“Not from the old school or from the new,” begins Sole on the Ryan Hemsworth-produced “Letter to a Young Rapper.” The cult indie-rap icon has a new full-length coming out November 13 — the Kickstarter-funded A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing — and, sure, it’d be easy to assume the former Anticon chief is a man out of time, but that’s not the case.
This new single finds Sole slowing his verbal roll to blast one quotable after another, paying tribute to Gang Starr and the Beastie Boys in one breath, and licking shots at white rappers and Hologram Tupac in the next. For his part, the intensely buzzing Hemsworth gives us a beat that bridges the gritty underground sonics of an MF DOOM to the digital textures of today.
A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing takes its name from a letter by Karl Marx and is greatly influenced by Sole’s year-plus as a major organizer in Denver’s Occupy movement. It’s also his most accessible work since 2003’s Selling Live Water. The album is available for preorder at Soleone.org. Here’s Sole speaking to SPIN on “A Letter to a Young Rapper”:
“A lot of the music I’ve been making is pretty heavy political stuff. I figured it’d been a long time since I made a fun, sarcastic kind of song addressing hip-hop, but I wanted to do it in a way that wasn’t the traditional ‘bitter indie rapper dissing bling’ kinda shit. Partly because I’m a fan of more mainstream rap but mostly because it’s not up to some white dude to lecture the hip-hop community. I think a lot about the profound impact artists like KRS, Public Enemy, and XCLAN had on me as a kid. Music back then inspired me to read, to learn more, to think critically. In these harsh times there are far too few popular rap acts provoking that sort of militant critical thinking like those guys did, and that has repurcussions. This song is my way of politely nudging [rappers] away from making things that are escapist, immediate and recycled. It’s also an ode to lost causes — do what you feel, take that shit to the grave if you have to, fuck it.”