Soul Position | Things Go Better with RJ and AL (Rhymesayers)

Their newest release, Things Go Better With RJ and AL, is as advertised: another collision of an emcee and his acrobatic words with a versatile producer capable of coming up with a beat for any occasion.

Rap music today is dumpster juice. The formula—dope beats plus dope rhymes—seems to have been forgotten, replaced by the world of “Laffy Taffy,” a song so bad that it should make living rappers roll in their graves.

Soul Position, the collaboration between rapper Blueprint and producer RJD2, has always been about making that original brand of hip-hop, gimmickless good music. The Columbus, Ohio–based duo has that dope beats, dope rhymes formula down and the music they’ve made since 2002 has been something to look forward to. On their own they’re each legitimate at what they do, rapping and making beats, respectively, but together they get a Captain Planet ring thing going on: their powers magnified to stand for all that is good.

From the moment you heard “Mic Control,” from their 2002 Unlimited EP, you knew that these dudes were going to make some serious music. The words simply go too well with the beats. 2003’s 8 Million Stories again showed that these guys are really on the same page, able to match the moods of the lyrics and the beats exceptionally well. Their newest release, Things Go Better With RJ and AL, is as advertised: another collision of an emcee and his acrobatic words with a versatile producer capable of coming up with a beat for any occasion.

“Ya’ll can’t match the vibe my raps provide,” raps Blueprint on “The Extra Mile,” one of the standout tracks on Things Go Better. That seems to be a thesis for the album as a whole, one entirely about resurrecting that good hip-hop vibe. “The Extra Mile” has a perfectly funky beat centered around a guitar and horn sample, and Blueprint battles back with perfectly funky verses: “You take an L cuz you’re corny like Cliffy Claven/can’t seem to keep your missus from misbehaving.”

Blueprint can make Cheers references as easily as he makes social commentary, as evidenced by “Hand-Me-Downs,” the most interesting song on the album. It is his criticism of the images of blackness that go hand in hand with the gangsterism of rap music and rap culture. The state of hip-hop is one that demands criticism and Blueprint does an exceptionally good job of it. “My momma gave me Donny Hathaway/young, gifted and black/I miss the positivity/I want to bring it back/rap nowadays is by a bunch of ignorant cats/no young, gifted, and black/just guns, bitches, and crack.” And once again RJD2 supplies that final piece, with a scratched-in vocal sample to end the song, “Things is bound to change.”

This album is nothing extraordinary, but it is as much about the formula that produced it as the final product. Good hip-hop is simple hip-hop, lyrics about every day life laid over a beat that just makes you nod your head. Soul Position is two musicians who understand that quite well, and who have developed a collaboration that produces it consistently


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