TLS (THE LOST SOUL) – A Formal Introduction To Tommy Lee Soul
(2005 Dead Broke Productions)
Kicking off one’s second full-length CD by chanting “Hats off to all of you jack-offs!” is generally not considered the most polite way to greet one’s fans and win over new listeners, but this is the hip-hip genre and everything Tommy Lee Soul says after that easily gives the impression that he’s not a rude sort of guy, at least not to those who aren’t rude to him. One listen to his new CD, A Formal Introduction to Tommy Lee Soul, confirms that the only “person” he truly wants to do any serious harm to is “Writer’s Block,” whom he accuses of following him around a bit too often.
Tommy Lee Soul (or “The Lost Soul” as the “TLS” acronym stood for more often in the past) is anything but lost these days. Although his appearance and style of music would remind some people of Eminem, he doesn’t plan on achieving fame via the type of street credibility that could get him in jail. The Appleton native and current Milwaukee resident is a family man who has a young son and a wife he loves very much (they’re praised in the song “Crazy” and elsewhere on the CD), and he has no desire to turn his relationship with his significant other into an Eminem-Kim situation if he makes it big. As he states in “Don’t Run,” in which he aims his ire at those who prefer that he trade in his family for his musical career, he reaffirms that “I’m grabbing my shit and I’m leaving those who don’t bring peace to my soul.”
Although his voice often has battle-rapper speed and intensity, the tunes in which he raps, as his pseudonym suggests, tend to be more soulful than hardcore. His diatribes range from incredibly obvious chants about how the studio is his playground to giving props to his cheesehead heritage when he says, “I’m Bart Starr with Brett Favre without Green Bay” in the soul-searching ditty “I Am.” The most stunning and heartfelt track on the CD is “I Write For You,” a completely a cappella piece in which he rambles off a lengthy list of all those for whom he writes his rhymes, which seems to include everyone except wealthy Republicans. There’s an occasional sense of humor here; at the end of “Hip Hop Part 2” he runs off a laundry list of all those who’ve died for hip-hop (Jam Master Jay, Notorious B.I.G., etc.) and according to him one of them is your mom, something you might not have realized until now.
A frequent theme is his worries about how he may have missed his chance at achieving any kind of popularity. He spent many years in the Atlanta scene digging for record deals that didn’t go through; negotiations with one record company ended when the guy who ran the label was murdered. Having lived on this earth for only a quarter-century and possessing the talent he has, it’s unlikely that he’s missed the boat quite yet.