Tennis shoes and hip-hop have been indelibly linked over the past 25 years. There isn’t a single rap album that doesn’t reference at least one pair of kicks as a sign of how fly the MC can be on any given day. As years pass and shoe collecting has become more intense, rappers have begun integrating the culture into their shtick. Some careers have even been built on rapping about shoes (and weed, and girls—but mostly shoes). Lyrikill carries on that tradition, but takes things a step further with More Heart More Sole. Never before, though, has a rapper used shoes as a vehicle to discuss social issues and paint a vivid picture of American socioeconomics and capitalist hypocrisy.
Shoes define every aspect of ‘Kill’s life and he demonstrates this fact with nearly every bar. On “Do What It Do,” he only dates women with nice shoes; on “Yesinf*ckingdeed”, he comes home to an angry wife that’s upset he spent all his tour money on kicks. While those are all frivolities associated with shoe collection, Lyrikill delves deeper, juxtaposing his fresh sneakers with the blighted post-Katrina homes and rim-destroying potholes on “Folk Music.” Lyriqs joins him on “New Shoes” to tell a chilling tale of how Michael Jordan and his line of Nikes acted like a surrogate father for youths that grew up without one, leading to the rabid desire to have every pair of Air Jordans that hit the shelves.
A concept album like More Heart More Sole requires a nuanced grasp of the wordplay needed to craft such a compelling piece of social commentary. Lyrikill has that in spades. He tackles every one of the exceptionally produced tracks, making it look easy as he weaves metaphor after metaphor while managing to represent for the hometown by shouting out local staples, including Brennan’s, Zapp’s and Big Shot. On the surface, Lyrikill’s album is just another ode to kicks, but it doesn’t take long to realize that a well-executed allegory is lying behind each bar.