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More Beat poet than beat junkie, Bay Area rapper Sole has a tendency to stuff twice as many words into every line as should reasonably fit, which makes his vocal delivery a little overwhelming--he doesn't flow, he floods. He's also more philosophical than your average MC: "My whole perspective relies solely on questions that can't have answers," he notes on "Respect Pt. 3," from the new Selling Live Water (Anticon). He doesn't sound like he's boasting about it--just acknowledging the cross he's chosen to bear. He's not above making fun of his own martyr complex, though--on one Water interlude he muses, "I hope you like my stupid painting / It won't be here next time you burn it / I'm no Matisse and never said I could paint / The way things are going, I don't know if I'm going to finish it." But these lyrics float on past because the accompanying music is the liveliest of his career. For the first time, you can imagine it appearing on a hip-hop DJ's mix tape: the cool-jazz horn riff that powers "The Priziest Horse" coming after a Gang Starr tune, for instance, or the funky sitar samples and action-movie orchestral stabs of "Pawn in the Game Pt. 1" leading into Truth Hurts's "Addicted." But he proves he can still be a smart-ass with "Pawn in the Game Pt. 2," a G-funk parody complete with synth whine and off-key falsetto background vocals. Saturday, March 22, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Sunday, March 23, 6 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton; 773-486-2700.

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