A year or two ago, I didn’t even know who Lowkey was. A Dutch acquaintance of mine linked me to a YouTube video of one of his songs, called Terrorist. I liked it enough to look for a download to carry with me on my iPod but that was about it. I didn’t look into the man behind the music or any of his other works. I just listened to the song for a while and went back to not knowing who he was. Then, the same Dutch friend suggested I listen to Lowkey’s newly released album, Soundtrack to the Struggle. On an impulse, without even listening to a couple of samples first, I bought it.
And then I listened to it. Holy shit, I thought. This is my favorite album of 2011.
Lowkey does not shy away from spelling out his anti-establishment political views. He doesn’t care what you think, only that you hear his message. He doesn’t sugarcoat his views or kowtow to record company executives obsessed with political correctness, the status quo, and the bottom line. He spews his intensely personal and ruthlessly vitriolic brand of rap on each track. And he does it so elegantly that you don’t want to turn it off.
But when he’s not going after the establishment, he’s giving us some immensely personal introspection into his past. On the track Haunted, he raps about his late brother, who committed suicide when he was eighteen. The track’s appropriately gloomy atmosphere is helped along by singer Mai Khalil’s vocals as well which are as beautiful as they are haunting.
This is a powerful display of raw emotion that is rarely seen from rappers (at least mainstream rappers) these days and is refreshing. But what’s especially profound is that Lowkey has the ability to express more genuine emotion in a few lines than most rappers can in an entire track (or even an album).
Cause I’m older than you were when you died, I’m nervous inside / In the afterlife, are you the age you were when you died? / It’s puzzling me, that would be something to see / Face-to-face with an older brother that’s younger than me
Special mention must be made to Mai Khalil once again because she lends her vocal talents to a few other songs on the album such as the government and media bashing Dear England, to great effect. Her presence isn’t the same as simply throwing an R&B singer on the hook of some random rap song that is seen so often in this industry. No, what Khalil is able to do is deliver the same level of passion Lowkey does with her choruses in her own way that is truly special.
Whether or not you agree with his political ideologies, I can hardly see a reason not to like Soundtrack to the Struggle. Lyrically, Lowkey is never off. He never sounds like he’s phoning it in on any of these tracks, even the ones I don’t particularly care for (of which there aren’t many) He exudes passion in every bar and lets you see his multi-faceted personality. He paints you a picture of his life and how it serves as the basis of his controversial belief system and he does it against some excellently produced tracks.
In a year that saw a few disappointments from big name artists *cough* LASERS *cough* The R.E.D. Album *cough* (I should really get myself a lozenge), Soundtrack to the Struggle is the kind of album that restores my faith in the Hip-Hop game. I can’t recommend this album highly enough, except to those who aren’t into conscious rap. If all you like is the kind of rap you hear on the radio and refuse to listen to something with more depth than a kiddie pool, stay away. This isn’t for you. If you are of the more open-minded persuasion, this is an album that should be on your playlist.
Favorite Tracks – Haunted, Dear England, Million Man March, Soundtrack to the Struggle