Sole and Pedestrian are the marquee talent from San Francisco's Anticon collective, an indie lab that's developed a mutated strain of cutting-edge hip-hop. Social criticism set to music, recent Anticon records often sound as if they were made using broken radios, primitive drum machines, and old hand-held Coleco video games.
Sole's third album, the recently released Live From Rome, sympathizes with starving fishermen, blasts misled television fans, and targets the oblivious upper class. As Sole evolves from rhymer to poet, his liquid flow and increasingly esoteric lyrics are virtually spoken-word, as in "Sin Carne": "Watch this shadow dance on a shallow grave/No pharaoh's slave gonna swallow me/I'm a thinking clock, yeah a speaking cave . . ./Why did you tell them it's a race issue when it's a class issue?"
Pedestrian has an even tighter grip on hip-hop's sociological context. In 2003, the white rhymer examined the role of race in hip-hop in "Black Like Me: John Walker Lindh's Hip-Hop Daze." Using his real name, James Best followed a long trail of Lindh's internet postings to analyze urban art's influence on the suburban misfit who became the American Taliban. A deafening buzz heralds Pedestrian's Volume One: unIndian Songs, a years-in-the-making collection of warped funk that's not as impenetrable as its early tracks suggest. A self-deprecating Sole writes himself off as "cheap entertainment," but both records aren't just something to listen to -- they're something to think about.