A new wave of underground hip-hop takes over.
In the early ï¿½90s, a young, idealistic Tim Holland adopted the alias Sole and began to execute a series of career moves that would eventually lead him to the foundation of the successful independent hip-hop label, Anticon Records. Instead of following the New York style of rap that was popular at the time, Sole went in another direction and experimented with obscure, truly underground hip-hop. ***image1***
In 1996, he was already making contentious waves with veterans such as El-P and the legendary Company Flow.
ï¿½They just didnï¿½t like my Web site,ï¿½ Sole tells SFR. ï¿½I had this online radio show called TrueHipHop.com because I had a friend who worked for an Internet provider. I was able to broadcast a radio show out of my bedroom three times a week. We were one of three radio stations that reported to CMJ. I was 16 and getting hundreds of records sent to my house in Portland, Maine. I learned the ropes of the music business through that radio station. And because it became such a big thing, we were hated on.ï¿½
In fact, Sole had placed a manifesto on the front of his door that read, ï¿½Company Flow vs. The Spice Girls. Although we appreciate Rawkus Records and Fat Beats, weï¿½re not going to support any New York hip-hop on our Web site because itï¿½s already shoved down everybodyï¿½s throats.ï¿½
That was really what started the whole quandary. Sole had just cut an album with Mr. Complex and The Arsonists that would have been monumental for Fat Beats, but because El-P had basically blacklisted Sole to distributors, the record was immediately shelved. Determined to make his mark with his unique musical vision, he continued compulsively producing demos and networking with other like-minded artists.
However, when he tired of the East Coast and, more specifically, the Boston hip-hop scene, Sole relocated to San Francisco in 1998. Along with future labelmate Pedestrian, he established a broad-minded collective of rap musicians who explored every possible avenue of hip-hop.
More than a decade later, Anticon has grown exponentially and is one of the most recognized experimental hip-hop labels in the country.
ï¿½Anticon definitely trademarked the term ï¿½avant-garde hip-hop,ï¿½ï¿½ Sole explains. ï¿½We made that our thing but there were already people we looked up to doing that styleï¿½Freestyle Fellowship, De La Soul and Cephir, for example. We just picked up a thread of hip-hop that a lot of people werenï¿½t focused on. We wanted to make that what we were all about.ï¿½
With a number of pertinent EPs and solo releases firmly under his belt, Sole is currently touring in support of his new project with The Skyrider Band, another group of Anticon artists. The chance meeting in 2005 with Skyrider, an electronic musician, spawned an entirely different sound for Sole, one that he fully embraces and to which he dedicates endless hours.
ï¿½It was a seemingly natural progression for me, but itï¿½s still kind of difficult to figure out how to conduct a band and get a good sound. Itï¿½s one thing to come up with the music and another to record decent-sounding drums because I honestly didnï¿½t know much about that stuff, ï¿½ he confesses. ï¿½The ***image2***process has been educational. Iï¿½ve spent a long time on it. Basically, we just jam out and Iï¿½ll say something like, ï¿½Make a sound that blends Nirvana and 50 Centï¿½ and they do it. We then trim the best stuff, write to it and play it,ï¿½ he says.
Sole and The Skyrider Band kicked off its tour at Santa Feï¿½s High Mayhem Studios on Jan. 23. The show featured local artist Mike 360, Anticonï¿½s Telephone Jim Jesus and Sole and The Skyrider Band. Telephone Jim Jesus and The Skyrider Band were allowed a significant chunk of stage time and each artist displayed an immense talent for experimental, electronic genius.
When Sole took to the stage, the audience was clearly mesmerized by the orchestral nature of his material. Admittedly, that is one of Soleï¿½s goals at the moment: ï¿½to make gaudy, orchestral, social, anti-social, rock-rap.ï¿½ He continues, ï¿½I want people to learn about the world from my music and be curious about whatï¿½s going on around them. I want people to stop being so apathetic. People are attracted to images and replicas. They donï¿½t want me up there combining abstract things in society, my personal life, politics or nature. They want simplicity and tend to gravitate towards insincerity. Iï¿½m here to spread conscious music.ï¿½
If last weekï¿½s show is any indication of that intention, Sole will undoubtedly be able to reach thousands of people with his touching poetics and ingenuous delivery.