Earlier this year, Alpoko Don dropped the Ol’ Soul EP, which most dozed on because he presumably has no publicist, manager, or label. He’s also from Greenville, South Carolina, a city most famous musically for serving as the site of the last Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. I imagine the truth is quite different. There are inevitably tons of talented people from there, but they rarely very get coverage from national press because there are is always a new rapper from New York or LA with a new pair of rare Nikes. To be fair, Steady Bloggin covered him extensively, which led to a review from Jonah Bromwich in Pitchfork.
I’m guilty too. This site never mentioned him, even though I made a point to write about him on multiple occasions. You can get a sense for his style on “Lord.” It’s raw, gutted blues rap heavily indebted to the church and the isolation of South Carolina. After all, it’s so separated from most of the country that Gullah culture has managed to survive. Alpoko Don isn’t speaking an esoteric language as much as he’s speaking an ancient one. The Ol’ Soul extends to more than anachronistic tastes. He’s channeling the blood of the fields and the confessions of long dead sinners.
There’s precedent for this in rap. Tree’s Soul-Trap might well be a northern cousin to Alpoko. While Cee-Lo and Goodie Mobb mastered this sort of thing well before he became a berobed critic on The Voice. But the real antecedents for Alpoko are who you’d expect. Guys like Son House, Leadbelly and Howlin Wolf with rot-gut whiskey and redemption in their throats. This is some old time religion, spirituals in a secular era. Powerful prayers to make you sit down and consider the roots.