Souleye – Wildman – Album Review
It is unbelievably comforting to watch an artist find their way to the place that they belong.
Our own history with Souleye reaches all the way back to 2015. I’m not going to say that the world’s been sleepin’ on this guy’s talent up til now…that’s not exactly the case, this hip-hop artist/innovator has already built himself a massive following and dedicated fan-base…and you might also know his wife. Talk about missing the memo – Mario “Souleye” Treadway has been married to superstar Alanis Morissette since 2010 and they even have two kids…which is not only awesome, but information that had honestly escaped me in the past. I’ve checked into Souleye’s social media many times to find a loving comment or two regarding Alanis…but up until this very moment, I had honestly assumed he was just a fan like the rest of us. I mean…he surely IS a fan just like the rest of us…but it is indeed a fact that they got married for real. So congratulations to the happy couple! Errrr…I know I’m a bit late on that…
How cool is that though? I’ve grown up on Alanis Morissette here in Canada since I was just a young kid and she was still rocking the pop-charts without a last name attached yet. I’m not just name-dropping here for the record…there’s a purpose in mentioning all this…but suffice it to say for now, not only is Souleye one of the most talented artists/rappers we’ve been checking out over these past years, but indeed now proven to be one of the luckiest people we know of on our planet today.
I can actually remember seeing the lead-single/video for Wildman, a track called “Snow Angel” come out months ago…it featured Morissette and I can even remember thinking to myself ‘looks like he made it’ with a nod of approval. All I could remember was seeing scores of tweets to Alanis on his Twitter page from before that video came out…and I supposed he was just living the dream when it came time to collaborate. Now that I know he could have just rolled over in bed and asked if she wanted to hang out for the day and make a music-video together changes things a little, maybe…but I still don’t think that makes this scenario any less impressive. But at the time, I even went to verify it myself…I remember thinking that maybe it was just a sample he’d been using…but in seeing the video, I realized it was definitely her and an actual performance with Souleye. Ultimate point being…it all makes sense now.
I’ve never claimed to be the brightest crayon in the box…but not much escapes me when it comes to music – all this information did somehow…it only seemed right to make sure you’re as filled-in as I am. On the bright-side of my own ignorance…at least Souleye knows my comments from the past three years have been genuine and not just trying to leech off of or suckle at his celebrity status…
…but now that I know what I know…OMG SOULEYE THIS IS THE BEST ALBUM I’VE EVER HEARD!
Alright, alright…I’m clearly purposely pushing the envelope a bit with that statement…but Wildman IS really damn good – just as I’d expect it to be; all personal stories outside of the music aside, inside of the music, Souleye has always proven to be insightfully creative and massively innovative as a hip-hop artist. I’ve watched this guy string random words together from Twitter submissions designed to throw him off in some way, shape or form in freestyle flows and never seen him fail…we’re not talking about them smallish three-letter words either, we’re talking like, the ten-syllable kind…the fans challenged him to rise to the occasion and Souleye made it happen with style like the professional he truly is.
A lot of the new record speaks about realizing those dreams he’s had along the way. Souleye’s put in the work to be as amazing, talented and skilled as he has become today…and I don’t think there’s anyone out there that’s familiar with his music that would argue against Wildman being a strong indication that he’s in the exact place he’s meant to be…and that things are clearly still rolling strongly in the right direction for him. The featured guest-stars on this new album of his are all big-names & well-established artists already…Lynx, Dustin Tavella, Chachillie, Wade Morissette, Alanis Morissette and fellow Canadian Chantal Kreviazuk all have memorable moments along the way throughout Wildman.
Incidentally, I’ve had a crush on Chantal since I was a teenager…last time I saw her play was actually at a private function for Rogers Video in British Columbia like…maybe around 2003-ish? Fun fact for those out there that don’t already know…Chantal is married to Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace…the same Raine and OLP that have been a massive influence on me throughout my life and were the first band to grant me access to the almighty backstage meet & greet when they were touring with Seether, Finger Eleven and the Trailer Park Boys. Believe me when I say people, dear readers, dear friends…six degrees of separation seems like only three or four degrees this morning…but more importantly – MAN…Souleye hangs with a cool crowd of real artists doesn’t he? Awesome to have them all stop by to lend a hand.
Wildman was officially released just a couple weeks back in mid-September…”Dream Come True” starts it up, revealing what instantly sounds like yet another evolution to the Souleye sound immediately. You can hear the modern twist he’s put into this one…it has that giant anthem chant in there like something out of the Imagine Dragons catalog in the chorus, putting a real unified sound into the hook. Blazing rhymes through a deep filter and effects applied to his vocals, Souleye relates the tales of his life throughout this first cut, explaining more or less what makes the “Dream Come True” for him personally. As the ever-loving husband he’s proven himself to be, he even raps about his marriage in the album’s opening tune – you see, told you I wasn’t just name dropping. Souleye is truly living the dream…everything that’s a part of his life is a verifiable part of what makes up the man at his very core…and like all the best writers out there, he’s writes about what he knows best. Keeping the flow versatile and complex as we’ve grown accustomed to, “Dream Come True” sounds large & in-charge…giant low-end rhythm in the bass-driven beat in the music…definitely the kind of opening that quickly catches the attention and Souleye’s natural talent for real hip-hop with insanely positive vibes & clever rhymes keep you listening.
Certainly no disrespect intended to any of the artists & fantastic talents featured on this record, and my previous admission of a crush on Chantal Kreviazuk notwithstanding – as objectively as I can possibly be, I think “Classic” might be my favorite on the entire album. At the very, very least “Classic” is a clear early highlight on the Wildman record…the hooks are strong enough that I’m sure we’d all agree on that. As much as I love Chantal’s part, credit where credit is due as well – all the people involved on this one deserve real credit. From Souleye’s creative movement & flow to Chantal’s gorgeous & bold hooks to Chachillie’s amazing guest appearance owning the bars with a slick rhyme and memorable moment of his own – the combined sum of talent and professional level of execution here from the music to the words is all put out there with genuine passion and stunning commitment. Truly, they ALL deserve credit for what makes “Classic” all work so well – every single part of this cut is completely captivating and has its own set of hooks. Chachilie’s tone is crazy cool, his flow is just as awesome and brings a perfect energy that matches this cut perfectly. The music itself is jaw-dropping – I love the beat on “Classic” and the way it’s been so carefully assembled…it’s freakin’ perfection I tells ya! I also thought that the hooks from Chantal leading into like…an extended chorus of sorts when Souleye makes an incredible return to the mic after his own opening verse and Chachillie’s bars earlier on…towards the end when he takes Kreviazuk’s lead and goes onto a separate roll of his own around the 2:45-mark on “Classic” the entire song finds yet another level to rise up to. Souleye puts the magic in there for sure.
If it comes down to what gives a song that slight modern-day advantage of fitting in with what else is out there and a higher-degree of universal accessibility by today’s standards though…the award might have to go to the album’s title-track “Wildman.” Featured artist Lynx puts in an absolutely immaculate hook that all ears are sure to love, starting out the track before Souleye flips the switch and kicks this cut into high-gear with a wicked flow that’s got edge, presence and a bit of distortion to put the power into the sound of the words. Many of Souleye’s cuts deal with overcoming the odds & obstacles in his path – “Wildman” reaches into that territory once more, perhaps more pointedly than ever before. Talk about a strong cut from the album though! Vocally, both Lynx and Souleye are absolutely crushin’ it here with kickass parts that are seriously vibrant, lively and entertaining – but even outside of the vocals, everything we hear is just as strong. Smart use of effects on the vocals contributes to the intensity on “Wildman” – but LISTEN to the way the music works around them as well…it’s truly impressive. Love the background vocals provided by Lynx with the horn samples and piano in with the electro – she’s got amazing moments in this tune all the way through. Definitely a single-worthy tune…and wouldn’t you know it, “Wildman” became the latest release from the record now that it’s officially out & released – have a look and check this out for yourself below!
Big names and featured artists can make it tougher for the star of a record to standout once they’re left back to their own devices…like I knew the toughest spot on the record for Souleye this time around was likely to be in the fourth-spot on the album with “Soul Expression” after “Classic” and “Wildman” coming out swinging back-to-back. He was going to have to change it up here at this point on Wildman if he was going to keep the roll going…and I honestly feel like he did everything right here. Chances are, as listeners, we’d have noticed the energy being dialed back after the guest appearances in any situation – so Souleye played this correct by adding in a lower-key, more subtly-intense track that takes the sound in a completely different direction on “Soul Expression.” As much as it switches the vibe on the album, it ends up feeling like it SHOULD switch it up here…the resulting departure in sound makes sense to our ears. Here’s where the wordsmith in question gets a real moment to showcase his own talents in their own brilliant light; Souleye lights-up the mic here with a precision flow that really highlights the sick amount of skill he’s got. His imagery in his words is always impressive…the amount of passion he attacks the mic with is always what makes the words WORK – ears respond to this kind of sincerity in an artist that communicates as authentically as Souleye does in such down-to-earth and relatable ways.
I believe…if I’m not mistaken…”Follow Your Heart” would be the first single released from Wildman. I reviewed this track back in November of last year when the pieces of this new record were likely taking their shape and the project was starting to come together. I loved it then, I love it now…if anything, “Follow Your Heart” is one of the best representations of the positive energy and uplifting vibe that Souleye has built his style upon. In terms of how it sounds here on the full-record…it’s got that classic, empowering Souleye sound that we crave…comforting in the words and sentiment…I’d say overall it’s a solid inclusion here and a good bridge between what he’s done previously & what he’s up to now. Find my full-thoughts on “Follow Your Heart” in the previous review of the single from Wildman right here.
When Souleye wants to take those words of his for a real rip, he sure can turn it up. “Miles Away” has him at his most charming, charismatic and electrifying, weaving through his vocabulary like he’s got the dictionary memorized from front to back & can recall the exact words to fit the music at any time. Some of my favorite lines on the new record live inside of this song…I loved the way he describes a moment about talking to himself; a perfect example of his ability to mix positivity, humor and a serious focus on the goals at all times to achieve a stunning end result. One of Souleye’s biggest assets is his ability to find the real energy in the beat and use his talents as a proven wordsmith to his advantage by springing off the most pivotal elements in the music with real punch in the syllables or flow to make these songs really move and sound as alive as they do. “Miles Away” flexes his verbal skillset, has strong electro-influenced hooks and a verse that is so stellar it might very well outshine that chorus for many people.
Being a melody-guy, “You’re An Angel” really hit home for me. Souleye switches up the dynamics of the sound of Wildman once again here with this cut, taking it to hooks that are on the indie-pop side of life. This would be a solid example of a track that would be tougher NOT to love – “You’re An Angel” has an extremely inviting sound, right from the drop. Loved the space the hook has in the mix at the very beginning of the song and the way it fills in perfectly right after that – you gotta hand it to Souleye for continually finding such amazing energy to work with musically…the man knows his strengths and what kind of beat really inspires him. Lyrically, Souleye takes you through an entire set of the things in life that speak to him and have inspired him along the way…key points of his experience that have led to him becoming the man he is today. The results speak for themselves – songs like “You’re An Angel” come out perfectly well-rounded from the performance to production with Souleye sounding completely invested in every moment. It’s a sweet melody with even sweeter sentiment in the lyrics…the standard flawless flow from Souleye and a massively addictive hook that drives the song’s chorus – “You’re An Angel” is definitely another single-worthy cut from Souleye with tremendously widespread appeal.
Wait a minute though…did he just say he’s got ‘a dolphin that swims by his side?’
I gotta get off the couch more. Facts.
Enlisting the assistance of his brother-in-law, Wade Morissette, on “Fountain Of Youth” – he’s found another collaboration that works well. Musically I felt like there was a bit more for us to chew on here…there’s a thought-provoking feeling you get from the atmosphere of this tune that my ears truly appreciated. The percussion in this cut gets extra points for creativity too…I dig the verse and the personally revealing details that Souleye’s providing here, he’s keeping it plenty real with us in the words on “Fountain Of Youth.” What I really felt hit home was the simplification & smoothness of the chorus…the atmosphere of the music opens-up…Souleye keeps the lyricism minimal and highly effective. It’s almost bizarre how focused & serious this track is yet so relaxing and chilled out at the same time – “Fountain Of Youth” has impressive amounts of contrast between these elements. Definitely a great tune for atmospheric depth and textural sound, “Fountain Of Youth” sounds like Souleye really getting a lot of important stuff off his chest & out into the open…and I think we all benefit as listeners when an artist fully expands to express themselves like this in their music. Essentially, you get to know Souleye a bit more here…and I think letting us in on the mindset behind the man is always a great move for this particular guy. He’s loaded with sincerity, passion, good intentions and positive vibes – and through his music, he’s always found a way to pass these emotions & feelings onto us.
I wouldn’t say it’s a crack in the armor or flaw in the steel structure that is Wildman, but “Pain Body” was probably the cut I was the most on the fence about from the entire record. On the one hand, it’s still incredibly well put together, performed and produced…you definitely can’t take anything away from its quality. Not sure entirely what it was about this one…I suppose at times I felt like as a song, it almost tried to be too many things at once…and like an entire fireworks display going off at once, there are moments of brilliance that come and go too soon in addition to others that don’t burst as brightly. That make enough sense? Still a decent tune…they can’t ALL be our favorites right? It’s only by comparison to the rest that “Pain Body” seems like it needed a little bit of something else at times, a little less in others…maybe a bit wandering overall in its focus and structure after hearing the rest of the record to this point. I really liked the smoothness that chorus melody starts to bring in…wasn’t as sure of the bright burst of vocals with the ‘on the bus everyone’ line that gets inserted into the chill of that moment…I’m more mixed on “Pain Body” than the rest for sure, but it’s still highly entertaining.
First of all…if you haven’t seen the video for “Snow Angel” – make sure that you DO that, it’s spectacular. After what I found to be the only potentially questionable moment on the record, Souleye comes back as strong as possible…with the extraordinary talents of his wife Alanis Morissette lending an assist in the vocal department. It is certainly going to be no shock whatsoever to anyone reading this that Alanis, of course, sounds as stunning as ever…she does an incredible job of adding the perfect complement to the icy atmosphere on “Snow Angel.” Even as edited-up or glitched-out as her voice is often used throughout this cut…there is absolutely nothing you can do to alter the inimitable sound of Alanis’ signature style and boldly angelic vocals in any kind of wack direction – she’s going to continually sound like the star in any song we’ll ever hear her on from when she started to the end of time. That’s not me buttering up a star, that’s me telling you all what you all already oughta know. As far as collaborations go though…when you think of the potential cheesiness/pretentiousness that often results from husband/wife combinations in art…I really think you’ve gotta hand it to these two for keeping it real and putting out something that’s truly worthy of our time and not self-indulgent whatsoever. I mean…I’m sure they WANTED to work together, but there’s nothing wrong with that and who could blame them? From what I can see on the internet after finally digging into all this, it’s not the first time it’s happened anyhow…so it’s kind of natural that this tune ends up sounding just as organic and real as the rest of what’s on Wildman. As far as atmospheres go, it’s top-notch – “Snow Angel” is one of the most defined sounds and ideas that Souleye’s got on his new record…which in my opinion actually speaks really strongly of the bond between him and Morissette. Awwwwwwww? Right? You just don’t achieve stunning results like this without real love, passion and respect for the roots of the idea, the music and wanting to put their very best into each moment because this is what they truly LOVE to do…that’s a magic they share together…and it creates a highlight moment on Wildman that can’t be ignored. Souleye raps with confidence, precision and heart…Alanis gives it all the otherworldly spin in sound it needs to make it all stand-out overall…not a thing to be dissatisfied with here on “Snow Angel” – I love the crystalline sound in the music and the vocals from the song’s main stars are spot-on.
Fans of real hip-hop will completely appreciate the way that Souleye has ended this record. Bringing it back to the roots of the sound with big, bombastic low-end synth-vibes dominating the lefts & rights, the energy of this final cut never stops. If you’ve been feeling down on the genre lately or missing the old-school sound that made it so damn great to begin with, “Hip Hop Medicine” has got the cure for what ails ya. He loosens-up a bit here…not in the focus, just in the attitude of the music and playful way that this final track keeps a lighthearted approach. His rhymes are still as sharp as they get, don’t get me wrong! Adding in the dynamic sound of an R&B-style twist in the hook via guest-star Dustin Tavella, Souleye scores one final win before ending the Wildman experience – and an experience it certainly all has been. Every time we hear from Souleye is the best time we’ve heard from Souleye – I really appreciate that each time out, whatever he’s working on represents growth, evolution and a consistent desire to make the most out of his music at every moment in his career. He’s definitely not one to slack or phone it in – this guy does what he does with real passion you can feel in the flow…and he never lets up on that. Souleye continually brings his A-game and constantly pushes himself to that next level; Wildman proves that he’s done it again.
Find out more about Souleye from his official homepage at: http://www.souleye.net/