Written by Andrea Desjardins
We can no longer refer to Alex Silas as simply a “rapper”. Thanks to his debut two part album release ROOTS: The Opera of June Mañana, it has become evident we must instead refer to him as a full-blown musician. Alongside The Subterraneans, two of Ottawa’s most stylish individuals with instruments and a turntable, Silas encompasses one of the major and most important qualities of a truly well rounded musician; versatility. ROOTS brags of musical styles ranging from spoken word, rapping, singing, as well as live instrumentation (drums, bass, accordion, violin and more) in addition to electronic production, done by Bryan Ruckstuhl and Silas himself.
ROOTS has an interesting back story; with Silas quoting on his website (www.alexsilas.com) that the thought and emotional process of creating and writing the album lead to the development of having two parts; Disc 1: Tiger Lily and Disc 2: Lotus. The dual disc album speaks to the many themes of ROOTS, the most obvious being where he has come from and what he has had to overcome to get where he is today. Both discs contain thought provoking material that clearly come directly from the heart of Silas as he touches on real life issues young people often struggle with; deaths of loved ones, bullying, break ups, substance abuse, and self struggle.
You’re probably thinking “great, another ‘poor me’ album”, but have no fear, ROOTS is far from a soundtrack for a self-pity party. While both discs have clear themes which is evident from the album artwork alone; Lotus being the darker, edgier side with twisted tracks like “Zombeez”, featuring Ottawa’s The Adding Machine, and Tiger Lily portraying a more whimsical, carefree side of Silas as seen in “Lions, and Tigers and Bears” with Karolinka, both discs mirror themes of their counterparts.
Tiger Lily has its share of material with a more serious undertone, as seen with the track Spruce Tree; a spoken story about some of Silas’ childhood struggles told in his own words amidst a background of guitar chords; this is the last track on disc one, a proper send off into the darker depths of Disc 2: Lotus. However, as previously mentioned, Lotus isn’t all dark and melancholy; the track “Went From” is a light hearted anthem about personal growth and development, featuring samples from fellow musicians and friends to underline the idea that we are all unique and special as a result of our individual experiences.
ROOTS: The Opera of June Mañana successfully displays the duality of light and dark, as well as the idea of feeling in control while seemingly having no control at the same time. Silas’ ability to alternate between these two perspectives without giving the listener whiplash is a true indication of his musical growth and talent thus far. With this album he gives the listener a piece of himself; a vulnerable and exposed piece that inspires us to follow his lead and embrace the positive and negative aspects of life in their entirety, and be at peace with who we are. We expect nothing less from the work of a hip hop hippie.