SolarFive Credit: Quentin Alexander Cole

Quentin Cole, who makes music as SolarFive, has given a lot to modern Chicago hip-hop. The diligent rapper, beat slinger, and engineer has made superb albums with his beat collective, OnGaud, and he’s collaborated with some of the city’s brightest hip-hop artists, including Defcee, Mick Jenkins, and Pivot Gang’s MFn Melo. 

SolarFive flexes his soulful, gritty chops on Paved With Good Intentions, his latest project with Chicago producer Custom Made. (Full disclosure: Custom Made also produced my 2022 release Bigg Perrm, and both releases came out via Filthē Analects.) SolarFive likes to float his voice across dark, brooding, melodic tunes with a rumbling, locomotive flow, and he continues that trend here, with Custom Made handling his heavy raps with care. Custom incorporates a broad mix of sounds, including dusty-sounding vintage hardcore hip-hop and bright, dreamy tracks accompanied by live instrumentation—it’s no wonder he’s one of the more sought-after beat makers in the city.

On “In the Wind,” which features smooth synths and a wistful vocal sample, SolarFive considers moonlighting in revenge. His vocal performance shifts from lucid and bluesy to blistering and aggressive on lines like “I smell fear when I inhale hope” and “I’m stocking up on ammo just so I can feel at peace.” On “Shogun” he’s joined by freakishly talented Chicago MC IAMGAWD, who adds an expert, refreshing jolt of energy over horror-tinged piano keys. Paved With Good Intentions is SolarFive’s reminder that while he’s an amazing producer in his own right, he’s also powerful with the pen. This is grown-man rap full of cathartic, existential lessons from a person with no shortage of war stories. It’s perfect for late-night drives and contemplative smoke sessions.

SolarFive & Custom Made’s Paved With Good Intentions is available through Bandcamp.