Souleye is a paradox. An artist of contradictions. His new single, Labeled, is now available for download via souleye.net. Labeled is a direct call to build sincere understanding and empathy between people. This shouldn’t sound revolutionary. But it is.
You see, Souleye works in the realm hip-hop. Souleye has entered a domain normally fuelled by aggressive, almost exaggerated, conflict and hyper-charged emotions with a full-on New Age attitude. His lyrics talk about people becoming agents of their own destiny. Of people peacefully synchronising with the Cosmos. This isn’t the positive attitude that emerges in the bonds of camaraderie forged in the daily struggles of the brutalized urban masses. In Labeled Souleye advocates a more Utopian, almost mystical, approach to advancing social harmony.
Souleye began his musical career in 2005. Hard work, several successful tours, and four solo albums have helped build him a loyal following. Like many in the world of rap and hip-hop, Souleye is very deliberate in his challenge the status quo.
But, true to its intention, Labeled confounds this expectation. Taken from Souleye’s new album Shapeshifting, Labeled opens with a soft melody and the steady delivery of lyrics more associated with a smooth and romantic R&B ballad. This subtle approach is crafted to lull you into listening. With Labeled, Souleye is advancing sophisticated New Age notions of the cosmic consciousness and uniting these with the sociological theory of Symbolic Interactionism. Unless I’m mistaken, this isn’t something you might readily associate with a rap song.
Let’s unpack this. In brief, Symbolic Interactionism tries to investigate the world through three core ideas: people act toward things, including each other, on the basis of the meanings they attach to them. These meanings derive from all manner of social interaction with others; and these meanings go through an internal transformative and interpretive process as people assess and measure each encounter and object.
Welding music to sociological theory is nothing new. Public Enemy created a synopsis of the controversial Dr Welsing’s theories of ‘colour confrontation’ in their 1989 album “Fear of a Black Planet.” Kate Bush’s earlier works were saturated with influences from the works of the Russian occultist and mystic philosopher, George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. And here we have the point of unity with Souleye. Gurdjieff thought that human beings are incomplete. Unfinished creations of enormous potential who can improve and enhance this potential through active and energetic participation in the world around us. Participation Gurdjieff referred to as the “power of doing.”
Possessing more ambition than punch Labeled isn’t the strongest track on his new album. The strongest track on Shapeshifting is the more powerfully beat driven Underworld. Yet Labeled deserves a listen – and an acoustic cover version by Tori Amos.
Where Public Enemy encouraged aggressive confrontation, Souleye aims to make his stand and argue against the desires to indulge in retaliation, revenge or petty anger. He’s in the vanguard of what looks like a new movement in music – Positive Hip-Hop!