Ivy Sole: Defying the Socialized Categories of Hip-Hop

By: Abe Diesenhof//

Growing up in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, Ivy Sole received vocal training from her church’s choir, which served as the catalyst for her interest in gospel and all the genres derived from it. While she was a frequent attendee of worship, Sole struggled with her sexuality, attempting to fulfill her desire to find a community that would accept her while trying to be true to who she was. After attending a Mac Miller and Rapsody concert following her eighteenth birthday, Sole was inspired to find herself through creating her own music.

Her early beginnings included her participation in several rap collectives as well as immersing herself in Philadelphia’s varied cultural and artistic background, however it wasn’t until 2016 that she first released music alone. Eden, Sole’s debut mixtape, proves her knack for unifying diverse topics under a single project. Her lyrics sample everything from religious scripture (“Garden”) to classic poetry (“Lost Without You”), brought together by her subdued yet urgent phrasing, commanding any listener to take in her words.

Photo by Amanda Baraka

Sole quickly followed her first project with two EPs released in 2017, East and West, both attributed to different parts of her hometown. Despite moving to Philadelphia for college, she expresses gratitude toward Charlotte and the experiences she has learned from. Despite the pair of projects’ similar roots, their opposite sounds compliment each other; East’s slower tempos and melodies juxtapose the bombastic trap of West and further prove that Sole has the capacity to deftly transition between styles and moods. Her second full length project, Overgrown, saw her mature still after dealing with a breakup and a change in mental health, reflected in the album’s more serious tone. But even so, Sole still manages to deliver a sense of joy for life on songs like “Rollercoaster” and “Still Wasted”, where her easy-going presence takes center stage.

Although many of her songs deal with the experiences shared by black people in America, Sole seeks to break the perceptions of female rappers in the twenty-first century. Rather than fitting herself into the boxes of confidently sexual or socially conscious, Sole’s blend of styles in both her lyrics and music prove her adaptability. Her newest project SOUTHPAW is an excellent example of this balance, as she articulates calls for social reform while proclaiming her promiscuous nature, often in the same track. Her adeptness and mastery over her own style marks her as a truly unique talent in the modern hip-hop scene.

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