Sophie, the sophomore album by Northern California’s Lostribe, at times feels like a rap cipher of the West Coast’s most known unknowns, to borrow a phrase from Three 6 Mafia. N8 the Gr8 of The Cuf, The Grouch, the Hieroglyphics’ Casual, and Gift of Gab from Blackalicious all show up to spit, and Talib Kweli, who although is not from the left coast has the kind of standing and skills that would make him at home amongst almost any crew. The bevy of guests helps to compliment the album, although it’s Agustus ThElephant’s rhymes and JusLuv’s production that ultimately affect Sophie’s meandering malaise. The resultant album, stripped away from its guests feels like a THC-laced rap-dream, a smoky haze of the duo’s carpe diem channeled through a vocoder.
“Over Before You Know It” reflects the overriding ethos, over a beat that would make you feel equipped to ride around your city, wherever that may be, trying to adjust the hydraulics that are woefully not integrated in your Dodge Neon’s system. The auto-tune is in full effect over the woozy, glitchy keys and the chorus quivers with quasi-pitch perfection: “Baby you ain’t never been/Toast to the good life cause I play to win/West Coast palm trees and the finest women/You gotta get it in, cause it could be over before you know it.” Mayhem Xclusive contributes a verse that extols California’s sun-soaked virtues and, like the chorus alludes to, he cautions against not taking advantage of time and opportunities. TheElephant anchors the song with a personalized verse that begins “Just the story of a shorty born in Northern California/Lord me up the summer lovin and women not ignoring us.”
“Breakup Song” is a pensive standard end-of-the affair jam that, surprisingly, doesn’t feel overwrought and clichéd. The song features introspective contributions from both ThElephant and Gift of Gab, over a misty-eyed beat that’s enhanced by apt samples of Slum Village and Common and continues the album’s theme. So do the unfocused “Live Like A Rebel,” and penultimate “Find Meaning in Your Life,” a wobbly instrumental that utilizes a prominent sample of someone speaking about his search for a higher power.
Sophie has its moments of clarity, but by album’s end you get a sense that it’s reminiscent of those other kinds of ciphers, the kind that are characterized by the feeling that everything is funnier than it is, or that musings on Chef Boyardee’s new mac and cheese line or whether or not the new shape of plastic water bottles actually affect the amount contained within are deeper than they really are. In “Live Like A Rebel” ThElephant raps: “They say, ‘Ay, what you rapping for?’/Said I’m looking for the ladies with the back support.” While it’s likely that was just a throwaway rhyme and not the real reason for his musical pursuits, that line seems indicative of Sophie’s vacillation between big questions, existential themes, drug references, and raps about come-ons. Though the beats are well done and the theme and lyrics are for the most part well intentioned and not as shallow as they are in places, the LP could benefit from clear-eyed focus and some thematic Visine.