Straight Outta Kensington, It's Soce the Elemental Wizard
By Eric Rosenfield
"It's the Jewish, Gay, White MC." So begins "Feels Good," and unlikely introduction to an unlikely hip-hop fest by the unlikely Soce the Elemental Wizard (it's pronounced SO-say). On the front cover of his album I'm in My Own World, Soce wears a sweater and collared shirt, unbuttoned at the wrist, and contemplates the sky with his hand on his chin against a backdrop of mountains and rolling plains. The third track of the album begins, "I don't live in the ghetto. I live in meadowland. Got springs in my front yard." By the fourth track he's making references to Dungeons-and-Dragons style role-playing games.
In other words, this isn't your father's hip-hop. It's not even your older brother's hip-hip. Or your baby sister's. Or, probably, yours. I listened to the album over again a few times. Soce rapping about lusting after guys who turn out to be heterosexual, about sunshine, and canyons, about representin' his homestown of Kensington, New Hampshire, and I have to think, this guy's either brilliant or completely out of his mind.
Because, make no mistake, this is a hip-hop album. In terms of rhymes, vocal rhythms, and drumbeats it's even a pretty good hip-hop album. You can tell it was recorded with low-budget equipment: the drum patches and synth sounds aren't quite equal to what you'd find on a major label studio effort, but the sequencing is spot-on, catchy and strong. And Soce really is a good rapper, someone completely--even refreshingly--in his element within the genre. Which is to say that if you didn't pay attention to the lyrics you'd think this could be a well-made demo from an up-and-comer soon to be featured on Def Jams or MTV Raps.
It's once you start listening that you realize he's not only unlike mainstream hip-hop, but he willfully inverts the entire MC ethic: "I'm that rapper that you make fun of, right/ I'm that rapper you can take in a fight/ I'm that rapper that you hate cuz I'm white/ I'm that rapper, I'm that rapper." And while overt sexuality is hardly unusual in hip-hop, Soce happily wields a non-aggrandizing honesty about sex that manages to somehow be both in-your-face and confessional, as in the lament of "H but H": "Sure, I'm comfortable around females and sea snails/ but they're only minor details/ I need males. Otherwise, I'll derail off the track/ I look at him, but he doesn't look back/ because he's hot, but he's heterosexual."
"Oy vey," Soce cries in the very same cut. He's not the first rapper to pray to a Jewish God--the Beastie Boys beat him to that and being white, too--and he's probably not the first rapper to be gay (I have my suspicions about Melle Mel from the Furious Five), but to be so up front about both? And Kensington? Kensington has to be a first.
The question is not then if Soce has talent. He does. The question is whether there's any kind of niche for a white, gay rapper from the sticks who's bold enough to rap about being a white, gay rapper from the sticks. And that's a question I have no answer to. He seems to be doing alright, however, scoring gigs virtually every week throughout New York City.
For more information, visit www.socetew.com and www.greathiphop.com.
August 2004 BOOG CITY 3