In May 1968, tension between the French government, student protesters and striking workers reached a flashpoint, and in the ensuing riots’ wake was left a rash of graffiti – ash shadows of wit and unrest.
“We want structures that serve people, not people serving structures.” “The walls have ears. Your ears have walls.” “Live without dead time.” “Don’t get caught up in the spectacle of opposition. Oppose the spectacle.” These are just some of the anonymous slogans found scrawled across late ’60s Paris. It wasn’t quite Public Enemy, but the spirit of “don’t believe the hype” was alive and well.
From his home a mile above sea level, Arizona-based MC/producer Tim “Sole” Holland surveys a scene of commodity fetishism, cultural displacement, and the need for violent rebirth similar to the one that sparked the artistic agitators of 40 years past. And with his fifth album, Sole and the Skyrider Band, he sets out to play the part, offering a critical but not terminal viewpoint.
A founder of the San Francisco-based anticon. collective and its record label of refracted hip hop, Sole has spent 15 years independently bonding pent-up frustrations across the stereo spectrum like he’s hocking loogies of epoxy. But, tired of rapping over hermetic beats, Sole spent the last few years cultivating a sound he “could age with.” Physically located at an elevation visited by Olympic athletes honing their breathing control, Sole has huffed and puffed and blown his own restrictions down. For his most recent release, Sole has working with the live Skyrider trio to deliver staccato volleys equally packed with post-9/11 condemnation and consideration.
“A Molotov cocktail is far more exciting than a death march, but sometimes it’s not about the quick win, the exploding building; you have to be the occupation force, too,” he reflects during a phone interview while on his current cross-country tour. “You can’t just blow everything up to further progress. You have to help rebuild the infrastructure.”
There’s always been a hint of despondency in Sole’s stanzas. He initially was involved in founding anticon. as a “little jihad against indie hip-hop,” though now he wishes he’d set his sights higher and not taken so long to explore socio-political decay. A melanin-challenged MC, Sole spent the first half of his career dealing with the inescapable but-is-it-real-hip-hop debate. And with Skyrider contributing accordion, violin, and banjo parts, among other instrumentation, the potential is there for Sole to catch a little more flack in that respect.
In the last five or so years, the 30-year-old Sole has allowed himself to become more interested in turning the tide rather than swimming against it. He’s spent time thinking about the psychology of crowds, and he’d been less distracted by discussing the medium and found himself more obsessed with the media.
“Read my recent Pitchfork review and the whole thing is how by talking about these issues I’m wasting fucking breath, and how there’s no validity because we’ve all watched An Inconvenient Truth,” fumes Sole. “But it’s not that simple. The people who control the flow of information should get it out there.
“I’m not trying to save the world,” he continues. “I’m just a person who went looking for his voice, and can’t turn back now that I’ve found it. But I think it’s crazy when people won’t talk on record about how history’s problems repeat themselves. My father, he had a job at a hot-dog plant, working with meat all day, and he could buy a house and support my mother on that income. My wife is a teacher and makes good money, I make decent money touring, there is no reason we should have so much debt that we can’t imagine the same....And this problem isn’t unique to our situation. The way things are continuing, where jobs go elsewhere and college grads and now waiting tables and competing with 40-year-old men for work—we’re seen it before, we have to concern ourselves with the broader picture or the empire will have to disband.”