Souleye – Hunting Teardrops – Album Review
You know him, you love him, and hell, so do we, clearly – this is our sixth review on Souleye’s music in as many years! We hinted pretty loudly about this record dropping back in February with the release of his single & video for “Ghost Steps” – and here we are, back in action with a veteran of the game that never disappoints. Never has, never will y’all – Souleye’s a proven master of the m-i-c – let’s do this.
Slick stuff happening immediately in the production & versatility in the sound, and the Wildman himself springs back into the flow with that natural energy Souleye brings to the game morphing itself in stellar new directions straight off the bat. When you get to the hooks, the man’s nearly hittin’ on a Mickey Avalon-esque type vibe…even though personality-wise, it’d be mighty fair to say they’re complete polar opposites, to say the very least with Souleye’s positivity-based vibes. The flavor, style, and skill flexed on display is LARGE though homies…”Betty Boop” gets the party kickin’ in the right direction, aiming specifically to spin a track that’ll get ya goin’ from good times to great ones and make that first impression of the new record a noticeable one. He puts his down-to-earth attitude & spiritual style on display, providing ya with a cut that’s not afraid to dig deep into what’s real, but also one that provides hope through the words and a beat that completely jams with decipherable uniqueness straight away.
“Ghost Steps” I’ve covered at length in advance of this full album’s release – check that out by clicking here if you haven’t had a chance to check that out yet. Surprise – I’ve got great things to say about it! I mean really y’all…I don’t know what else you could expect from me here – Souleye is a proven performer and relentlessly reliable on the mic…it’s only fair to expect I’ve got a lot of great things to say about a professional of the game that simply doesn’t make mistakes when it comes to making music. All that being said…this lineup has a ton of great cuts on it, and perhaps it’s familiarity, but I suspect it’s just the effect of really solid songwriting and a bulletproof performance – this is still one of my favorites now after having heard the full set-list of Hunting Teardrops…”Ghost Steps” holds up strong over time, 100%. It’s a track that pops with such personality & precision that’d I’d be shocked if it didn’t connect with ya.
You’ll notice the diversity in the sound of this Souleye record more-so than any other, at least in my opinion. Already between the first three cuts alone, he’s presented an array of sound & style that’s set Hunting Teardrops apart from his past material, and proves the man’s still got plenty to draw from in his well of creativity. “Vision Board” makes great use of natural ambient vibes and true audio uniqueness. “I know there’s no limit to learnin’ new things,” as the man will tell ya on this subtle charmer of a song – “Vision Board” is one of the most reliable cuts on the record to get you thinking in a variety of ways. Internally, externally, introspectively…it’s a track that plays with a highly meditative vibe to it that has no problem whatsoever letting you dream & muse in your own thoughts while you’re listening to it spin. Like – we’re out in a boat here right? Alright…that’s probably NOT the case…but there’s just something about this whole track that will have you floating like you’re the only one out there in the middle of the ocean, contemplating the details of the universe and your own place in all that while the waves break around ya gently. Imagery & lyricism on-point, “Vision Board” is a seriously refreshing track…and perhaps the best part about it is simply how natural & organic this whole cut comes out; obviously the work has been put in, but the easygoing sound that spills outta your speakers makes it mighty easy to get right into this song. Just on in…the water’s warm here…you’ll wanna float along with this for days.
“The Function” – yessir! When Souleye adds that jazzy swagger to his vocals, you can’t help but feel it, every time. “The Function” springs to life with neon vibes and a beat that bumps loud & proud in behind the main man of the m-i-c – Souleye’s puttin’ on a verbal clinic here on how to get it done RIGHT – and it’s probably best you emcees out there pay a lil’ attention to the blueprint of how to get the most personality you can into the bars. Whereas a majority of this material on Hunting Teardrops takes on a much more chill approach, “The Function” rips that subtle thread a new one and turns up the HEAT! Bringin’ in that good-good conscious Hip-Hop sound to the forefront, the energy on this track can’t be contained – nor should it be! You get the flavor of the old-school meeting the new in the best of ways here…Souleye’s preaching the good word about his own lord & savior – Hip-Hop – which gets a full salute of respect from yours truly right here. Music saves us all as far as I’m concerned. Beyond all that important spiritual stuff though, something else gets revealed here – did you realize that “The Function” is only 2:20 in length? Maybe you did…I actually didn’t! While that might be the effect of giving this record a healthy spin over this past week or so, I like to think it’s real effect of making sure you’ve got yourself invested to the max for every ticking second – because when you do, it sounds just like this does. Souleye proves that when you go all-in, everything comes out right – and just like a damn good meal, we feel more than satisfied by the end – we feel full – because we’ve been EATIN’ up all these words and the sheer amount of vibrant elasticity you’ll find in the beat here. “The Function” plays a major role in amping up the energy to be found in this lineup, and how it surges into the second half.
Yeah boyeeeeeeee! The collaboration between Souleye and Felix Free on “Binge Yoda” absolutely crushes. With this being the first of what’s really only a couple of collaborations in the mix for ya, it’s always crucial that the appearance becomes justified to our ears – and believe me when I say, Felix Free makes sure to make this moment count big-time with a completely solid turn on the mic that has both emcees sounding at the top of their game. Gettin’ all extraterrestrial with the lyricism – Souleye’s lookin’ at the sky with scrutiny, figuring out his next move to come if/when the aliens end up landin’ in our front-yards. “Binge Yoda” is what a great collaboration is all about – you wanna hear that diversity on the mic & between personalities like you find here – both emcees verifiably brings something new of their own to their bars individually, and combined together, they get the whole planet bumpin’ with supreme sound & superior flow. The length of these cuts and the design of the flow in this record deserves just as much props as the lyricism & performances you’ll find from the main star of the show – Hunting Teardrops continually seems to raise the stakes as it plays on through its first half in all kinds of brilliant ways, and unleashing the wild personality of Felix Free on the m-i-c was a powerful play that absolutely makes the impact they were looking for. These two make verbal mincemeat outta this track & deliver the goods in-full, flexing skills individually before bringing it home in a united front at the end.
Stirrin’ up the soul food and spectacular vibes for ya on “Old Ties” – I mean…what about this DOESN’T hit the mark? The verbal skills are SHARP here yo…not that we’d expect anything less for this guy at this point in his career…but just in-case you thought passin’ the 40-year mark might have had Souleye slippin’ – “Old Ties” is here to make sure any doubters get real silent, real quick. Things connect so well here…when Souleye is at his most focused, it sounds just like this track does – from the music to the microphone, he’s supplying serious entertainment here that couldn’t possibly be missed. “If the shoe didn’t fit, why would I want to wear it?” Good question! Thankfully it’s not one we really have to ask ourselves here – this whole track fits Souleye like a glove…or shoe…whatever…you get the idea – this comes out top-notch y’all. Musically, “Old Ties” is one of my favorite cuts on the record without question – there’s a lot of this record that deserves a serious shout-out for its stellar production and music that’ll keep the man on the mic at his most diverse ever from track to track – this is a highlight example of how everything has come together in all the right ways to get the best out of a quality MC. He’s struttin’ his stuff & takin’ BIG steps forward with this whole record – “Old Ties” is brilliantly stylistic.
“Cancel Culture” is an interesting cut in the Hunting Teardrops lineup that’ll take this song through a myriad of verbal twists & turns, but chances are, it’ll deviate a lot from where you’d assume a cut with this title would take ya with the lyrics & imagery in the words. That being said, the subtle stripped-back beat is highly effective…we were promised a record from Souleye that delivered on vibes, and this is certainly a solid example of that in action. If I’m being one-hundred with y’all…I gotta admit that I didn’t exactly make the connection between the title to the song if there was a direct one to be found…but you know how emcees can be so cut me some slack here. All them metaphors & synonyms & whatnot…I’m just doin’ my level best to keep up to this guy’s rhymes alright? Besides…it’s not like there’s any kind of rule that says the line from point-A to point-B has to make any kind of sense to begin with…”Cancel Culture” was just a title that sounded good at the time…we will literally never know. That being said, it’s fair to say that there is social commentary that’s well woven into the fabric of many of these tunes…I suppose what I’m saying is that you’d almost assume it would be more obvious in this particular track with the title it has. A title don’t make a song though y’all – and what you’ll find from Souleye on “Cancel Culture” is a slick set of verbal grooves & bass-lines that certainly sound great to turn up – you’ll never catch me saying otherwise when it comes to this cut, “Cancel Culture” still jams with stellar sound, Souleye as on-beat as ever…it still entertains for sure, even if I’m not sure I got it all 100%.
“Fireside” was also one of the advance singles released prior to the full album – Souleye heads out to the roots of the wild, surrounded by the crackle of fire and the wisdom of the ancestors around him. I’ll say this…the bars are incredible and the music itself packs in a massive amount of drama into this song that is extremely effective; it doesn’t exactly have my favorite hook for the chorus that I’ve found on this record, but I get the point of why it is the way it is. Digging into the most spiritual vibes you’ll likely find in this lineup – Souleye is “chakras up” and really just feeling the moment here; as a result, he’ll “let it be,” “so naturally,” there’s interesting results to say the least. In terms of engaging sound, “Fireside” has got it goin’ on big-time…and the tone of Souleye’s voice through the verses will tell ya the man is more than into it…you get a really inspired performance from him here. The reality kind of is what it is, there are a few jarring tones that clash a bit in the main hook of the song…but the EXPERIENCE of this track is all-out essential, and highly worth the trade for that one tiny detail that may or may not sit right with ya. The backing vocals that run through this entire track is one of my favorite additions that I’ve heard to any song this year…and ultimately, I’d put this whole concept that Souleye’s rockin’ here right up at the top of a similar list for the writing too – this is a massively ambitious cut, and he’s done an exceptional job of taking us all somewhere else as listeners – we’re right underneath the stars with Souleye as he spits this one in tribute to the elders & those that have paved the way for us all to be here today. Fantastic selection of words in his lyrics, incredible uniqueness in the sound…in many ways, “Fireside” ends up playing with the seriousness & intensity of the album’s true centerpiece…almost as if the rest of the set was written so this particular song could find its justified way onto a record one day.
A great example of what Souleye can do is right there on “Stuck In It.” He’s given you speed and skill throughout the bars of multiple cuts on this record – here’s where he really reveals the art of the rhyme in action. Not only does the gigantic sound of this track absolutely bring it to your speakers, but you’ll find Souleye generally moving at a slower pace to match the vibe, spittin’ stylistically and really finding impressive ways to get his words to flow along with the music. Production becomes a true factor here in complementing the intensity you’ll find in Souleye’s performance – maybe he’s got a few things weighing on his mind as he always does, but believe me when I tell ya, the last thing you’ll think in listening to this cut is that this artist is “Stuck In It” in any way, shape, or form – this cut sounds like the man firing on all cylinders creatively once again, and flipping the script to help advance his story & sound even further. To be truthful – this cut more than any other struck me as one of those cuts that Souleye likely couldn’t or wouldn’t have created way back when we first started listening to him back in the day – this is modern-day evolution at work here, and the results clearly speak volumes for themselves. For real – you could practically have this at the lowest setting of your stereo & it’ll still shake the walls y’all.
Dig this diversity in sound or what y’all? Hunting Teardrops continues on with the 16-bit vibes of “Dream Daze,” which will pretty much have you feeling like you’re up in the clouds collecting coins as you level-up with Super Mario. Alright…there might not be an ACTUAL appearance by Super Mario in the mix for ya…don’t get it twisted. But how about a Super Marv? Can I interest you in that y’all? You should be interested. Marv Ellis comes in to lay down a stellar set of bars in his guest appearance on “Dream Daze” – and between himself & Souleye, these two really put the sunshine into this track. “This love is real love, it can’t be broke” – you feel that here…not only is “Dream Daze” a really spirited tune in terms of its energy & aura…welcoming you in with playful vibes and supremely tight rhymes – dig it. I was almost surprised to find this cut wasn’t one of the tracks put out there early to welcome the people into the new album…the friendly sound of “Dream Daze” is like an audible red carpet to lead ya right in! All around, this is one of the most pleasant, enjoyable, and even somewhat quirky vibes you’ll find throughout the entire lineup – it’s loose in the attitude, tight in the precision rhymes as always, and in general, tons of genuine fun – I’d be surprised if “Dream Daze” didn’t become a highlight for many listeners out there. The collaborations on this record, though rare, are major highlights to be found.
“Incredible Hulk” was also a cut released in advance as a single, and rightly so – this is what single-worthy sound is all about right here. You can’t resist the “Incredible Hulk” – nor can you resist the genuine charm of this emcee when he’s puttin’ the words to work here. Radiating good-time vibes from the music with inspired sound, you can hear just how much the diverse palette of these tunes have given the spark to Souleye’s performances, and given him the opportunity to really show his skills in a variety of exceptional ways. Consistently, he’s been stepping right up to the plate & knocking it right outta the park – and even in the late-stages of the record, “Incredible Hulk” proves he still has plenty of juice in the tank to finish this album strong. All-in-all, in terms of allure, appeal, and straight-up universal vibes that everyone can get into, the back-to-back combo of “Dream Daze” sliding into “Incredible Hulk” right afterwards is a massively strong pairing on this record by any measure – this set of songs brightens up the spirit of the entire album and provides seriously uplifting energy as you head towards the end of Hunting Teadrops. There’s always a charming spark to the energy in the way Souleye spits his words – but there’s also a real noticeable change in the style & sound that brings the good-time vibes to the forefront here at this point of the record, setting up a solid switch into deeper cuts for the finale, but making sure everyone’s onboard and paying their full attention with this twist & transition on the record that lightens the atmosphere by multiple degrees. No matter how many times I seemed to spin thought Hunting Teardrops, “Incredible Hulk” showed the strength required to hold up.
Love the opening to “Time’s Game” – almost like it’s a twisted intro to an old TV show or something as the song begins and Souleye starts digging into nostalgic thoughts throughout his verses. In terms of the hook itself, we’re talking serious aces and one of the most memorable on the whole record; a fantastic mix that bridges the gap between the Souleye we know best, and the one that’s been branching his skills & sound out even further throughout the course of songs on Hunting Teardrops. You get that sparkle of a bit more added flair & tangible melody…I mean, let’s be real here, he’s singing the hooks and it’s one of the best spots that confirms he’s got so much more than stellar bars, he can competently deliver in multiple arenas & thrive in many realms. Dude’s such a gifted wordsmith…that’s undeniable…like, to anyone listening with a functional ear or two; Souleye’s a born communicator with a highly expressive style that leads him to continuously stellar results. Musically, I love this…very reminiscent of something you’d find in the Boards Of Canada catalog, subtle, mysterious, melodic…there’s weight to this song that has you paying attention to every syllable & inflection in Souleye’s tone along the way. I wouldn’t say this track drags him back towards his past so much as adapts what he does so well to the right here & now – “Time’s Game” is a pure update on the Souleye sound we know & love that works extremely well.
Wrapping it up as he raps it up with “Doorway To The Future” and its mysterious aura & vibes – Souleye is still pumping out the inspired sound from the lefts to the rights and energy in every syllable you hear. He’s rockin’ with the proverbial P-H-A-T sound here, and flexing that verbal finesse we know & love as he takes us for a tour all over the map throughout this final cut. “Like an alchemist” – this man turns words into gold y’all – and he’s got himself a solid set of bars here to bring the payload to the finale of his latest record. Everything about this track is lively & vibrant…loaded with sound that practically leaps right outta your speakers, with otherworldly hooks in the chorus that gives everything a mystical twist. Complete with its doorbell like charms, you feel like you’ve stepped through that open “Doorway To The Future” here on this last audio voyage with Souleye to finish Hunting Teardrops on one last set of supremely vibrant sounds and hot bars – it’s a solid conclusion to what’s been a fantastically versatile set of songs that truly proves just how skillful the man still is at this stage of his career; if anything, this lineup confirms he’s as sharp-minded as ever, and still thinking light-years ahead of the rest of the game.
Find out more about Souleye at his official website at: http://www.souleye.net
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