Sole’s New Album “Death Drive” Takes Shots at Alienation, Capitalism and Liberals

2014 702 sol stTim “Sole” Holland (Screengrab via YouTube)Tim “Sole” Holland’s new album with acclaimed producer DJ Pain 1 titled “Death Drive” is an engaging project that weaves through self-reflection, philosophy and existentialism with an anarchist perspective. The term “death drive” is most commonly known from Freud who deemed it the subconscious nature of humans who secretly desire chaos and death. When listening to Sole’s new album, it is apparent he is more in line with Marshall Sahlins and Jean Baudrillard’s concept of death drive, which is provoked by capitalism.

The first track on “Death Drive” dives right into the alienation of techno-capitalist culture with lines like “OCD with my ADHD, exactly how Bill Gates raised me to be.” Lyrics like, “The waking at 5 in the morning / To pay for a home you’re barely owning,” are words working-class people can relate to, rather than many mainstream rap lyrics about buying multiple Bugattis and mansions. Controversial lines that separate Sole from your average political artist include, “Not saying I’m the rap Woody Guthrie / But what rap really needs right now is Ted Kaczynski.”

“The Gauntlet” is an existential track with lyrics like, “Let me tell you who I am / Let me find out first” and “You ain’t shit but a bundle of nerves held down by gravity.” Going back to alienation and the monotony of being consumed by consuming, Sole says, “I’m dead too, but in a different way.” Dealing with discouragement, Sole speaks about having haters instead of mentors and pointed fingers instead of help, but still offers hope in the track saying, “Just because it ain’t been done, don’t mean we can’t” and “You in the building, we in the forest, you should join us.”

If Zimmerman is saying that he carried out God’s plans / Then God’s a white racist / God is outdated / The preachers serve the state – Sole from “Don’t Riot”

“Don’t Riot” is a song that was written after the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin and seeks to comment on the lackluster reaction with lines such as, “The controlled demolition of rage is far worse than a riot” and “They burned the Bill of Rights and we barely took the streets, gentrification sweeps.” At Denver’s rally following Zimmerman’s verdict, Sole criticized the fact that Denver’s chief of police spoke at the rally, and the whole concept of police with lyrics like “Being at a rally with the chief of police / Ain’t my definition of no justice, no peace” and “Got that white privilege, wanna use it for what it’s worth / Bring it to the face of corrupt ass cops, wanna be cops, who kill whoever they want / And when they get caught, all they get is a couple days off.” Diving into protest tactics, Sole shouts, “I don’t cry for broken windows, I cry for broken hearts / Broken arms, broken promises.”

One of the most mass appeal songs on the album is “Baghdad Shake,” which pokes fun at the Harlem Shake viral movement. The song touches on topics such as the animal liberation front (referring to the SHAC 7 case), the Green Scare, Naomi Klein, CIA coups and how hackers can save the human race. Regarding Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine, Sole raps, “Red Cross will play the cleanup / NGOs will get the credit / profiteers will get the contract / Black Water get the paper, homie better change your name.” The song ends with the chanting of “depleted uranium shuffle,” referring to multiple attacks in the Middle East by Israel and the United States.

The song “War” features the singer/songwriter Decomposure and concludes, “Mother Nature is the only OG.” “Janitor’s Son” featuring Pedestrian calls out class war and the unspoken caste system in the United States, shouting the chorus, “The manager’s son goes Yale / the janitor’s son goes to jail.” The song “Rap Game Darwin” deals with power systems and the capitalist veiled American Dream myth of “if you work harder than everyone else you will be rich.” DJ Pain 1 samples Chuck D on the chorus proclaiming, “One hand in your pocket, one hand in your brain,” while Sole drops lines like, “Holding on to power is like trying to eat the wind” and “Ain’t no chasing the dream; I’m living the dream / Ain’t no best rapper alive that’s a pyramid scheme / Born and raised on some bootstrap, law bullshit / Competition’s for kings, bloodsuckers and pirates.”

One of the main singles on the album is “Coal,” which critiques Steve Jobs, wage slavery and exploitation. The song features Decomposure’s entrancing chorus, “I don’t want to shop at the company store / I won’t build my home out of poison oak / The rider gets the prize for the strive of the horse / The beast gets the bullet when its leg gets broke.” When hypothetically mentioning his legacy to his future grandkids, Sole raps, “Tell them Tim Holland was not a rolling stone, he was a brick / Through the window of the US Mint; fuck what they represent / We ain’t just trying to pay the rent, trying to make a dent / Cause the future never comes unless it’s carried in by crows.”

As an ode to the Situationists, Sole yells, “Psychogeographic in love.” Psychogeography is basically wandering around a city sober or drunk and feeling the emotions or noticing the behavior of individuals around a certain area. Digging further into alienation, Sole continues, “Ain’t no difference between a cemetery and a school / Pick up a book, pick up a shovel, words to live by, unalienate your labor / Words to stay free by.” Decomposure ends the song in a melancholy manner that helps one to understand why Foxconn installed nets around their building to keep Apple factory workers from committing suicide in China: “Steve Jobs was a hero to most, but he couldn’t build a damn thing on his own / A vampire king prancing on the backs of his drones / Cause those who burn brightest never mine the coal.”

If you were in South Africa when Nelson Mandela was blowing shit up, you’d snitch him out – Sole from “Hey Liberals”

“Hey Liberals” is one of the most anarchist songs on the album, which evades the two party system and points out the often ignored violence of liberals in the United States with lines like, “Obama stickers with the peace sign / Obama stickers with the daily drone strike in Yemen” and “You always say that cops represent the working class / But a cop will kick you out your home or catch you in a speeding trap / Write you a ticket and beat your ass / That shit ain’t cool, unless you’re a fucking liberal.” Perhaps taking a jab at Chris Hedges for his anti Black Bloc remarks, Sole says, “You say we’re agent provocateurs, but you’re worst, you’re an agent moderator.” With an LL Cool J swagger, Sole mentions the Haymarket Affair of 1886 in Chicago: “This ain’t an anti-war song, this the ballad of the bullet in the back of the people that brought you the 8-hour work day / But they don’t teach you that in your motherfucking high school history class.” Making fun of liberal media, Sole raps, “Shut off that damn NPR, turn on some Stimulator,” which is an anarchist news site run by Franklin Lopez who used to produce for Democracy Now.

“Y.D.E.L.O.” or You Don’t Even Live Once is a song inspired from a tweet by the professor, writer and philosopher McKenzie Wark. Sole points out the estrangement from reality due to technology with lines like, “Selfies at the Eiffel Tower” and “Which one of these rich punks will own the water under my skin?”

When asked about his tweet, Wark said, “I was inspired by avant-garde groups like the Situationist International who were asking critical questions about everyday life in mass consumer society. They wanted to question whether spending your days buying a bunch of stuff and consuming it was really much of a life. The popularity of YOLO looked like a good moment to raise that again. YOLO is a young person’s slogan, which ought to be about the pleasures of everyday life. But sometimes there’s something rather sad about how paltry those pleasures are. If we are to invent new pleasures, then we need a bit of perspective on how the ones on offer for your consumption are not nearly as ‘lively’ as they appear to be. Hence: YDELO. Call this living? It’s just buying stuff. What I like about Sole is that he gets it. He took YDELO and ran with it, elaborating on it with his usual wit and style.”

“Old Gods Ain’t Dead” features Sean Bonnette from Andrew Jackson Jihad. The song weaves between the meaning of existence and how ideologies and industry shape our reality with lines like, “Karl Marx got a few things rights, Kissinger did too / Like how to recreate the world in the image of the rich and powerful” and “Ask a 30-year-old tree how it feels to grow up to become a parking ticket.”

The song “Unscorch the Earth” has a rock-induced chorus that is a détournement of Nas’ line “Sleep is the cousin of death,” which is hijacked and morphed into, “Capital is the cousin of death.” The last song on the album “The Teachings of Cube” speaks about the various pipelines, such as the school-to-prison pipeline and Keystone XL pipeline. Returning once again to the topic of alienation and technology, Sole raps, “Now we all look and feel like drones / Scared to be alone, sitting on a toilet with our fucking smart phones.” The main theme of the song is about why Sole cares about politics and world affairs: when questioned about why he cares, his answer is “Why don’t you?”

Many people mistake Sole’s passion for equality and horizontalism as anger. If you think Sole is mad, you’re listening wrong.

Abby Martin recently interviewed sole on RT where he discussed his new album and performed “Baghdad Shake” and “Hey Liberals.”