Anticon Records founder Tim Holland, aka Sole, is an unstoppable wrecking ball of politically charged energy. His stream-of-consciousness lyrical style has a tendency to deconstruct common hip-hop themes until they are just ashes on the mic.
In 1992, he released his first single, “Cops Ain’t Shit,” and has been pissed off ever since. However, Holland must have been feeling nostalgic when he recorded his latest album, The Secret History of Underground Rap. Holland jumped back more than a decade to unleash a 12-track collection of early ’90s gems. Contrary to previous releases, such as Bottle of Humans or Live From Rome, Holland took complete control of the production board and remixed everyone from Organized Konfusion and Public Enemy to Aceyalone and Ultramagnetic MCs.
Although there are only 1,000 pressings of this rare tour CD, it’s worth taking the time to hunt one down. Holland manages to turn the hopeful Nas track “The World Is Mine” into a brooding, more cynical sounding masterpiece that quickly becomes an album highlight. The cynicism makes sense because Holland is a hardcore realist.
His blunt approach has remained introspective and a tad pessimistic over the years but clearly to his advantage. Holland’s valiant attempt to give a brief history lesson on grimy ’90s rap is also a way for him to express his appreciation for that era. He picks artists that he must truly admire as some of the selections are rather surprising.
For example, he remixes Notorious BIG’s ominous “Suicidal Thoughts” and adds some distorted, atmospheric noise to the background that makes it even dirtier than the original. It seems like an odd choice for such a diehard intellectual.
But perhaps the most striking track is Public Enemy’s “By The Time I Get To Arizona.” With lyrics such as “so what if I celebrate it standin’ on a corner/I ain’t drinkin’ no 40/I be takin’ time with a nine/until we get some land/call me the trigger man/looki lookin’ for the governor,” Holland makes a strong political statement about his opposition to racism whether he likes it or not. He can’t help himself. Somehow, Holland always makes a point.