Soul Cannon: Kaboom
It sucks to be "positive," street-culture-critical hip-hop. Beyond college campuses, the market is thin. It'd almost be better off jumping headlong into Christian rap and, at least, have a built-in audience (KRS-One had the right idea). But Christian rap isn't around to call bullshit on rap's drug and gun culture (less time to rhyme about God). And this is what Soul Cannon's Kaboom is so much about: sharp critique and faith that it can be done without sounding whiny and out of touch. In a flow more matter-of-fact than confrontational, Eze Jackson raps, "There rappers ain't nothing but jokers with no soul."
Mostly, the disc treads between hokey didacticism and poignancy. The nostalgia trip of "Dilapidated Buildings" starts off with some way too idyllic images of the good ol' days in the 'hood playing ball and "hoppin' the fence" and laments that "these rap crew miseducating the young" with beats that sub "pistols for snares" over Soul Cannon's own live drumbeat and very Rootsy rap-band funk. But the edge to Jackson's voice is very real, and when he says over and over "but I still love my ghetto/ still in love with my ghetto" you're taking him as seriously as he takes himself. Ditto for when he rhymes "Treasure my people and my culture/ but we been hit by the vultures." It does get wearisome, though, and preachy, particularly with the soul croon/rap "Election Season," the expected lefty pop-politics retread.
Oddly enough, it's more satisfying to hear Soul Cannon's message laced in with boasts like "Soon to be a success story set in the slums/ no matter what I gain I won't forget where I'm from" or "Trying to see the Cannon on the top 10 list/ we won't go home broke, hungry, and hitless." Misstep clichés aside, here's hoping.