Written by Brandon George
“Diaspora Problems,” the latest album from Philadelphia post-hardcore pundits SOUL GLO, is an instant classic and a powerhouse of the genre. To pull quote from this record almost feels to disservice the level to which every venomous, abstersive line is crafted with poetic weight.
This album is one of the purest manifestations of the notion that art is expression. How do you make a listener—a reader, a viewer, a player—feel so violently the feelings that you feel? You have to feel it yourself plainly and purely.
It is hard and it is painful and it is taxing, and then to face that and attempt to express the taxation you feel from baring your soul is to dive even further toward the limit of self-expression.
The opening lines of “Diaspora Problems” are the frantic, repeated screams of, “Can I live, can I live, can I live.” A question of only three words, simple in its construction and simple in its request. This is an album that is as furious as it is exhausted. It portrays infinite battering from the white supremacist capitalist hellscape, the inane comments from its defenders, and the consistent self-depracation and assault of mental health at war with self love and a desire to live undeterred.
After kicking in the door, SOUL GLO tears the room down with brilliantly crafted chaos. “Coming Correct is Cheaper” screams against the commodification of Black culture and the way it has proved that people are only as true as their word. “Fucked Up If True” and “We Wants Revenge” damn the futility of liberal solutions to violent oppression and proclaim that nonviolence as cultural philosophy is a way of life propagandized by those violent oppressors.
“(Five Years And) My Family” brings the listener on a journey of family history and the pressures of navigating mental health within the family dynamic.
Every screamed word—the furious, the funny, the ironic—throughout “Diaspora Problems” is punctuated by the rawest, purest hardcore punk instrumentation. The addition of horns, meticulous rap features, synths and samples are tools in the creation of an unrelenting forty minutes that grabs the listener and refuses to let go.
The aforementioned features can’t go without mention. Collaboration is an integral part of the expression on “Diaspora Problems.” From Mother Maryrose’s jackhammer flow on “Driponomics,” to Zula moving seamlessly between melodic rap and ferocious screaming on “John J,” to the sprawling “Spiritual Level of Gang Shit,'' with perfect verses from Lojii and McKinley Dixon. Each guest feels such a fundamental part of not just the lyrical messaging, but the composition and arranging.
“Diaspora Problems” represents a SOUL GLO that are tired of being misunderstood. They are tired of lukewarm solutions to horrifying problems. They are tired of saying things quietly and in metaphor. They are here expressing that pain and that sorrow and that joy so confidently and powerfully that it is impossible to ignore.