There’s a new kid in town. Full of ambition, high hopes, and realistic goals, Enemy Soil was built on 14 years of music industry experience and a lifetime of observation. Armed with a roster of seasoned veterans and talented newcomers, Vinnie Paz, front man for Jedi Mind Tricks, partnered with Yan, the manager of Jedi Mind Tricks, to create a company that is not only a record label, but also a versatile operation offering artist management, marketing, and distribution. They fully understand the rapidly changing record industry, as well as how to adapt and integrate. Boasting new releases from Vinnie Paz, frequent collaborator Reef the Lost Cauze, as well as the intoxicating trip hop project Dutch.
Given the current state of the music industry, with increasingly more startup artists possessing capabilities to produce a “decent” quality recording with access to digital distribution, as well as opportunities to even go to a music production school online, the market has become saturated with sub par acts. Coupled with the ability to find virtually any record online for free, it’s no wonder sales are on the decline and labels are forced into unconventional promotional marketing methods. Yan understands this, but isn’t at all daunted.
“It's almost like being the punchline of a bad joke with the way things are right now in the music business,” Yan said. “Almost every sales report you see these days says album sales are steadily declining. And now we're seeing stories that the touring business is drying up with a bunch of big tours canceling shows this summer. You have to ask yourself, ‘What reasonable business people would start a music company right now?’ But, on some level, in order to keep doing this, you have to believe that there will always be a place for music in people's lives...and we do.”
It doesn’t hurt having the momentum and clout of Jedi Mind Tricks to ensure at least a moderate level of success, let alone handling indie heavyweights Mr. Lif and Reef. In a move of calculated prudence, Yan knows to avoid an overloaded roster to preserve focus and proper dedication to nurturing the Enemy Soil family.
“We're definitely setup as more of a boutique business that aims for quality over quantity,” Yan said. “That's the formula that gives us the best opportunity to stay competitive. A lot of labels get into trouble by over expanding. Our goal is to stay focused on a small number of artists and releases and to try to do those releases well.”
Along with the saturation of mediocre artists comes an overabundance of news outlets, sometimes making it more difficult to reach a large number of people.
“It's extremely hard to get exposure for new artists right now, partly because of the sheer volume of music being released these days,” Yan said. “The way music is covered by the media has changed dramatically too. There are more outlets, like blogs, social networking sites, and whatnot which is great, but that also makes things more fractured. You have niches within niches now and it's a real challenge to build a broad enough base of supporters of a particular artist to help that artist create a sustainable career with all the different music and media out there vying for people's attention. The challenge for every artist and label is to make the best music possible that hopefully tells a unique enough story to rise above the glut of mediocrity and win people's attention.”
An interesting choice for release is “A Bright Cold Day” from the group Dutch, a downtempo record featuring production from Jedi Mind Tricks beatsmith Stoupe. Conceived in 2003, this project would appeal to fans of Portishead, Lamb, and Massive Attack. Consistently, the hip hop drum lines fuse beautifully with the multiple layers of serene melodic phrasing and sultry singing of relatively unknown Liz Fullerton. Stoupe’s hip hop background is unmistakable with hearing his approach on drum programming, but his versatility and range of musical influences is clearly evident.
The biggest release to date, Vinne Paz’s “Season of the Assasin,” lives up to the eager anticipation of his debut solo release. The wide range of producers (newly signed Enemy Soil artist C-Lance, Lord Finesse, Fizzy Womack, DJ Muggs, Shuko, Da Beatminerz, as well as others) creates an equally wide range of musical backdrops, from dark and gritty to soulful and upbeat. The subject matter echoes this wide range, covering topics from government conspiracies to heartfelt introspection to describing the average person’s daily struggle to a very touching dedication to his stepfather. Paz doesn’t skimp out on the antagonistic one-liners that he’s come to be known for, maintaining a confident balance of braggadocio and intimidation. The track “WarMonger” is easily the catchiest track that begs for repeat spins, featuring a staccato horn sample over a sparse drum track that proves less is more.
Another notable release is “Fight Music” from Reef The Lost Cauze. For those who haven’t checked out Reef yet, the flow he has perfected over the past ten years is nothing short of buttery, verbally dancing around the beat consistently without losing the sense of time or becoming sloppy. He is a rapper that has “it,” the natural ability to be humorous in his writing while still delivering a unique rhyme scheme that makes sense and challenges others. Following true to the title of the record, Reef goes on the offensive, touting his chops and tearing down other MCs in the rap game. The legendary R. A. The Rugged Man once again drops a verse that, not surprisingly, is nothing short of syllabic calisthenics while being absurdly hilarious. The production duties are handled by the Guns-N-Butter trio, helping ensure that the record is pretty much amazing from beginning to end. Other guest features include Kool G. Rap, Vinnie Paz, Slaine, Big Noyd and a few more. Familiar with Reef or not, “Fight Music” is a great introduction the skill set of one of the most slept-on rappers out, and requires multiple listens to fully realize and grasp the subtleties that make Reef the standout he has yet to be recognized for.
Without question, Enemy Soil has hit the ground running and isn’t looking back. Despite the lack of lengthy roster, who they currently do have is solid core of artists that should be fun to watch progress.
Connect with the label here: http://www.enemysoil.com/
Written By Andy Giesen