The fact that PREFIX, the first oficial compilation project by international hip-hop collective Souless, begins with a triumphant, revenxnt produced piece of jazz-hop seems extremely apt. In the merely two minute ‘Tek9’, Barry Marrow and SeKwence remind me why they’re such impressive rappers, and why they’re the ideal rappers to kick off a tape that fully covers the rappers strengths as a group. ‘Pulled up blown baccies like a fuckin’ trumpet. My bitch look mad as madam, control her like a puppet’, Marrow spits venomously less than a minute into the project. SeKwence follows this up in typically sombre fashion: ‘But I’m slippin off banana peels, missing moments off the xanny pills and held the cancer, let it kill me. Maybe they will feel me if I clip myself?’. This is incredible, soul-searching stuff, the sort that I expect from a conglomerate of such high caliber.

And of course, the remaining seven tracks more than hold up. Verses are split fairly evenly between members, the vocal staples being the aforementioned duo of Marrow and Sek as well as Lärs, the former appearing on all but two of the songs and the latter two on all but three. On the beautiful ‘El Natural’, they bookend the song with morbid content: ‘Life got me staring at the clip, kissing the barrel’s black lips’, ‘I seen that coffin, I need a prophet, I need a doctor. Never Jesus Pieces, I need that reefer to solve the problems’. Where Barry is boisterous and braggadocious, Sek is grim and grisly. manwithXface needs his props as a producer, his work on ‘El Natural’ is beautiful. The song is notable for being one of three more fleshed out-sounding songs on the record, thanks to the Gabbi singing segments reminiscent of Sek’s ‘Dxngeon’ and a gruff BIGLARRY verse (he has far too few verses on here). ‘Pass That’ stays truest to the traditional idea of a posse cut with a dual production team (the aforementioned Xface and the equally undervalued BDB Suff) and five MC’s decking it out over the simple yet spacey beat. It would be hard to pick a favourite here because everyone goes so hard, but the dexterity of Lärs’ flow is as always a joy and the murky, subterranean bars from Ruci (very, very undervalued as a rapper) are hard as hell. ‘Y’all shit be mid, Souless shit anthrax’ more or less sums up the tape’s intention as a set of collective essentials.

This idea is furthered by the fact that, of the seven songs here, only two are solo cuts. Both are excellent, powered by Klsr and splndid’s blooming instrumental masterpieces. ‘Pink pussy like Cam’s rover, the real killa’ is the takeaway from Lärs’ hazy ‘Withdrawls’, while BIGLARRY’s entire ‘Finome’ is a blistering lyrical display that is evidence enough he should have had a stronger presence here. The best songs are indisputably the collabs, however. ‘Memorease’ is a rare piece of ntvrme-helmed melody with a gorgeous, harmonised hook, and the twin verses are neat, almost romantic sentiments. This isn’t what I’m used to hearing from Souless, but it only proves how diverse the various members are. Amazingly, the best track is none of the aforementioned, instead going to ‘Seasons’, a fantastic beat hook up between sirisaacnewton and Killer Kane, combining their bright keyboards and clattering drums. Lärs and Marrow are passionate, offering surprisingly strong, semi-sung vocals, but Sekwence once again presents the apex of the track with an insightful outro laced with references to addiction and mortality: ‘Just face your problems, it’s overwhelming, just find a bottle and dive in and I’m high by the time the rhymes spitted, that’s what the reaper told me’.

There’s very little negative to say about this first Souless comp, because everybody brought their A-game. SeKwence and BIGLARRY continue to prove their lyrical and technical prowess, while manwithXface and Klsr get the biggest production look-ins and the project benefits massively from their guiding forces. I’d like to have heard more production from Killer Kane, Suff and some from Ruci, but I understand that at only seven tracks distributing content fairly between members was going to be a challenge. A very impressive project top to bottom, and yet another weapon in the ever-growing Souless arsenal.

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