Review: Universal Language Entertainment – Sound Shape Color

Music is known as a universal language, and because it transcends different demographics and cultures, it often has the power to bring people together. This theory rings true for one United States collective that uses hip-hop music and culture to connect as one through thoughtful expression and ability, just as the art intended. Universal Language Entertainment (ULE) is a record label that features the emcees/producers Proximity, Small Hands, Shawn Keys, Buddhakai, Dassaro, windchILL, 5ve, DJ Gadjet, and Geoff Grey. While each artist has a vast discography, "Sound Shape Color" is a collaborative project composed of every member of the label, emanating the pure essence of hip-hop through prolific lyricism. ULE's "Sound Shape Color" is for the fans of raw, underground hip-hop, and is nothing short of a classic that will stay in rotations for years to come.

"Lighting the way, with this mic down the path I traverse
Stackin these words, putting raps on a track to preserve
The culture that we love, it's life, rhymes, and beats
I said every single line is designed to teach" - Rhyme of the Ancients (Shawn Keys)

Lyrically is where "Sound Shape Color" shines because of the technical wordplay, punchlines, storytelling, and multisyllabic rhyme schemes that are practiced by all ULE emcees. windchILL, in particular, has some of the best bars on the album, featuring in 16 of the 20 songs. Many of the tracks are written through an emcees lense, paying homage to the culture, backpacking, and intrinsic motivation that returns the glory of what made hip-hop great. The lyrics are authentic to each rapper, with diverse song styles that range from battle rap to conscious underground hip-hop. While this album is a true label collaboration, it does feature some artists outside the label, with verse and melodies from Cassie J, Jade Elise, and Feather Dawn.

"The more you butter the bread the better the blessing
Going over every word and every letter in question" - Sound Check (windchILL)

The production on the album is carried mainly by Geoff Grey, with a few beats by Grafik, Shawn Keys, and 5ve rounding out the project. The beats on "Sound Shape Color" give a nostalgic hip-hop feel, reviving the 90s style banger boombap. One of the best features on the album is the plethora of scratches and cuts from DJ Gadjet and DJ Steele, who litters them throughout almost every track. The scratches use both memorable and classic hip-hop lines, as well as original cuts from members of ULE. Everything about "Sound Shape Color" is pervaded with a pristine unfiltered hip-hop sound. No radio pop hits, just strictly the raw sound that made emcees fall in love with the art in the first place.

"You can say my mom made me but it's hip-hop that raised me
In fact, I was raised in the 80s, we did head spins as babies
Digging in the crates always searching for breakbeats
Make beats for 8 weeks then release a feast of straight heat" - Tried n' True (Provoke from Proximity)

4 of the 24 tracks on "Sound Shape Color" feature shoutouts and drops from fans, friends, DJs, producers, influencers and other prominent emcees from around the world, like Carnage The Executioner, Reef the Lost Cauze, El Da Sensei, as well as Lingo, Ayok, and Pera from Grind Mode Cypher. Some of these shoutouts extend into the music also, demonstrating the incredible amount of support ULE gets from the underground hip-hop scene. It is no question why ULE receives overwhelming support from their peers. As a collective, they have proven over the years to be a group that is impeccable with the rhyme who stays true to the art of emceeing and the ethics of hip-hop. "Sound Shape Color" from Universal language Entertainment is available on all streaming platforms and can be purchased on Bandcamp, CD Baby, and iTunes.

Favorite Tracks: Too Easy, Remedy, Run so Deep

Production – 5/5 
Lyrics – 5/5 
Flow – 5/5 
Substance –4/5 
Feel – 5/5 
Originality: 4/5 
Longevity – 5/5 
Overall – 4.7/5

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