Souleye – Wildman
Some artists, after a decade or more of releasing albums, settle into comfortable circling patterns over the scene where they tour and drop a new album every few years that hopefully reaffirms their virtues at least, wash, rinse, repeat. Souleye has occupied a secure place in the hip-hop world for some time now and shows no signs of such stasis. His latest album WILDMAN shows this East Coast native, now settled in California, continues growing and extending his songwriting and musical reach with each new release. The eleven songs on WILDMAN cover a wide range of sounds and are threaded together by an over-arching poetic sensibility that comes from the heart, shows great artistry, and fits well with the song’s individual musical landscapes. Some artists never stop moving, searching within, and looking for new collaborators to help bring the best out of them. Souleye is such an artist.
For novices to his work, and there are undoubtedly some for whom this will be their first encounter, there’s little better evidence of his artistry than the opening song “Dream Come True”. It’s artistry that extends far past his gifts for meaningful wordplay and a memorable vocal delivery. A big part of the song’s thrill comes from how the electronica and post-production effects applied to Souleye’s voice sometimes seem like they sometimes come perilously close to overwhelming listeners. This quality fits the song’s thrill of realizing long held ambitions and generates genuine excitement. “Classic” is a little more rough hewn musically, but the trio of voices going into making this song work reflect different aspects of its character without ever seeming too heavy handed or obvious about it. Sometimes simple contrast can succeed in bringing extra drama to a performance. Souleye’s performance on the title track illustrates the growing extent of his vocal talents and ability to inhabit a lyric. It’s one of the most focused efforts on the album and ranks among the best songs in Souleye’s career.
“Soul Expression” is a wonderful pastiche in that vein but Souleye definitely works up a lot of steam and atmosphere thanks to his vocal. There’s really very little effects applied to his voice here compared to other tracks and he definitely shows a talent for invoking a silky R&B texture through his flow. “Follow Your Heart” will be one of the tracks on WILDMAN that likely draws some commercial attention but, if it does, Souleye comes by that honestly. This isn’t some paint by number confection and leans more heavily on electronics than many of the other songs, but its melodic virtues are undeniable. “Miles Away” is a little more expansive but shares some of the same characteristics while the track “You’re an Angel” continues that thrust with a wonderfully composed and stylish dance track. His ability to couple these immensely physical arrangements with thoughtful lyrical content remains unusual in the hip hop genre still in 2017 and this is one of his best marriages of those inclinations. “Snow Angel”, released as a single and his collaboration with wife Alanis Morissette, is closer to art pop but there’s a lot of melodic excellence defining it as well. The closer “Hip Hop Medicine” has a romping quality once it gets wound up and featured artist Dustin Tavella shows he’s an astute choice for teaming up with Souleye. These songs are set to stun and stun they do. Souleye has obviously loaded up for this effort and WILDMAN definitely deserves consideration as his best release yet.