Rap as always been this thing, sort of this hip-hop lane that can be definitely compared to a game of a basketball. The adrenaline that pumps through the veins of the artists as they spit over the mic has to be something like the smile that eludes Iverson when he would step on the court for the Sixers.
New Jeru artist SōULFULL draws on this parallel seamlessly through his latest mixtape, More Than A Game. The cover speaks for itself as you have Allen Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue from the Los Angeles Lakers. His facial expression tells a story and indicates he has came out on top as the winner.
He is stepping up and over everyone else.
The tape starts with “Overall” where you hear a snippet where announce the first round pick for the NBA Draft back in 1996. Soon enough you hear SōULFULL’s vibrant energy over the beat. He uses this as a dope introduction to drop a few punchlines and even shout out thagreymatter towards the end. “HEEMflow” is where he finds his footing, where he smoothly excels into a space of comfort. It’s Drake’s “Back to Back” in comparison to “Charged Up”, he’s coming harder than before.
“sayLESS” is one of my favorites from the entire project. Maybe it is the quirky vocals from Sayless rapping that delivers a new sound for the artist to work with or even her flow that caught my attention. Another artist, Diamond, makes a soulfull appearance on the song as well drawing in a R&B sound.
He continues to honor some of the greats with his next song, “stillFeelMe”, respectively from Jadakiss. The overall theme of the project is evident even in this song as he mentions basketball legends Jordan and Pippen. While still dope, it doesn’t fully grab my attention. Besides a few dope lines and mentioning long-time friend Ron or “WheresDiggity“, it serves more as a bridge between the previous song and what is coming next.
I appreciate the choice of songs he chose to use, especially with Goapele’s “Closer” on “SKYESrequest”. Instead of opting out of using a chorus altogether, he brings on a fellow New Jeru member Chesne to add a soft touch to the song. With her own unique lyrics, you get the same feel of Closer but with a completely new soothing sound.
“You shaking hands with niggas who keeping blades up their sleeves/
You fuck around with girls you won’t wife, but won’t let leave..”
“IDK” is where you get to see a shift in his energy. It’s like you get to see him step closer to the mic as he delivers a few nice bars. His verse seemed to flow directly into Blake Davis’ verse before the song ends. Overall the song is cool but the arrangement of verses could have been better, allowing SōULFULL to finish the track instead.
I begin to zone out to the way he attacks the classics but before I zone out too far, I hear the sexy sounding, “sayYES”. It is unequivocally erotic in its subtle lyrics and through the vocal tones of featured artist Kärma. They master the sensual collaboration between a rapper and R&B artist, which I can admit is an extremely hard task to accomplish.
Now, you move into a part of the project where features start to disappear and you can hone in on his own rapping abilities a little bit more. I feel he’s calling out rap fans, real hip-hop heads as he raps over Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half-Steppin” on his “NOhalfSTEPPIN”. Originally released in 1988, you can visualize his versatility, the way his flow is unique but still applicable to most songs. If he wants to body any kind of track, he will do it. Best part of this song is the way he closes it out, giving us a brief acapella where he mentions his brand, HōMEMADE, and the love for his family in his corner.
If you’re paying attention, and I mean really paying attention, you will recognize “skitTWO” within seconds. He first premiered this skit on his first mixtape, HōMEMADE earlier this year. During the original skit you get to hear the audience of friends around him respond to his one minute rap. Instead of leaving it in the past, he finds a way to integrate it into More Than A Game.
He uses the same lyrics as an introduction into the rest of song as he raps over Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents”. Listening to the song over and over, it feels like he’s hyping himself, reminding himself of the greats that have paved the way and how he is building his own path similarly. He delivered on a track that a lot of rappers touch early in their careers, which is a telltale sign of what’s to come (i.e., Logic, J.Cole).
After being in a groove, he throws a wrench in the mix, something to shift your attention with “WESTCOASTsoul”. Sparking a dope track from Eazy-E’s “Real Muthaphuckkin G’s”, SōULFULL still finds a way to flow over the beat. You can tell he has fun with a sound that is dissimilar from what he’s used to. His flow doesn’t really change but somehow fits beautifully over the track.
“QUIETstorm” is lyrically the best track on the mixtape, hands down. Tracks prior played as a preview to this song, and as small stepping stones to the peak of the tape. Besides basketball references, he makes some classic notes of shows like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Martin, thing that are pretty much universal.
He closes out wit “TOUCHtheSKY” featuring actor Lionel Macauley and fellow New Jeru member Ty Jack. Lionel pulls you in over the beat with a dope spoken word-like piece as SoULFULL comes in next with Ty Jack following his verse. It is an uplifting kind of song as he talks about his personal life more in depth and how only the sky is the limit.
Overall, #MTAG was quite the project. It was a shift from HōMEMADE in the sense that he is finding his groove and mastering his ability to touch various types of sounds with all types of artists. While some tracks were better than others when it comes to quality and lyrical content, I walked away from his music understanding him more as an artist and as an individual. He was able to have fun with this body of work without shying away from his natural talent. Dropping two projects in one calendar year usually is not the best idea because it does not provide evolvement for the artist but somehow for him it works. SōULFULL shows that he is quickly becoming one of New Jersey’s great artists and rappers. Don’t count him out, this is just the warm up.