Souleye – Labeled
Souleye is a hip hop artist known for the provocative, inspiring messages of his lyrics and the uplifting energy of his music. The new single “Labeled” off his recently released album Shapeshifting epitomizes his style. The music is an addictive combination of hip hop beats and electronic sound, while the lyrics discuss the prevalence of labeling in our society, how we judge on appearances before learning someone’s character. The chorus sums up the problem he sees: “You don’t even know my name yet / And you already got me labeled / You don’t even know my name yet / And you don’t seem to want to learn.”
The song opens with a high-pitched, auto-tuned repetition of the phrase “you don’t even.” The track could do without this introduction, it seems a bit trivial for the subject matter. However, that phrase becomes part of the background music throughout the whole song and it functions better in the background, reiterating Souleye’s point. Souleye raps over a rhythmic and electronic background that is simple yet emphatic enough to continue to drive home his message. The rhythm repeats over and over just like this problem in our society; we continue to judge each other and distance ourselves from one another, instead of banding together as people.
Souleye’s rapping voice and style is perfect for his theme. His tone is sincere, and assured, but not preach-y. In verse 2, he picks up the pace when he says “Why would I want to get angry at someone beeping their horn / I don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors / I tell my son that they’re in a rush.” Here he gets a bit louder, faster and more earnest, perhaps because he’s discussing his son, making this subject even more personal. He wants his son to grow up in a world where we don’t judge negatively, but have a positive reaction to people and are sensitive to potential problems.
Sure, there are plenty of artists who rap about only sex and drugs and there are plenty of intellectual rappers who discuss meaningful topics, like Souleye, Atmosphere, and Macklemore, among many others. Souleye is a clearly powerful lyricist whose music makes us listen to and feel his message. Souleye is married to singer Alanis Morisette, an artist known for her uncompromising and provocative lyrics and voice. In 2012, he opened her tour for Guardian Angel and they have worked together frequently. Personally, I would love to hear more of their collaborations. They are both extremely gifted lyricists, but while they are similar as writers, their musical styles are very different. “Labeled” is a testament to Souleye’s skill as a rapper and a lyricist. The track’s bridge encapsulates his hope: “Imagine a life / I wonder when it will be / When your neighbors are your friends/ And we are one community.”
Review by Justine R