Sunday, October 1, 2017

Souleye – Wildman

Souleye – Wildman 

Souleye’s eleven song album Wildman immediately garners consideration as one of the best hip hop oriented releases in 2017. His message of fulfilling one’s own destiny and asserting your identity is as strong as ever, but Souleye continues improving each time at expressing those beliefs clearly and with well chosen moments of imagery. He has an effortless swagger that never comes off too strident and does a good job of following the music rather than pushing his voice against the arrangement. The musical side of Wildman is dominated by synthesizer, a generous amount of sampling, and an electronic rhythm section, but there’s a satisfying amount of melody present throughout the album. Souleye has been out there in the arena of modern music for some time now and the aforementioned attribute has always been one of the defining elements in his work. It is rendered more powerfully than ever here.  

“Dream Come True” has a lot of the energy implied by the title. The exuberance coming through the multi-electronic layers, restless percussion, and resonate bass notes is impossible to ignore and the vocal from Souleye has the right combination of phrasing fireworks and confidence. The layered attack of the opener gives way to a more bare bones approach on the second track “Classic” and the addition of a couple of other singers in guest spot roles make this all the more memorable. Each of the voices introduced in this song, including Souleye’s, effortlessly lock into the feel of the arrangement and move with the same confidence through the song. “Wildman” has the same emphasis on establishing a strong groove and, despite the electronica nature of the arrangement, carries a warm sound throughout that gives Souleye a lot to work with. His voice inhabits every second he’s on with total conviction and clear-eyed passion filling his tone. 
“Soul Expression” is just that, an expression of Souleye’s appreciation for the soul genre filtered through his typical musical approach. The warmth of the performance is an unmistakable nod to its influences and Souleye brings his best approximation of the vocal tone common to the style. His commercial skills inform the track “Follow Your Heart” without ever compromising the highly physical and raw boned structure common to Souleye’s best songs. The sentiment the song expresses may seem very familiar, but leave it to this talented writer to find a new way of expressing this age old advice. “Fountain of Youth” has a guest slot for indie band leader Wade Morissette and the contributions made by Alanis’ twin brother are sympathetic enough to Souleye’s own that their working together comes off seamlessly and seemingly meant to be. “Snow Angel” and “Hip Hop Medicine” close out Wildman on contrasting notes. The first song has a featured star turn from Souleye’s partner and wife Alanis Morissette while the finale features the contributions of Dustin Tavella. This is an epic effort from Souleye and the sheer assertiveness of it, along with the natural musical and lyrical strengths, position this release as one of the best in Souleye’s career.  

Scott Wigley

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