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Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009

Sose: The Godless Rapper

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­Like a taken-for-granted fifth element, every bit as important as rapping, DJing, breaking and graffiti, God has been a ubiquitous presence in hip-hop, a common thread tying together rappers of all stripes. From the Native Tongues to the Cash Money Millionaires to No Limit Soldiers to the Wu Tang Clan, most every rapper pays respects to God. He's the first person thanked in liner notes and at award shows, and rappers customarily dedicate at least a song or two to him. The small minority of rappers who don't believe in God mostly hold their tongues, rather than break one of the genre's few taboos.

That leaves Sose the odd man out. The Milwaukee rapper is one of the very few outspoken about his atheism.

"I think I've always been an atheist, but it was in the last four or five years that I've really been vocal about it," he says. "So a lot of people in the rap scene already know who I am and it doesn't bother them that I don't share their beliefs, since they know what I stand for, and that I don't tolerate hypocrisy. But some people who are new to the scene, I'll get funny looks from them when I rap certain lines."

A longtime cheerleader for Milwaukee hip-hop who documents the scene with his online publication, H2O Magazine (H2Omagonline.com), Sose is unabashedly liberal and a proud skeptic. In the liner notes for his debut album, Propaganda, he eschews citing traditional hip-hop muses like KRS-One. Instead, he thanks icons of rational thinking like Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins and George Carlin.

"I'm just pushing for people to question things more," Sose says. "Religion in rap just doesn't make sense to me: If you're thanking God and wearing a cross around your neck, but your sexist or violent lyrics contradict what your alleged beliefs are, that's a disconnect to me. It's easy for people to believe that, 'No matter what I do, God will forgive me so long as I go to church on Sunday or pray or go to confession,' but I think that's a cop-out. We are in control of our lives. We choose what we do or choose not to do, then live with the consequences."

Tied together by mellow, 9th Wonder-esque beats from local producers like DJ Tyme, Adlib, Dylan Thomas and Brazil, Propaganda is a 23-track anthology of Sose's recording sessions since 2006.

"The album was supposed to come out a long time ago under a different title, but it just kept getting delayed again and again, so since it was recorded over such a long time, there's this arc of themes," Sose says. "The beginning is about empowerment, and really details my religious stance, then the album goes into this political section about Sept. 11, recorded after I discovered some details about how the towers collapsed and got real angry, then toward the end the album mellows out again, so it takes you through this ride."

Much as religious-minded listeners might be turned off by his atheism, others may find Sose's assertions that Sept. 11 was an inside job incendiary. Sose acknowledges as much with a disclaimer on the album cover: "Warning: This album contains music that may conflict with your political and religious beliefs … The artist appreciates your respect of his ideas whether or not you agree."

Sose and DJ Tyme host an album release party at 10 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7, at Stonefly Brewery with openers including Yung Clutch and Misen Lync.