Since their formation in 2014, Philadelphia’s Soul Glo have whittled harsh noise, hip-hop and hardcore punk down to a monolith greater than the sum of its parts. While their debut Untitled LP leans heavily on East Coast hardcore punk for its heart, 2019’s The N**** in Me is Me (or TNIMIM) sees founding members Ruben Polo and Pierce Jordan embracing the distinctive flavor of their passions and experiences to drive the point home.
Frenetic guitars and blast beats give way to sounds of propulsive trap on TNIMIM’s “31” in a turn that feels all the more inspired in 2020 for its dedication to finding legitimate common ground amid two anti-establishment genres of music historically kept divided by not much more than their respective community members’ lack of experience with intensive class analysis. Of the many gifts the unit share, their strongest is arguably the boldness with which they turn each of their varied influences on its respective head. From Rich Boy and System of a Down to Paint it Black and Lil Uzi Vert, a niche is worth its weight only in what we bring to the table in response—and Soul Glo proves that it’s about unlearning, in the same way that it’s about learning.
The thing about Soul Glo that reaches for full attention is the lyrical themes’ efforts to highlight and mirror the adventurous energy of the instrumentation. These no bullshit, no mercy depictions of Black triumph and pain bring to us the revelation of growth and the hope for non-tokenizing diversity in aggressive song craft—the formidable courage of something that dares to bloom from ash.
On TNIMIM’s “21”, the song climaxes with the lyric, “The writing on the wall has never been more legible.” Pierce’s prose is often sardonic and enraged, though frequently balanced deftly with mournful poignancy to cut through the swirling tangle of sound as a means of delivering the unassailable truth behind so many silenced Black American narratives: the personal is political, but so too is the political highly personal.
Soul Glo’s performances make note of this vulnerability on display and demand it be seen, heard, felt. Blink, and you’ll miss yourself missing the point entirely.