Soul Position 

Eight Million Stories

Backpack hip-hop kids, fear not. In case you missed last year's Unlimited EP, here's another installment of Soul Position, the critically hyped supergroup comprising Def Jukie DJ extraordinaire RJD2 and fellow Ohioan MC and producer Blueprint. The production immediately grabs you: Just drop the needle, and immediately a wave of cacophonic vocal samples and tough scratching bounces through your ear canals and straight to your brain. RJD2 never lets up, and his hypnotic beats and breaks favorably recall Gang Starr, Black Sheep, and A Tribe Called Quest. The rhymes, unfortunately, often do not.

Eight Million Stories seems to be a bit of a concept album about inner city life, as 'Print leads us from bedrooms to alleyways to dead-end jobs. "Jerry Springer Episode" finds him reflecting on the exhausting relations with his "boo," but while he does so with humor and wit, he unfortunately leans towards cheesiness and mediocrity by comparing her to Mary J. and Lauryn Hill. Far more compelling is "No Excuse for Loving," the story of a 21-year-old mother who can't control her tailspinning nightlife of wine and men. Blueprint narrates with great detail her hard life of abusive boyfriends, one-night stands, and the tragedy that ensues. RJD2 responds with a repeated vocal sample as haunting as it is beautiful.

Unfortunately, on many of Eight Million's tracks, Blueprint's rhyme schemes become hackneyed and predictable, redeemed only by RJD2's tasteful production and big, booming, hooky beats. Each song is perfectly crafted with horns and strings, often accented by piano and keyboard hooks that recall Thrust/Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock blended perfectly with the tight rhythms of the Meters. Fortunately, Soul Position's two components complement each other well, and when Blueprint falters, RJD2 is there to rescue him, and us.

Soul Position plays Slim's in SF on Monday night. 415-255-0333.

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