Rappity rap. Not technically a sub-genre of Hip-Hop but one that when mentioned, fans will understand what you’re talking about. The type of rap music that is overloaded with rhymes about spitting rhymes, rhymes about being superior to other rappers, and rhymes that are delivered at a relentless rate, slapping the listener over the head until they submit. Clear Soul Forces are very much a “rappity rap” group, but one that managed to make it both relate-able and soulful with 2013’s “Gold PP7s”.
Following a string of short EPs, the quartet return with 2015’s “Fab 5ive”, enlisting producer Nameless as the honorary fifth member. There has been some mixed feelings towards this decision, and it’s understandable given the great job that Ilajide had done on previous albums. Initially, I was of a similar persuasion, feeling that the bounciness had gone from Clear Soul Forces’ style, but with repeated listens it starts to make sense. This is why reviews tend to drop a few weeks after projects release, because we’re absorbing the albums and feelings can change. The choppiness of Nameless’ production is the perfect foil for the wild flows and stop-start nature of the microphone being passed around between the crew.
It’s noticeable from the first song “Cheese in the Sky” that the guys have tightened their flows, and they have updated their video game references to include blockbusters like Grand Theft Auto V. “Tha Numbas” also showcases the growth, both in terms of technique and song-writing, that the crew have experienced over the last two years. Songs flow more naturally, rather than feeling like a well-polished collection of ciphers. The Ilajide sound is still here too on “Mars On Life” (via Nameless) and “Blow Your Mind” (via Ilajide himself), but the majority of “Fab 5ive” is a crunchy, gritty affair with an almost lo-fi feel. Single “Kaboom” is a perfect example of this organised chaos, with a production best described as psychotic Dilla:
I can’t really recommend “Fab 5ive” over “Gold PP7s”, as it feels slightly different and arrives without the same freshness. Nameless’ presence is welcome and while the instrumentals lean in between “Gold PP7s” and their earlier work (2012’s “Detroit Revolutions” particularly) – it’s great company to keep. The idea of changing producers with each album is one I can get behind and something that may boost the longevity of Clear Soul Forces career; it lends each album a distinct style. “Fab 5ive” is thematically similar to the guys’ previous work, but with Nameless’ choppy instrumentals and the refined flows on display, you won’t be disappointed.