North by Northwest: Solid Ground

Artist: SoulsticeTitle: North by Northwest: Solid GroundRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Kye Stephenson

Mostly due to the stardom of one Kanye West, Chicago has seen the Hip-Hop spotlight shine bright on their city as of late. And though Kanye can be credited with jumpstarting the Chicago scene, it’s stellar artists such as Soulstice that have kept A&R's battling the strong winds to find the next star. Carving out his own niche on the independent tip, Ashley Llorens proves on <the re-mastered North by Northwest: Solid Ground that he deserves to be mentioned with Chi-town’s platinum stars.

“Sleepwalk” is the perfect example of the soulful thump that resonates throughout the album. On it, you can faintly hear the famous lick that made the Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” so popular while Soulstice lays down lyrics professing his love for music (“Right or wrong, live life, write a song about it/right or wrong, writing songs, night to dawn, lifelong”). On “Ebony Sea” Soulstice proves he is an accomplished song-writer as he takes Sm.Arson's emotive track and conjures thoughts of black diamonds and pearls.

But Soulstice proves he ain’t just about kickin knowledge. On “Blazin,” he flexes his Midwest double-time flow and displays lyrical wizardry that'll impress more than just coffee shop chicks and white dudes. And on “Can’t Front,” he flips battle-ready lyrics and slides on the looped track like his tongue was lubed with astroglide. “Come and get it, thoughts hit you like a punch to ya jaw/I’m coming at ya’ll/same time humble and raw/like Bruce Banner, fuck around and get flung through a wall

On North by Northwest, there are no real weak tracks. Those looking for soulful beats and lyrics that stray from the shoot'em up monotony so common today should find this album well worth the price of admission.