For years Hip-Hop artists from the Windy City felt overlooked and under appreciated compared to the rest of the nation. However, the past couple of years have seen a dominant rise in Chicago's Hip-Hop scene, making it one of the better Hip-Hop cities on the map. While artists such as Common, Twista & Kanye West dominate the mainstream, artists and producers such as Vakill & The Molemen are making huge impacts underground. An artist that definitely deserves to be placed in this category is independent emcee SoulStice.
Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Soulstice looked up to emcees such as Rakim, Common Sense and Nas among others. These influences definitely show through his music, as Soulstice combines a magnificent balance of lyricism ranging from anywhere to hard-core to insightful. His delivery, wordplay and flow are all a key integral in his arsenal, making Soulstice a true Hip-Hop emcee. "North By Northwest", influenced by the Joni Mitchell album "Blue", is a great showcasing of Soulstice's variety, creativity and passion for Hip Hop.
The album creates a surreal feeling of Hip-Hop at its purest form, from the throwback production at times to Soulstice's wondrous lyricism. The variety in his game is what makes "North By Northwest" stands out as one of the best independent albums released the last year or so. Tracks such as "The Melody", "Headline" and "Something To Prove" are just plain old Boom Bap at its finest. The production on "The Melody" and "Headline" are definitely two of the albums standouts, as producer OddiSee conjures up production filled with an old school vibe. "Headline" even sounds eerily similar to production out of the Pete Rock mold, if I dare to say so.
Soulstice can also bring it to you on the battle tip as seen on "Hold Your Breath" and "Watchu Want". Even though Soulstice's strong points are more towards the insightful/intimate tracks he produces, he can still beat you over the head with that raw in your face lyricism. While Soulstice does pack a great all around game, it is indeed the more soulful and insightful efforts of the album that really make "North By Northwest" unique. Whenever you judge an up and coming emcee you look at a lot of things, however one of the main aspects an emcee has to have is the ability to make good songs. SoulStice is able to capture this essence of good song making.
You have the soulful vibe of "Sleepwalk", produced by Sm.Arson, which features a nice sample of the Pharcyde's classic "Passin' Me By". Soulstice captures that unique essence of reality and personal experiences with his lyricism, all rolled into one heartfelt package. More uplifting efforts come from "Movement", which features a great sample by producer Raistlin, "All I Got", which is a heartfelt dedication to the woman in his life, and "Freefall". Two of the better tracks on "North By Northwest" are "Ebony Sea" and "It's All Love". "Ebony Sea" is a beautiful mix of serenading production, so smooth it brings about a relaxed feeling, and introspective lyricism like "something about life and death is beautiful, every day the sun rises and sets like as usual, and I'm convinced, the consequence of common sense is lose of feeling". "It's All Love" is like a summer's day anthem, just riding through Chicago on a beautiful day. "On a day like this I feel like hitting the gas, roll the window down feeling the blast, think of my past…it's all love". Both tracks are down to earth depictions of life as most know it, something we all can relate to.
While "North By Northwest" is solid all around, there are a few missteps here and there. It seems as if Soulstice went the more friendly/acceptable route with his song making on "Anywhere", "S.O.U.L." and "Anywhere Remix". The tracks production doesn't fit the albums overall mold and seems misplaced. While its good that Soulstice tried to cover every angle on the album, tracks like "Anywhere" and "S.O.U.L." feel forced. Especially in the production department, as the cookie cutter sounds lack any depth or originality.
Besides those minimal flaws, "North By Northwest" is one of the more satisfying independent releases in awhile. Sometimes you can just tell when an emcee has everything he needs to move to the next level and Soulstice indeed has that. If you are a fan of insightful, down to earth lyricism, soulful to hard-core production and just plain Hip-Hop then I highly suggest you look into "North By Northwest". With the right backing and label behind him Soulstice maybe a name you will be hearing in the future. Hopefully, Soulstice gets the recognition he deserves, as it's not everyday you come across a great up and coming emcee. For more information on Soulstice please visit www.Banarnar.com or www.Mp3.com/SoulStice