It didn’t take very long for this album to grow on me: only one listen, really. Since then I’ve been almost physically unable to not just press repeat when the album finishes. The simple melodies, captivating imagery and simple instrumentation keep it repeatably listenable.
soso is an MC from the flat and windy prairie town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Though he may not match your perception of what a hip-hop MC should look or sound like, he perfectly matches the Canadian ideal of singer-songwriter. At once confessional and humourous, he is above all honest. The album is layered with lo-fi orchestral melodies (courtesy of fellow prairie musician Maybe Smith) over which he raps bittersweet images of nostalgia and angst. Recurring ideas of family and self-doubt permeate the album. And when soso switches from spoken-word style verse to haunting singing on the chorus one senses that the raw emotions might just need to come across in a frustrated scream thinly veiled as singing. There’s no other vehicle.
On the second track “Company of Chairs” one gets a window into artistic frustration. The spare opening strums of an electric guitar give way to some frenetic drum programming. He goes on to explain “I’ve made promises that I knew I couldn’t keep, and I’ve abused confidences and exhausted second chances, frittered away like a petty cash advances.” The chorus is a reminder that he will “not look back on this fondly and reminisce.”
The raw and confessional nature of this album translated into an interesting and unusual live hip hop performance. When soso came on his European tour he stopped in Brussels and I had the chance to enjoy, if not so much the local opening act, then certainly the main event. His tour DJ, DJ Flip, former scratch champion from Ireland, and himself, gave a stirring show for a very small crowd. The intimate nature of soso’s work lends itself well to an intimate environment. At one point he ironically referred to one of his tracks as his “club anthem.”
It’s clear that the audience (all 15 of us) at the show on Tuesday 24 November weren’t sure what to expect, but the disarming confidence he exuded on stage, as well as the extremely capable DJing of Flip provided us with a show worth remembering. If we were smart enough to pick up the album afterwards (as I was) then we can continue to enjoy. The hip-hop that soso is making these days only debatably qualifies as such, but it is definitely engaging.
‘Tinfoil on the windows’ is out now.