Photo by Dustin Gates
Last year, the Philly hardcore band Soul Glo was travelling through Missouri while on tour when they were pulled over and approached by a state trooper with his hand on his gun. Each member of the self-proclaimed “all POC band” was individually searched, and one of them was arrested. In a statement they included in a GoFundMe (which, thankfully, ended up covering all of their costs and then some for legal fees), the bond the police posted was allegedly three times more than what they normally charge.
THE NIGGA IN ME IS ME (out 6/7 via SRA Records) is the first batch of new music they’ve released since then, and like Soul Glo’s past work, it approaches racism in America with the righteous, no-holds-barred fury the topic deserves. “You literally put your hands on me and all you’ll ever get is leave,” is a line yelled during 27, a track that was actually written before the arrest last year (and released shortly after as part of a three-song tour tape), which slathers the pervasive nature of police brutality with an eerie prescience.
However, just over a minute into that song, the punk instruments fade out and a dusty trap clap with a murky synth lead takes over. It’s suddenly a straight-up hip-hop song, and vocalist Pierce Jordan is rapping dexterously just moments after he was shrieking feverishly. This isn’t the only moment on the record when Soul Glo pull a move like that. The second track, 32, begins with a pounding bassline that Jordan yell-raps over for a bit until the beat is abruptly pulled away and a crushing hardcore chug seamlessly replaces it. It’s a brilliant and refreshing way to splice their sound, which, when not injected with hip-hop instrumentals, is already a peculiar tangle of jerky punk, noisy hardcore, early Touche Amore-esque screamo, and gnarly powerviolence.
Soul Glo aren’t just challenging the sonic conventions of hardcore, they’re challenging the historically (and continually) white punk community as a whole. It’s musicians and voices like theirs that are reigniting hardcore’s socially/politically subversive flame, and their music argues that the message has to transcend the gig or it’s not worth shit. Vital food for thought, laid out persuasively in this line from the track 24: “There’s a benefit gig for nobody, raising residue of middle class money / could we send those stacks back to the past in neat packs / and put them underneath the feet of everybody lynched / so they can catch their breath at last?”