As a member of Chicago production collective OnGaud rapper and beat maker SolarFive contributed to one of the best local hip-hop releases of 2014: Mick Jenkins’s The Water[s]. The same sumptuous, soul-influenced mystique OnGaud lent The Water[s] snakes its way through SolarFive’s brand-new debut mixtape, 88 Soul.
That magic is present in the occasional weeping synths on “Amethyst”; the lazy, stumbling beat on “Float Away”; and the instrumental sections that sound like they’ve been submerged in water on “Eviction Notice.” SolarFive does best when he bends his voice to fit a track’s atmosphere, like on “Justice,” in which his words seem to slide out of his mouth and plop neatly atop the thin, steady beat. When SolarFive is half-rapping, half-singing it can be both compelling and distracting—I can’t help but feel like I’ve missed an important handful of bars by focusing on the tone of his voice. But all the sounds I got wrapped up in encourage me to return to 88 Soul to focus more on SolarFive’s rhymes.
Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.