, kicking off a litany of rough memories.

The most astounding moments on 8 Million Stories come on its last few tracks. With "Right Place, Wrong Time" and "No Excuse For Lovin" in particular, Blueprint goes into storyteller/journalist mode while RJD2 takes the music into completely unexpected territory, sublimely mixing genres in a cohesive way that's as innovative as anything he's done on any of his recordings yet, perhaps even more so. Rock guitar, enigmatic vocals from some long-lost pop song, radio waves…anything is fair game, and anything can be used to create a vivid, moving piece of new music.

After the chilling "No Excuse for Lovin'," a story of a woman in a series of abusive relationships, Soul Position leave listeners on a hopeful note with "1 Love." "Stop look listen to your heart/stop look listen to the children," Blueprint starts before pleading with listeners for love and peace, and asking his fellow MCs to push hip-hop in a less confrontational direction. 8 Million Stories has moments that are more hardcore than any thugged-out album you can think of, but in a real way. These are genuine portraits of life, delivered from real experiences with hope that somehow the world can still become a more peaceful, just place.


Issue 17, November 2003

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