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Among people who know me, it is well known that I have an affinity for British pop culture. I’m a big fan of British television and movies, the music of the “British Invasion”, and British literature. I’m also a fan of UK Hip Hop. Artists such as Foreign Beggars and Roots Manuva have consistently been as creative, if not more so, than artists from the US. Like the secular side, Christian hip hop has had its fair share of British artists over the years, such as Dwayne Tryumf, Jahaziel, Simply Andy and now, S.O.
S.O. first came to my attention last year upon release of The 5 Solas project. That collection was excellent, combining imaginative production with great lyrics, an outstanding flow and a strong spirit. His first album for Lamp Mode Recordings, So It Begins, continues that trend with outstanding lyricism, fantastic production and great guest appearances.
Lyrically, this album is extremely strong. Interesting word play, complex internal rhyme structures, S.O.’s excellent delivery, and his strong Biblical message combine to create a soul stirring hip hop picture. Whether he’s rapping about the love between man and God (“Love Is”), God’s forgiveness for our failures (“Lows and Highs”), or the praise that God deserves (“The Rally”), S.O. does it in an inimitable style. In the title track, S.O. claims that he doesn’t do this to wow people with his wordplay, and while that may not be the goal, he certainly proves to be adept. His point is taken, though, since the real point here is the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, a point that truly hits home.
Handled ably by GP of the New Direction Crew, the production throughout the album is strong, especially if you’re a fan of the “UK Garage” or “2 Step” styles of British music that was prevalent in the '90s and early '00s. That’s not to say the music sounds dated, it just gives an interesting rhythmic feel. A prime example is the production on “Lows and Highs”, which doesn’t have the typical “four on the floor” feel featured in most American hip-hop. There’s an off the beat shuffle, that just feels different…but refreshing. That feel exists through most songs on the album, but GP mixes up the sounds going from the quasi-R&B feel of “Feminine Appeal” (which sounds to me like a track that Craig David would feel comfortable singing over), to the banging drums and spiky sounding strings of “Let It Go”, to the brilliant piano that opens “The Rally.” As good as S.O.’s lyricism is, I wouldn’t object to an instrumental version of the album. The production is that good.
On the seminal Mars ILL album, Raw Material, Manchild remarks that “today’s heads are over-entertained and under-challenged.” S.O. could never be accused of perpetuating this, as entertainment and challenging lyrics are in equal measure here. The production is tight, and the message is on point. I highly recommend this album, as it’s worth far more than it will cost you, and has a great sound. Plus, I’m a sucker for a British accent.
Release Date: June 28, 2011
Label: Lamp Mode Recordings
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1. So It Begins
2. Lows and Highs (feat. Leah Smith)
3. I’m Ready (feat. J.Williams)
4. The Rally (feat. George Romanacce of Generation Letter)
5. Sure Thing
6. All I Need
7. All Honor, All Glory
8. Let It Go (feat. Json, A Star)
9. Feminine Appeal (feat. Serene)
10. Quest For Love
11. Stephen’s Interlude
12. Love Is
13. The Essence (with a word from Timothy)