Digging deep into the bag of J-urban music, rapper Soulja's debut album, Spirits, never caught on all that strongly at the beginning. Soulja roams around the party rap spectrum, hitting DMX-style barking anthems (such as the album-opening "Dogg Pound") and electronica-based spoken balladry that almost verges on a variant of shoegaze ("A Song for You"). When he's at his best, Soulja is cranking, pumping, shouting. He can work with alternative sounds, bouncing his rap off of Thelma Aoyama's soft vocals in "Koko Ni Iro Yo" (which was such a success it bought Aoyama some prime recognition and indeed led to the re-release of an extended version of Spirits) and working some high-speed deliveries into a crafty remix of Piazzolla's "Libertango" that somehow accentuates Piazzolla's intentions while evolving it into something that nuevo tango is not -- modern and hook-driven. Unfortunately, for all of the innovations in style and variations in delivery, there are also many moments where Soulja is indistinguishable from any other standard J-urban musician. There's plenty of refinement to be had in Soulja's style before he can really stand up to the big guns of Japanese rap (Zeebra, Nitro Microphone Underground, etc.), but he's on a good trajectory with his debut.
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