First some context. This album came to prominence before the first Grime wave under the Eskibeat era, which saw artists such as Wiley, Dizzee Rascal and Kano propelled into British popular culture. At the release of this album, the urban music was very much garage inspired by mixes of electronic music and dancehall. For those who have tried to be experts on what Grime is, it is not a sub-genre of Hip-Hop but rather a sibling genre, with the Jamaican roots being what ties the two together. This album is not grime, but I have long felt the legacy of So Solid Crew goes untold while other similar crews like Pay As You Go and Heartless Crew are often heralded as pioneers. In many ways, this can be shown to emphasise the barrier between those south of the Thames and those North of it (which if you don’t know London geography basically means West, East and North London). For some reason until the very recent resurgence of South London music (Stormzy, Krept and Konan, Section Boyz, 67, Yungen etc) only a select few South London Mc’s were in the elite. But before all the Grime Mc’s started to take over the airwaves, way back in 2001…. There was So Solid.
Let’s start this album by talking about its biggest hit. 21 Seconds is an underrated British classic. It was the number one song in the country and as it came out during the era when singles were still a thing, it sold over 100,000 first week (One unit of which was an 8 year old me). The premise of the song was simple, at its peak the crew had around 25 active members and this crew did its best to showcase as many of them as possible giving the rappers only 21 seconds each. The chorus was catchy, the beat simple but effective and overall it was a largely enjoyable song. The music video was also crazy, showing the huge numbers of the crew with many of those not featured on the track still in the video. It might look a little dated with our modern gaze but at the time, it was fresh and innovative to say the least especially within the genre.
One of the other songs which I feel goes underrated on this album is “Woah”. When taken into the context of where the urban UK music scene was about to go in subsequent years, upon reflection you can see the seeds of what would evolve into Grime displayed here. The beat has the same punchy synth and bass combinations that would become commonplace in the genre and the flow of the MC’s would also continue to evolve in the short few years between here and the Grime explosion. There are other forgotten gems on this album, such as the menacing “Haters” which features Skat D and Mac going back to back throughout on another well crafted song; or the full on garage sounds of “Oh No! (Sentimental Things)” which showcased Romeo’s skills as an MC as well as his smooth delivery and overall persona.
Overall, on repeat listening, though this album may sound slightly dated in part due to the decline in popularity of the Garage genre, it still is an entertaining record. In addition to this, it really is a seminal piece of art in what would grow to be an even bigger and more vibrant musical scene.
Verdict on So Solid Crew – “Turn up the bassline…”