What Beanie Sigel lacks in sheer marketability he makes up for with a vicious flow and an ingenuity rarely seen from an artist of his caliber. As one of the least boisterously successful members of the Rock-A-Fella troupe, Sigel has made a name for himself on his merit alone, lacking the benefits of the hype machine surrounding a Kanye West or DJ Clue.
Most notoriously known for his arrest in 2003, Sigel has fallen out of the mainstream limelight of late. Though 2005’s incarceration-inspired behemoth The B Coming—a mass of soulful horns, inspired, introspective lines, and a violently aggressive Sigel giving the middle finger to the legal system—brought him vaguely back into the public consciousness, he’s never achieved the success of his fellow labelmates. But nearly three years after its release, Sigel is back with the unabashedly mainstream The Solution, an album that shed the archetypal Rock-A-Fella production that colored his early work in exchange for high-glossed beats, a composed mindset, and soaring choruses.
The debut single and album opener “All of the Above” is the first sign of this tempered and improved Sigel. Featuring resident hit-maker R. Kelly, the epic, choral beat is layered with razor-sharp snares and Kelly’s satiny falsetto. Though Sigel doesn’t wholly abandon his thug mentality, he knows where’s he been and doesn’t want to return (“Got my case, did my time, now I’m back”). As the track closes and Jay-Z’s sampled “Allow me to reintroduce myself” sears through the beat, it’s clear that Sigel is a changed man, ready to start anew and make the name for himself he duly deserves.
The ominous “Go Low” is the next sign of Sigel’s concerted effort to break through to the mainstream. With a chorus sung by Akon understudy Rock City, the track is a collection of pop culture name-dropping (“Death can be a Destiny’s Child / Just say my name,” “I keep a Cannon like Nick do it”) and vague drug references, playing as an allegory for bank robberies—the boom-bap bass drum and hand claps, the perfect representation of gun shots ringing out.
But it’s not until the genius of “Judgment Day” and “Dear Self” that Sigel’s self-awareness and understanding of the business truly come to light on The Solution. Both employing incredible, unorthodox samples (Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and a heartfelt James Blunt sample, respectively) that suit Sigel’s skills. A God-fearing Sigel flows on the former, “Our father, please show me the light / Life ain’t right / Devil got my head in a vice.” The rhyme and repetition in “light,” “life,” and “right” mash the line together, making his flows sound even more rapid and visceral.
And yet following “Judgment Day” with the precious “Rain (Bridge)” and the aforementioned “Dear Self” makes you immediately forget about the anger and vitriol he spits on the disc previously. Showing a comforting altruism, Sigel rhymes, “If ever you need that shoulder, soldier / I understand, Cry a river / I’ll be your bridge to dry land.” While “Dear Self” plays a notice to everyone: Beanie Sigel is not who he once was. He wants you to know it, the most notable instance of this one-time thug’s transformation into a great artist.
As The Solution closes with “The Prayer,” a deeply affecting track of personal reconciliation and a humbling look at his past, Sigel cries, “I pray it ain’t too late / For me to ask for forgiveness.” If ever there was any doubt that he is looking to start a new life, this destroys it. With his prison years behind him, Sigel is able to focus on his life again, getting things back in order, exactly where he wants them to be. If this is The Solution the result is bound to be incredible.