Soulcrate Music “The Heartland Panic” – Album Review
Anyone who owns more than ten rap albums should be able to tell you what first made them love, or like as in like like, the genre. Whether it’s the personalities, the storytelling, or something in the aesthetic like the pounding bass or consistent stream of lyrics, everyone knows what made them fall head-over-heels for beats and rhymes. What’s lesser explored are the secrets to maintaining that happy marriage. While some tend to lose interest based on what they listen to becoming stagnant, I’ve kept my passion through exploring the ever-changing soundscape that makes it such an ever-evolving music. West Coast rappers don’t sound like East Coast rappers, Atlanta producers don’t sound like Memphis producers and even that North Dakota sound (Me and You Crew) is discernibly different from the South Dakota sound coming from Black Clover signees Soulcrate Music and their album The Heartland Panic.
Putting together the Soulcrate discography is somewhat of a task. Their first release Obviously Bothered, a collection of their earliest recordings, was an “album” in the same way Gang Starr’s No More Mr. Nice Guy was an album*. Followed by two solo albums recorded under the group’s name, the trio put out 2008’s Cardboard Cutouts Volume 1 as an EP of all new material to perform and have available on tour. Catchy, consistent and enjoyable in a year that was anything but, the replay value has steadily built the group’s reputation as well as anticipation for their first full-length national release. For better or worse, The Heartland Panic‘s twelve original songs play like that record’s extended version. They know how they want to sound and are ready to spread it over a full length’s running time.
Seemingly signed primarily for their impeccable live show that sees them regularly pull in crowds of 700-800 throughout the Midwest, the greatest challenge the group faces here is translating that energy and intimacy into an album. While MCs Adef Eisenhower and Dirt Dee are the most animated and visible in a live setting, the real star here is producer DJ Absolute. More than just a beatmaker (and a good one at that) he understands the psychology of a rap album and lets the soundscape of The Heartland Panic play like a stroll through Sioux Falls. The wet autumn, the bitter winter, and the spring rain on a Starter jacket are all conjured over the course of the 45 minute running time. He knows when to let the beat alone carry the listener in (“Let it Shine”), when to let it propel the rappers’ momentum (“Evil in It,” “Made it Break”) and when to have the rappers carry the torch in order to let things breathe (“Keep Hope Dead”). Being the sole producer is an easy way to undercook or overload an album but Absolute makes the record feel diverse and complete.
As for the MCs, more than anything, they bring a melodic quality that really makes the album stand out amidst the monkey-see-monkey-bite incestuous scenesters that stagnate most offshoot Midwest music communities. Adef raps like a South Dakotan Lil Boosie with a distinct voice and perspective that makes him instantly recognizable and engaging. By contrast, DirtDee is a much more straightforward by-the-numbers rapper, which plays to Adef’s strengths like Vinnie Paz to whoever-is-guesting on a Jedi Mind Tricks song. But when they come together for hooks, their presence feels like a fourth member. They make the more epic-sounding beats like “Old vs.Dumb” become welcome hum-worthy affairs and the laid back numbers (“Clouds in My Head”) sound like anthems.
Their personalities shine on The Heartland Panic where their aim seems to be toward making listeners as excited for their album as they were for their favorite artists in high school. While there are more hits than misses, the record does suffer from moments of trying too hard to wear their heart on their hoodie. “Think About Me,” despite a great beat, becomes another “I’m bragging about not bragging” song. “Learn From It” and “Wake Up” both sound like lesser efforts toward territory already charted elsewhere on the album. When you have such highs on the record sustained by how much they standout, it makes these missteps all the worse and detracts from the whole experience**. Still, fans will undoubtably be pleased by this outing. It succeeds as a snapshot of where they are as a group and the combination of the melodies and production will be sure to make Sioux Falls, South Dakota a second home to plenty of new listeners.
We give The Heartland Panic a Three Out of Five.
Until next time, Let’s Agree to Agree!
*That’s an “album” as in an “album” but kinda-sorta not really an “album” but considered an “album” even though they don’t really recognize it as an “album” although the “album” is pretty “album-ish.”
**Call it “Chinese Arithmatic” syndrome.
Tags: adef eisenhower, america's heartland, black clover, black clover records, dirtdee, dj absolute, hip-hop, mac lethal, midwest, rap, regional rap, sioux falls, soulcrate music, south dakota, the heartland panicYou can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.