Touring The States: Portland, ME (with Echo Leader)

Maine is generally more known for producing lobsters and lumber than rap talent. Sure, we’ve got some great local MC’s – Well’s Spose and the mid-state duo Luch & Eliza come to mind – and a relatively well-known (at least regionally) record label called Flophouse, but past that the good rappers are few and far between, and often slip through the cracks of open mic nights and backwoods poolhall performances. It’s been hard to put the Pine Tree State’s hip-hop scene on the map.

Sole could have done it for us, man.

After a series of industry misadventures following the recording of his first demo – including an deal with EMI that fell through at the last second – Tim Holland (bka Sole) and his DJ Cuz Tha Highlander began recording together under the moniker “Northern Exposure.” During it’s brief existence, the crew only put out one album, 1994’s “Madd Skills & Unpaid Bills.” This cassette-only effort was put out on a now-defunct local imprint called 45 Below Records, and only sold around 300 copies. Needless to say, finding an original tape is damn near impossible.

Sadly for Northern Exposure, long-term success was not to be. Shortly after the tape’s release and subsequent lack of success, Sole decided to keep it movin’ and began recording with a new group, the Last Poets. Thier 1996 release “What’s It All About?” quietly began making the dub rounds, eventually being traded as far as Los Angeles and arguably planting the seed for an entire future crew of milquetoast, “artsy” rappers in the Yay.

The music contained on “Madd Skills…” is certainly indicative of the time during which it was recorded. Hardcore b-boy posturing. Black Moon samples all over the place. Extensive graffiti references. Gritty boom-bap beats, courtesy of Tim & Cuz. And check out the intentional misspelling of “madd” in the title! I mean, misspelling stuff worked for Redman, right?

In conclusion, Sole’s contemporary fans would positively shudder to hear these grimy examples of life on the harsh, unforgiving streets of Portland, throwing off their headphones and quivering behind their scarves. I can only imagine what would have happened if Tim/Sole had stayed in Maine and kept to the course; he might have influenced a generation or more of Jedi Mind Tricks-lite kids dressed up in wheat Timbos, baggy jeans, and North Face bubble gooses. Hoods from the woods, if you will.

In short: don’t sweat moving to Cali, Tim. We’ve been ok.

In case you’re wondering what anticon’s wunderkind sounded like before he grew out his facial hair, peep game. It’s actually pretty interesting to hear the approach Sole started out with, considering his current sonic pedigree. (Thanks to schenectadyfan for providing a rip of this incredibly rare tape.)

Northern Exposure – Madd Skills & Unpaid Bills

1.) Intro (Real MCs)
2.) Busta
3.) Ex To Tha Next Shit
4.) Madd Skills & Unpaid Bills
5.) Wreck On Tha Regular
6.) Hoods From Tha Woods
7.) Last Minute
8.) To The East (Bonus Track)

-Echo Leader

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9 Responses to “Touring The States: Portland, ME (with Echo Leader)”

  1. Dave "cuz" says:

    Haha Thanks for posting this. It's been a while since I've seen this tape. I think I still have a copy in a box somehwere. This was one of the first projects we worked on together.

  2. Anonymous says:

    i found this casette in a thrift store i think in 2002. is it worth anything?

  3. Werner von Wallenrod says:

    "i found this casette in a thrift store i think in 2002. is it worth anything?"

    Well, I'd be interested. 😉

  4. Anonymous says:

    I wish I had mp3s of Sole's previous group Partners in Rhyme, with a guy named Bebop–I first heard and taped it on local radio in '92 and really liked the anti-cop song (he later quotes himself on "Da Baddest Poet" with "cops ain't shit to me"). The Live Poets CD has a few good cuts on it, but I think Sole and Moodswing came into their own starting with the 12" in '97. If Cuz had stuck with it, he'd likely be as successful as Jel.

    Portland has some current talents worthy of a TROY comp, however: JD Walker, Brzowski, Nomar Slevik, Sontiago, Moshe, Syn, DJ Mayo, Alias (he's back here), Braden the Grey Hermit (though he probably hasn't ever released anything), and Andre Hicks.

  5. Strange Powers says:

    @ Anon… Nomar Slevik is the man!!!

    looking forward to hearing this album, thank you.

    – Strange Powers, Denver CO

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  7. Enjoyed reading through this, very good stuff, thankyou .

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