Some craftsmen and artisans have been performing the duties of their occupation for so long that when they pick up the implements of their trade, gettin’ busy and doing work is second nature. Whether it be muscle memory retained after a lifetime of doing the same thing day in day out or the ability to competently accomplish feats that would be prohibitively difficult for the rest of us, there’s something to be said about the benefits reaped from longevity. When it comes to rapping, Myka 9 is clearly the sensei in the verbal martial arts dojo and his joint project with Canadian producer Factor, Sovereign Soul, is a snapshot of an artist comfortable in his element.
This is the second time in 4 years Factor has helmed the boards for this cofounder of Freestyle Fellowship and former NWA ghostwriter, and for the most part he’s up for the challenge, contributing to a creative synergy that makes for a cohesive LP. Factor’s sound is sometimes less straight ahead hip-hop and more left-of-center but it suits Myka 9’s unconventional flow and subject matter like a tailor. Many scholars of rap have insisted that the voice itself is an instrument and if there’s a prime example of this little acknowledged aspect of the craft it’s Myka 9. He’s got a deep voice with a lot of character, not only does he weave in and out with varying cadences and syntax, his vocal chords expel words in a melodic fashion reminiscent of the improvisation of jazz soloists.
“You Are Free” has a hard-charging, hyperkinetic, dynamic that’s soundscape is more drum & bass than anything. Myka 9 empties a full clip of third-eye consciousness at a high rate of speed while staying on beat, his vocal emphasis and stylings serving, literally, as another percussive element. “Ode to Cosmosis” featuring Abstract Rude, Freewill, and Moka Only is lyrically dense, it requires multiple listens to fully comprehend what every MC is saying. Factor ably translates anguish, doubt and frustration into a haunting piano and guitar driven aural tundra and while the MCs’ words are perfectly clear, the meaning behind their verses requires some contemplation.
Johanna Phraze and JNatural join Myka 9 on “Heaven Up”, a throwback to the heyday of b-boys and girls that sorely tempts the listener to attempt some uprocking, windmills and maybe a few headspins. The only blatant misstep is “Bless Me Out” featuring Jah Orah. This joint is beyond corny, egregiously so. The beat sounds like it was used in a party scene on The OC or a Coors Light commercial in 1997. The vocals are wack on so many levels, Myka’s verse is lame and the chorus by Jah Orah is a poor man’s Shaggy. “5 Mikes” is near the end of the LP and it’s worth the wait. It’s basically 5 dudes just rippin’ it. Open Mike Eagle, Mykill Miers, Mic King, and Myk Mansun all unleash venomous 16s, each bringing their distinctive styles to the table for an overall effect similar to The Wu in their prime.
Myka 9 and Factor’s Sovereign Soul is a solid album. However it doesn’t seem to have much of an edge, it’s definitely representative of the West Coast indie hip hop chill mentality. Myka 9 doesn’t have too many axes to grind or rappers to dis, but when you’ve been in the game as long as he has all that may just be old hat. Above all it’s music that somehow manages to be accessible without being shallow. Blew everyone out of the water, straight beast mode.