The best thing about fresh artists in the current deluge of digital music is that they get straight to the point with minimal messing about. Philadelphia rapper Ivy Sole is extremely keen for that bell to ring on her new release, SOUTHPAW. One intro full of the squeaks of a boxing ring canvas mat and 20 seconds of the titular track in, she’s not sticking to the ropes.
Enough bad boxing references. Opening track, "SOUTHPAW" jumps out the gate with a sinister melody and snarling bass drops as Ivy imprints the trademark Philly attitude over the drums. Her first verse is classic braggadocio in the great hip-hop tradition. When she threatens to “Reduce you to dust for my vinyls”, all plans for beef are abandoned. In the second verse, she transitions to more conscious territory, confronting prejudice and calling for unity in the fight against systemic racism. “What’s tact when your block’s the pot they piss in, put the fire in desire, maybe flames will make em listen, we wouldn’t have to light it up with better politicians, I’m not inciting riots, I’m getting in where I fit in” paints a vivid picture of the climate in which violence is intrinsic for survival.
Sonically, the rest of the EP does not return to these levels of intensity. "KISMET" uses a haunting piano loop and sparse whistled melody to ease the mood for an empowering track which enlists the services of Lojii, who drops a laid-back melodic verse full of beautifully phrased poetic lines. The recliner gets pushed back another notch on "BITTERSWEET", on which Ivy sets out her manifesto of having everything from society to her love life be all ups and no downs. It’s a reasonable request if you ask me. In this track she first displays her singing talents, which are predictably on point.
It seems that singing is now a requirement for aspiring young rappers. If you’re a rapper who can just rap, you’re facing up to the competition with Minecraft swords. Single-discipline artists are quickly becoming obsolete as the market increasingly demands versatility.
That being said, Ivy goes into full-on slow jam mode for "NAME IT". This is pure neo-soul with no rapping and all the feels. A warm organ guides the track by itself until the beat decides to make an appearance after two minutes has elapsed. The EP is closed out by "HEAVY", a melancholy track which addresses mental health issues and offers to provide a shoulder for anyone going through something similar. It seems Ivy sometimes succumbs to that old existential search for meaning, which shines through in the chorus:
“Heavy be the head that lays on your pillow
Heavy be the heart that beats in your chest
Heavy be the rain that falls through these willows
Trying to find the light in whatever this is”
Ivy Sole manages to use this chorus to melt the most hardened façade. Every mood this album goes for, it nails it. Ivy is only a few releases in but she already shows a remarkable understanding of music and tone which will surely increase her stamina as the bout goes on. Sorry.