The latest release from hip-hop artist Souleye, “Follow Your Heart”, is a powerful single that continues his tradition of crafting rhythmically and lyrically compelling musical works. Unlike many of his contemporaries in the hip hop world, Souleye’s work concerns itself with questions of substance rather than ballyhooing the artist’s material possessions, masculinity, or aggressive streak. He has a commanding but, ultimately, reassuring vocal presence that inhabits all of his works with a wise, even-handed presence that doesn’t puff its chest out but, instead, relies on rhetorical power and confident phrasing to convey its intent. His journey to this place is well documented and informs songwriting like this. “Follow Your Heart”, far from being some trite invocation of advice that achieves no larger meaning, instead takes a popular conversational phrase from our culture and invests it with personal and larger meaning that plumbs into the depths of what it means to pursue your own path in life.
The musical elements are kept direct but effective. Percussion and electronica interweave to create a crackling backing track for Souleye to unveil his thoughts. The track peaks at all of the right times and is put together exceptionally well, but it contrasts quite effectively with the loftier qualities heard in the chorus. Souleye can never be accused of a cookie cutter approach to his music; there’s a great deal of unexpected sonic color in this song accomplished with a minimum amount of fuss. The song doesn’t overextend itself as well, but this isn’t a product of the music merely being a vehicle for the lyric. His economical tendencies as a writer also apply to his talents as a composer of sound – the track’s sub-three minute running time means that this is a performer and songwriter who believe in getting straight to the crux of the matter rather than wallowing in self-indulgence that might mar or weaken the song.
The lyrical material features a number of tongue-twisting passages that lesser vocal talents might have stumbled over. Souleye, however, glides through his precise and challenging verbiage without even a hint of a stumble. The lyric and backing track fit each other quite well and Souleye exudes a quiet confidence throughout that shears any sentimentality or tropes from the songwriting that would otherwise drag it down. He sprinkles a fair amount of imagery throughout the lyric and it is all quite fitting.
Souleye is a rare cat. His concerns aren’t grounded in the material world or drawing people in with his bravado, put-on or otherwise. He is, first and foremost, a writer, but he is also a talented vocal talent and an undeniable musical force who intuitively understands how to shape his voice around a backing track. Moreover, he doesn’t treat the music as an afterthought or pile on a bunch of samples to mask his lack of creativity. Creativity isn’t in short supply here. Instead, Souleye’s “Follow Your Heart” is bursting with imaginative fire, inspiration, and love.