Is the world ready for a Dirty South rap single that's not about ostentatious automotive modifications or garish cosmetic dentistry? Waco's Strange Fruit Project is banking on it. "Soul Clap" marries funky brass (arranged by Denton funk-rockers Mingo Fishtrap) and jazz guitars to a handclap beat. The deceptively simple beat has "single" written all over it...except, unlike typical grain-and-grills-obsessed Southern hits, it starts with the proclamation, "I could care less about what you brothers be driving," and keeps up a positive vibe in the verses with shout-outs to independent, educated women. And "Soul Clap" fades out into a chorus of doubting, mocking voices swirling around the listener as a calm voice repeats, "You're special," before the keep-your-head-up message of "Special." Producer/MC S1 has created a true headphones album: a refreshing blend of strings, scratches, guitars and simple percussion with cool Rhodes electric pianos chilling out the interludes. Guest appearances from Little Brother, Verbal Seed, Tahiti, Erykah Badu and others keep things interesting.
The album's only weaknesses come from occasional mismatches of beats and lyrics. "Cali Cruisin'" (with guest locals Bavu Blakes and Deloach) is built on a foreboding piano bass line that sounds like a Death Row homage, yet clashes with sunny, almost cheery lyrics. (And why couldn't it have been "Texas Cruisin'"?) Club anthem "Good Times" has a minor-key acoustic guitar riff that belongs in a serious song. Maybe the melancholy instrumentation is supposed to illustrate some sad irony in the lyrics, like the fact that friends are "playing with them Glock toys." That's possible, as the album's lyrics are mostly positive without ignoring society's ills. But isn't that what Healing is all about?