It wasn’t unexpected. Rumors had spread that Sole was leaving Anticon, especially after his last album with the Skyrider Band, Plastique, became his first release to not appear on the label. (It was issued by Fake Four Inc.) In the post, titled “Sole leaves Anticon Records,” he writes, “From now on now all my releases will be made available @ soleone.org via my new label Black Canyon Records and exclusively distributed worldwide via Revolver USA.”
Anticon hasn’t issued a response yet, but will presumably do so in the next few hours and/or days.
“In the early days of the label, anticon was a pet project of mine, a life-long dream. We fulfilled the dream of a collectively run record label and put out many great records and stood as an image of defiance against the music industry,” writes Sole. “Today, with a heavy heart I end 11+ years of working with anticon.”
Ten years ago, when Sole was recording underground classics like Bottle of Humans, few longtime Anticon fans would have anticipated that the crew’s biggest (and most controversial) mouthpiece would someday abandon his “pet project.” If anything, Anticon would cease to exist first, and Sole would proudly go down with it.
“We created anticon as a response to what was going on at the time in the music industry – the indy boom of the late 90’s. There were still a viable music industry then and people bought records. That’s how we built up our empire,” writes Sole.
However, the underground rap world that Sole once led and provoked has long since fractured, unable to find the common ground that catapulted indie-rock — to name a genre/scene it is often compared to — to dominance. The Okayplayer.com scene gets grudging respect (if at all) from the old-school rap audience; so-called “emo rappers” leap onto Warped Tour and other rock package tours to seduce the Hot Topic crowd; and electronic-tinged “beat” makers spend more time remixing indie-rock acts like the XX and mainstream ciphers like Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane than collaborating with their indie-rap counterparts. Too often, these sometimes-oppositional enclaves have split audiences, resulting in neither sustained fan appreciation, critical acclaim nor noteworthy record sales.
Already, 2010 has brought the apparent collapse of Definitive Jux, the once-mighty label that has floundered in recent years. Unlike Def Jux, however, Anticon Records recovered after the indie-rap salad days ended in the mid-oos. Now, it is performing better than ever now, reaching new artistic and commercial highs. Not only have its core artists (Why?, Dose One) legitimately branched out into more current/trendy rock and electronic-oriented styles, but it also dropped a surprising amount of rap efforts last year, including Serengeti & Polyphonic’s Terradactyl and Buck 65 and Greetings from Tuskan’s More Heart Than Brains.
Unfortunately, as the label evolved from a iconoclastic rap movement into an independent label with unpredictable musical tastes, Sole increasingly found himself on the outside. The brash, politically-charged rap he makes seem out of place with the new Anticon’s focus on genre-blurring experiments and diarist confessionals.
In the post, Sole writes, “Upon returning to the states from a 2-year exile in Spain, I found myself increasingly at odds with the business end of anticon and began doing more DIY work via soleone.org. Running my own website and taking a more hands on approach with my art has always brought me great satisfaction and it is what I am choosing to return to. There are no ill feelings between myself and members of anticon. I will continue to work with many of the artists and will always love them as brothers and consider them allies. This is a decision to change the way my music will be exploited and adapt to shifting paradigms.
“The very fact that I have thrived in this environment still sometimes is a surprise to me. I’m 32 today. I put out my first vinyl when I was 16. For me its always been about ethics & passion, doing what felt right in my core and acting on that, whether or not it was the popular or conventionally wise thing to do.”
(February 9 update: Anticon posted the following message on its website today: “Anticon and label co-founder/artist Sole, a.k.a. Tim Holland, have decided to part ways. Albums previously released here will now be a part of Sole’s Black Canyon imprint. We wish him the best of luck in all his future endeavors.”)