Birthday Songs, Ugsmag (CAN)

This is a difficult album to review. I was introduced to Soso with the Sour Suite EP and was incredibly surprised at the quality of an album coming from a relatively unknown MC from a relatively unknown city, at least for its hip hop community, Saskatoon. It’s been two and a half years since I wrote a review for Sour Suite, and after a great deal of procrastination I finally am sitting down to write a review for Birthday Songs. So, what’s changed in the meantime? Everything, and nothing.

I’ve taken many trips between Edmonton and Saskatoon and met everyone that has to do with hip hop in the prairies in between. Soso is a producer, an MC, a DJ, and a really nice guy. I’m happy I can call Troy my friend, but it makes me somewhat biased to review this album. When listening to Birthday Songs, I can’t stop thinking about one performance where Soso took of his shirt and started spinning it around his head, just like a helicopter, while rhyming the Petey Pablo chorus to “Raise Up.” Maybe this is why I love rap so much, an MC who releases one of the most artistic albums I’ve ever heard also listens to Cash Money Millionaires while he eats cereal in the morning. Troy is a great person who just happens to rap and make beats.

There is a definite progression from Sour Suite to Birthday Songs, although its not a wholly apparent change. Something is better, the overall sound and the feel, but I can’t say his rhymes or beats are significantly better, but they are different, somehow. I enjoy the flow of Birthday Songs and the lack of guests. Although John Smith and Epic were great additions to Sour Suite, I am glad Soso kept this album for himself. This is a personal album with an intimate feel, especially on tracks like “Birthday Songs.” I don’t want to analyze this song because it deserves to be listened to. So peep the audio link, player. The whole vocal delivery and lyrical content of the album is personal, maybe with the exception of “Dyke Look” which plays up lesbian culture. Other than that, Soso is open and has little to hide. Honesty + rap = good album.

The beats knock, but in a melancholy way. The snares hit hard, the bass lines are fresh, and the samples are rough, but the mood is somewhat industrial. I feel like I should be bumping this album on the picket line, maybe outside of a steel mill. The beats have an “I’m broke as f*ck with no way out” sort of knock. Everything hits with a rugged West Coast Ant Banks feel with a robotic Kraftwerk funk overtop. These are Soso beats – they’re grim but they thump. This is what Too Short listens to when he’s had a slow and introspective day.

This album is different, and dope because of its difference. But this also leaves a shortcoming for Birthday Songs, you have to be in the right mood to listen to the album. Birthday Songs is perfect for capturing a bleak atmosphere, but you’re not going to be playing this at your next party, or at least I don’t think so. I have to be in the right mind state to bump this album, but isn’t that the case with everything? Yes, it is. In short: Birthday Songs is an incredible work of art, especially with the enhanced CD portion. Soso has improved, updated, revised and revamped, and we all get to enjoy his dope music. Cop this G.

Beats: 4.5 Rhymes: 4 Originality: 4.5

– Andy Keenan,