by Jeff Moses MIlitant chicano / indigenous hip hop duo Shining Soul have been putting their gritty brand of rap out for more than three years, and they've got an impressive rep to show for it. Alex Soto and Franco Habre, also known as Liaison and Bronze Candidate, have opened for Mala Rodriguez at Crescent Ballroom and also played Save the Peaks benefit concerts at Rusty Spoke -- basically the Phoenix equivalent of being respected from the streets to the boardroom.
With a battle cry of "hip-hop is resistance," Shining Soul has earned their reputation as a preeminent local hip-hop act through passionate live performances and walking their talk. "Resistance," for Liaison and Bronze Candidate, is more than just a lyric.
Alex and Franco are both Phoenix political organizers well known to both activists, and local police who have gone as far as to reach out to the T'ohono O'Odham reservation looking to tarnish Soto's reputation.
On September 10 Shining Soul released em>Sonic Smash, the follow-up to their 2011 debut, We Got This. Their second release is reminiscent of a time when hip-hop was less refined and the beat took a backseat to the emcee; across the album the beats carry the feel of a late '80s to early '90s West Coast rap.
But the lyrics are where Bronze Candidate and Liaison really shine.
Both are well-read and intelligent in a way that shows through in their sharp, biting, and often inflammatory lyrics. Throughout Sonic Smash, Shining Soul pull no punches when attacking issues of racism, border politics, police repression, and a wide array of other politically charged topics.
"My inner compass has no reluctance for injustice / Hence why I bust this dope rhyme with substance / spiritual wonders while saying fuck Columbus," Liaison spits on the album's second track, "Militant Move." On "No Mercy" Bronze Candidate is even less equivocal-- "You can bet that calling me wetback will get your head cracked"--on a track that outlines economic interests behind the militarized Mexican-American border.
But the song goes past the liberal party line of looking for more humane treatment of those crossing the border. Shining Soul makes no appoligies for their anti-border stance, and point out that "Self-defense is a human right / despite what the liberals and the fascists say."
The 22-track album, which can be downloaded for a price of your choosing on Bandcamp, features 18 new songs and four remixes of tracks from We Got This. The holdovers include their Rage Against The Machine "Bulls on Parade" remix of their single "Papers," as well as remixes of their songs "Affinity"--featuring Amber Dirks--"Hard"--featuring Mykr Friendx and Mr. Miranda--and "Niche."
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The album also has a slew of guest appearances including DJ Alias on "Make A Militant Move," Definition Rare on "Time," Nutmeg on "Remember," and Brad B of The Insects as well as DJ Reflekshin on "Work."