ScholarMan: Soul Purpose

The lesson from this Maryland emcee's journey shows that hard work is inspiring, but progress is divine.


Soul Purpose

Label: Soganic
US Release Date: 2008-01-22
UK Release Date: Unavailable

On Soul Purpose, when ScholarMan calls his experience and career a "journey", it inspires me. Not because the image of a man embarking on a journey is automatically inspiring, but because you can hear his determination in his rhymes. His delivery is deliberate and somewhat painstaking, as if he enjoys the experience of uttering each syllable but feels a little sad that they have to leave his lips. It's not an effortless flow, like a nimble freestyle, but it's smart and methodical. You can tell he invested himself in the construction of his verses, and his work ethic is evident, as is his considerable love and affection for history, community spirit, and hip-hop culture. His previous albums, The Love Freedom Movement with partner in rhyme TrueBless and Candy Medicine, continually celebrate these themes. This is what inspires me about the Maryland emcee, and whenever I hear him I think, "Damn it, I need to work harder too!" But I also think it highlights some room for improvement.

Here's the good stuff. Soul Purpose (I'm diggin' the play on "soul" and "sole", by the way) could be a companion piece to ScholarMan's Candy Medicine, an album that found him branching out lyrically while further tightening his production skills. This time around, love and affection still rule the day, but in various forms: physical attraction ("No Questions Asked", an interesting take on LL Cool J's "Pink Cookies"), long term romance ("Keep the Love Alive"), familial bonds ("My First Seed"), and respect for "real hip-hop". The latter category basically consists of all the other songs, with the notable exception of "Hood Stories, Vol. 2", a solid storytelling exercise that provides a follow-up to a "Hood Stories" narrative on Candy Medicine.

ScholarMan reminds me of veteran emcee and beatsmith Large Professor -- a compliment which I do not hand out lightly! -- but his beats might steal the show from his flow. They're jazzy and filled with well-chosen and intricately chopped samples, horn loops, and orchestral flourishes, without sacrificing his flair for '90s-style boom bap. It's got a real chill vibe to it and, as far as vibes go, the album gets bonus points for depicting historical figures like Marcus Garvey, Charles Drew, and Kathleen Cleaver on its cover. Reading is fundamental, but History's essential.

All of this is good, providing consistency and dependability in ScholarMan's output, but I have the feeling he can do more and add even more depth to his craft by being less rigid in focus and delivery. Continuing to expand his versatility might be the answer, as songs that center around "being real" or providing "real hip-hop" continue to be a mainstay. The songs on Soul Purpose that deal with other topics provide a welcome change of pace, which suggests that an eclectic approach to subject matter could yield dividends. Personally, I like the "Hood Stories" installments enough to listen to an entire album of his detailed storytelling. That type of album might better showcase his wit and charisma in addition to his hard work. That might inspire me and enlighten me.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.