FORCE's record SOY SAUCE bleeds the theme that has long since been ingrained into music: Personal struggle sung over instrumentals.
His Bandcamp page says it best - the album is "chill vibes and dark thoughts," which is something a lot of music lends itself to. FORCE shared with me that those dark thoughts revolving within the EP were death and alcoholism and his "coming to terms with them both," especially after the death of his father.
The production on SOY SAUCE is credited solely from the minds of Chill and HoBoMaN, two artists that are in a group, "The Yale Starz," alongside FORCE and emcee Chino Inc. The group all grew up in Phoenix from 16th to 20th St. and on Yale street. Chino Inc.'s residency, FORCE told me, is farther up north so collaborative work has been made difficult recently. However, out of that obstacle came FORCE's solo introduction.
The album lyrically does hold true to those two themes of death and alcoholism, but not completely. FORCE does indeed have many lines that talk about vices and how they can seemingly embed themselves into daily living. In the last track, "The Source," FORCE spits, "It's hard to stand on my feet/When the floor transforms into liquid underneath…I had to write this all after the fact/Cause I sweated off the rap I had in my hand."
Those who have those vices, sometimes more often than not, consciously take note of how it might control and affect their lives but still wake up falling into the same routine day after day. That glimpse is flashed in "King Tut:" "I need breath control so I can kill you all/But I'm stuck taking puffs from Albuterol/I smoke cigarettes like no one’s business/Can I get a quick sec to grab a couple quick breaths." It's not out of the ordinary for an artist to see their craft be influenced by a habit they have.
While nicotine/booze elixirs and being amongst and talking to death are somewhat the majority of the content of the album there are others that talk about a more macro scale. On "Answers," FORCE's verses hope to reveal the gut-reaction stereotypes that have been planted into the consciousness of the masses. “They sell us racism just to occupy our minds/So the working class’ll blame each other for the loss of dimes.” On "Those Eyes" he spits, "On the city bus surrounded by silence/Everybody's head down hiding in the eyelids." (In the vein of a little author transparency: I just really liked that like personally because I wrote a track around the same notion).
Sonically, the Yale production on the EP is quite distinct. The sound is a very wide and open soundscape that lent itself to the Nickatina-like rhyme style of FORCE. The last vowels of words are sustained, hooks are catchy and contain a back-and-forth of high and low notes (the whole album really fucking reminded me of Nickatina). Basically it’s the type of rhyme that you could solo on a DAW and listen to it just fine without any instrumental.
But production on SOY SAUCE was very much welcomed. The instrumentation was somewhat minimal in the quantity of sounds but constantly gave a groove to ride to. The beat Chill whipped up for "Answers" was a mix of dusty melodies and smooth piano chords with a sprinkle of jarring stabs to make for a bright, grimy beat that you might've heard just before the turn of the century.
Another instrumental that was a major stand out to me was HoBoMaN's "Masquerade." The keys can simply be described as pleasant. It's layered with some sort of plucky string on top with (I think) the same notes. When the notes dip a bit lower towards the end of the bar it brings in the story-telling rap sound that has been seen frequently in rap.
"The Source" via Chill was also another beat that took to me right away. Like some of the other beats its very open and not flooded with sounds. A droning drum pattern keeps the head nodding with a mellow synth/string sound in the low background ties you through the beat.
FORCE said that the title SOY SAUCE was fitting as a title because the condiment is "dark like death and a liquid like alcohol." (I personally think death is mislabeled as dark, but, y'know, this isn't about me). But that is what having that vice latching itself to your breath can seem like. It can seem dark and unavoidable. And throughout the vice's life it can overshadow what it should be under. A vice can make you forget that your passions are still your passions even when the vice is instead filled with void.
One of my friends used to think he could only freestyle after a half of bottle (shared). I still have a lot more courage to freestyle, for example, if I have some kind of substance backing the thoughts. And so it is fitting for FORCE to make his last words off SOY SAUCE a reminder that his love for rapping, and love for music in general, isn't alcohol-required. "Now I remember it/Back to the penmanship/I don't really need it/I loved hip-hop before I started drinking/It's really when I'm writing that it really gets exciting."