Why "preachy" works for some artists, and how a bumpin' album can make you feel like Don Cornelius.
The songs on Politic Live's second album, Adaptation, have so much bump, my car feels like it's bouncing like the little locomotive from Soul Train. And I dig it, the whole concept, from the Canadian hip-hop group's dancehall-meets-R&B vibe to the mix of scratches and live instrumentation. It's quite common these days to hear hip-hop songs with R&B-style hooks, but there are times when the structure seems forced and overdone. Politic Live's music, however, incorporates soulful vocals in natural ways, whether it's straightaway singing on the hooks or impassioned background riffs (see "Executive Summary", "Purification", or "Enough"). Bigga Nolte, Dirt Gritie, and Young Mav -- the artists of Politic Live -- keep their material varied over the album's 16 tracks (14 regular tracks and two bonus mixes), whether they are hyping their skills ("Droppin' Gems"), tackling the questions of life ("In the End"), or contemplating the consequences of immigration and economic status ("Travels with Akeem").
Politic Live's strengths are formidable. First, dope beats. Second, catchy hooks. Third, and most importantly, the group exudes sincerity, especially on the tracks we would call "passionate" (if we like them) or "preachy" (if we don't like them). In this case, "preachy" isn't a description to avoid; it's a tag of honor. Songs like "Purification" (purging one's demons) and "Stoosh" (indignation about status-conscious sistas) resonate because of the group's commitment to the subject matter, in contrast to more generic verses about microphone skills or being different from other emcees. "Video Light" is one of the most intriguing songs, chronicling the career of an aspiring entertainment star as she works the music video circuit. The group offers a sympathizing male view of her plight, then allows Risse, the guest female emcee, to tell her story in her own words, similar to the way that 2pac's "Papaz Song" (1993) contrasted the perspectives of two boys growing up without their father against a final verse in which the father explains the reasons for his absence.
Politic Live's soulful hip-hop is proof that being "preachy" isn't necessarily bad. Enjoyable, funky, and accessible, Adaptation pushes most of the right buttons.