Written by Austin Kaus

“Live and direct from the Soulcrate.”

It started years ago as a lyric in a Soulcrate Music song and became an anthem for an entire geographic area. You won’t hear it on the three-man hip hop group’s new album Welcome Back From Wherever You’ve Been, but you don’t really have to. At this point, Soulcrate Music is in the tap water.

How they got from wherever they were when one man and two brothers transformed into DJ Absolute and upfront duo of Attention Def and Dirt Dee involves a whole lot of drive, desire, sweat, and focus. The title of “South Dakota’s hardest working group” is an accurate and well-deserved description, but not a sufficient one. Without the work, they wouldn’t be where they are today: selling out shows, touring with major hip hop acts, and releasing an album with a guest star roster that includes Grieves. But without the conscious decision to grow as both people and artists, we probably wouldn’t be talking about them right now.

Welcome Back From Wherever You’ve Been reinforces the group’s seemingly constant focus on balance. They are a group full of tough patience and ominous positivity, unafraid of the dark but prone to the light. The twisted keyboard line that opens the title track leads to rapping about the rewards that come from the “brutal” process of making the music but, lines later, Attention Def admits that he’d “much rather have your attention than be ignored.” It’s a tip of the hat that acknowledges the honesty consistently contained within the songs of Soulcrate Music.

“Monsters” starts off as if the group is kindly waking you up for school, but quickly shifts and explains why acknowledging the darkness in yourself is a hell of a lot better than denying it. Better to recognize the scary things within yourself than keep them under the bed.

It’s that tone that echoes throughout the entire album, making it a fascinating statement – whether directly intended or not – on the power of a viewpoint that’s more humanist than not.  This album may have the positivity of the scary, Joker-smile religious fundamentalists, but it comes without the associated denial or persecution complexes. “Dirty Machine” seems to take on zealots directly, challenging dogma while endorsing both individual choice and responsibility. “I make my decisions/I make my religion.” Instead of assigning the devil to be the great scape-goat (spelling intentional), Soulcrate Music seems to believe that the responsibility for casting the role of antagonist in your own life is…you. Your choice. Your responsibility. Your move.

Soulcrate Music is unafraid to acknowledge the sour no more than they are the sweet. They seem to have no time for falling into the all-too-familiar hip hop traps of rapping about bitches, hoes, or any other topics of false posturing often embraced by those with minimal talent. Soulcrate Music would rather earn your respect than demand it. With Welcome Back From Wherever You Are, the mission is accomplished.

Just as their crowds continue to get bigger, livelier, and happier, so too do the talents in Soulcrate Music become more honed and impressive. Just as DJ Absolute’s needles land in the the right grooves of the records he samples, Soulcrate Music has found their path. The records will keep spinning. The rhymes will keep flowing. For any fan of this Midwestern hip hop phenomenon, the group’s fifth studio release is the latest proof that Soulcrate Music’s travels are far from over.

            “Half of me is gone. One-fourth is relevant. The other quarter’s lost, wandering just for the hell of it.” – “Strange Days”

Soulcrate Music will headline a free, all ages outdoor show at Falls Park West in Sioux Falls on Sept. 14.

Five stars

Favorite tracks: “The Give and Take,” “Welcome Back To Wherever You’ve Been,” “Monsters,” “Dirty Machine,” “Strange Days.”

To see musicians perform on Austin’s couch-based web series, visit Songs From A Couch.

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