I played this song last night and again this morning. It’s sort of a yearly tradition.
I love Buffalo Tom and play them a lot. However, I feel like need to hear this particular song to mark the end of my summer ever year. I don’t know why. I just do.
Summer is now officially over for me since I am back at work this morning. That’s probably why I spent yesterday in a melancholy mood. I lazed around the house doing nothing all day long. I guess it’s just knowing that summer is over and the possibility that I might have wasted it.
But did I waste it?
I don’t think I did.
I finally took an upgrading course and passed it with honours. I did a lot of reading. I did two great interviews for Dope FM (see the side bar). I started working on a brand new segment for the show. And of course, I spent a lot of quality time with my family.
But I never actually went away for more than a day trip here and there. So it wasn’t really a vacation. Although I did manage to hit the beach a few times. That was really nice.
I went for lots of trail runs. I ran up the escarpment again. And I enjoyed my time off.
So, I can’t say that I wasted my summer. I wish I’d done some more writing. I really need to start working on another novel. But I guess that can be a winter project. Perhaps it wasn’t reasonable to expect myself to take a course and find the time to write creatively outside of that as well.
Most Canadians don’t consider summer over until Labour Day has passed. So to all of you, I wish you the best last week of summer possible. Enjoy every minute of it.
Brother Ali is a talented artist and an amazingly gifted MC. He is definitely my favourite MC out right now.
It’s amazing to see how he has used live musicians in the studio to record his new album. I’m patiently waiting for it to drop next month.
I usually get music for free from the radio station or from digital copies that are sent to me for the show or from artists who simply want us to play them. As such, I own a lot of music that I haven’t paid for.
But a lot of you don’t have a radio show and still get free music. A fan asked Brother Ali if it’s okay to download his stuff as long as he comes to the show to support him that way. This is what he had to say.
I did a lot of reading this summer. Here is a list of what I read. I didn’t keep track of all the graphic novels that I got from the public library so this is not a complete list.
I’ve often thought that I should keep a detailed reading log. Perhaps this will be the start of it.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
Description: Ged is a reckless youth who does not know that he will grow up to become the greatest wizard in all of Earthsea. In his thirst for knowledge, he accidentally sets forth a terrible evil upon the world. He learns how to control himself and his powers over the course of this and subsequent novels.
Why Read It?: This book is a classic and has won numerous awards. It was written well before the popular Harry Potter series. If you are familiar with those books, you will draw some interesting parallels as you read it.
The Centre of the Universe: Yep, that would be ME by Anita Liberty
Description: Anita tells us the story of her years in high school in her own words. She shares with us her personal journal, poems, charts, words of advice, her witty observations, and even dictionary words as she studies for her SAT.
Why Read It?: I love how this book looks. It called to me from the library’s bookshelf. I sat down and flipped thought it right then and there and I knew I had to read it. The book is written from the perspective of a sixteen-year-old girl, who just happens to share the name of the author. I know that it is fiction but it looks like this young girl invites us into her life and you get to know her personally. That is part of the appeal to this book. Of course, the story is compelling as well. It’s open and honest and I like how it throws a lot more into the book other than just straightforward narrative.
A Word of Caution: This book contains Mature Themes and Coarse Language. Within the first forty pages, I came across the F-word. I thought that it reflected the way students talk and if it only happened once in the book, I think I could’ve overlooked it. But the book is chopped full of inappropriate words. The teenage main character also has sex for the first time and speaks frankly about how much she enjoys it. She also begins to smoke weed.
I enjoyed the book or I would’ve returned it to the library unread. But it is a teen book and as such, I would caution parents and teachers out there about letting your children read it.
White Girl by Sylvia Olsen
Description: Fourteen-year-old Josie finds herself living on a First Nations Reserve after her mother marries an aboriginal man. They move in with him and his son. Josie was used to blending in and finds it difficult to be the only white kid in school and to adjust to her new blended family. She moves from feeling like an outsider to experiencing the richness of her new life and community.
Why Read It?: I think this novel would appeal to anyone who has ever felt out of place. It deals with First Nations people without serving us blatant stereotypes. It is set in modern times so it is accessible to teenagers as well as adults. There aren’t enough novels that are realistic depictions of the Rez, and for that note alone, I think this is a good book to read. The book deals with race relations, bullying, and the importance of community and these are issues that all teenagers can relate to.
A Word of Caution: Some of the girls get quite mean to each other in the text and there is a fair amount of swearing in their exchanges. However, this only hammers home the issue and isn’t gratuitous at all. I think this book would be great for anyone who have never had much exposure to First Nations peoples, and it would be equally great for First Nation readers as well.
Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon
Description: The captive animals in the Baghdad Zoo have fantasized about escaping for some time now. Most of the animals don’t seem to trust each other enough to band together and plan a break out. The head lion is well respected and tells wide tales of his life on the outside of the zoo walls. During the Iraq war, the zoo is bombed and people look to him for guidance when they do finally escape.
Why Read It?: This graphic novel transcends the genre. This story is amazingly well told and drawn. It captivated me from the very first page in a way that I really wasn’t expecting. I believe that this work is accessible to pretty much everyone. It deals with the war in ways that aren’t really threatening to children. The work explores what it really means to be free as the lions find it difficult to survive outside of the zoo’s wall. This book could be read as an allegory and would be a great basis for discussion on the concept of freedom, war, and family.
Accolades: In the July 2009 issue of Wizard Magazine, Pride of Baghdad is ranked in the top 100 graphic novels of all time. I completely agree that this book deserves to be held up along with the great books of out time. I highly recommend it.
We All Fall Down by Eric Walters
Description: Will is a grade nine student who isn’t too excited about spending a day with his father at work. It’s a school assignment that he would rather not do. He’s upset that his dad has a boring job on the eighty-fifth floor of the World Trade Center. His teacher tells him that tomorrow “might be an experience that changes your entire life.” Of course, no one at the time knew how much truth there was in the small statement. Tomorrow is “Take your kid to work day” and it just happens to be September 11, 2001.
Why Read It?: Eric Walters has won numerous awards for his young adult fiction and he continues to write stories that engage readers of all ages. He lives in Mississauga and can serve as an inspiration to students. He was originally a teacher and only wrote to help encourage his students but now he writes full time. This book could be used to get students thinking about historical fiction and the role that 9/11 had on the world. It is fast-paced and deals with issues that teenagers can easily relate to.
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Description: The residents of the City of Ember live in a completely dark world. They are running out of resources, the most important of which seems to be light bulbs. The residents are forced to live on smaller and smaller rations every day. They also do not have the knowledge of how things work. The residents don’t really know what to do about these problems and carry on with their day-to-day lives as if nothing is amiss. However, two recent graduates realize that something is terribly wrong with their city and try to do something about it.
Why Read It?: It’s a page-turner that I simply did not want to put down. There is mystery and adventure in it. It is also the first of a five book series that has become quite popular. This book was adapted into a movie last summer as well. However, the movie pales in comparison to the book. I wrote about this book already in my Recommended Reads series here.
The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
Description: This second book of Ember takes up right where the first one left off and continues the story. I don’t want to give any details out here so that I won’t spoil it for any of you who haven’t yet discovered this series.
Why Read It?: It picks up the thread of the first book and is very-well written and paced.
The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau
Description: Nickie travels to Yonwood with her Aunt Crystal to a large mansion that her grandfather used to live in. Aunt Crystal wants to clean up the house and sell it as quickly as possible. Nickie hatches a plan to keep the house and to live there. She makes some interesting discoveries about the town, the house, and her grandfather in the process. A local woman there has some terrible visions of the future. The residents take her visions as seriously and brand her a prophet. However, they might go too far in what they do because of these visions.
Why Read It?: You have to be a fan of this series to read this one. It is definitely the weakest book of the series. It is essential a prequel to The City of Ember that I feel didn’t need to be told. I didn’t like the pacing of the book either. It seemed to rush through the history leading up to the first book in the last few pages. I wasn’t impressed with this book at all.
The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau
Description: This book is a sequel to second book and picks up right where The People of Sparks left off.
Why Read It?: Duprau recaptures the essence of the series. The book is a page-turner with mystery, action, and adventure. I’m glad I didn’t give up on the series after book three. I really enjoyed it. That being said, I recommend skipping book three and jumping right into this one. However, at the end of this book there is a brief mention of the last book that sounds like it could lead into a fifth book.
Ember Update: At this time, Duprau has no intention of writing a fifth Ember book. I think that there is a story there that could make the third book more relevant in the series but for the time being, I can safely say it’s worth skipping the third one for now. Since it’s a prequel, you could always read it later anyway.
I have found that there are three types of music listeners.
The first is the casual listener who doesn’t pay much attention to the music whatsoever. This listener often doesn’t know the name of the artists or the songs that they listen to. They don’t own much in the way of music. They might not even have an MP3 player. However, they do listen to the radio and rarely switch stations.
The second type of listener likes the sound of the music and doesn’t really focus on the lyrics as much. If it has a good beat, they are into it. If it has a catchy chorus, it doesn’t really matter what the song is about, they like it.
The third type of listener really listens to and analyzes lyrics. This listener cares about the whole package. It isn’t just about the lyrics. The song needs to have a good beat too and the delivery needs to be on point. This listener is often critical of everything they hear.
So what type of listener are you?
I know that I fall into the third category, which from my experience seems to be the rarest of them all. I know that there have been plenty of times where I have discussed a song with someone and they seemed really surprised to hear what the song is actually about. They say things like, “I don’t really listen to the words.” (Type 2 listener)
I know that there are certain songs that I like simply because of how they sound, but I still listen to the words. Sometimes it is okay to have a bubble-gum-pop song that doesn’t really say anything. I do have a few guilty pleasures, but for the most part, I want substance in my music.
I want to hear from you.
Did any of the above categories describe your listening style?
My best advice for the first day of school is to plan, plan, plan, and over-plan. You should have your day structured so well that there will never be any lag time. You need to involve the students in some easy work right away, first thing in the morning.
I usually have them do an interest inventory. This is a simple get-to-know-you worksheet where the students won’t be intimidated since there are no wrong answers. It gives them a chance to share what’s important to them and, as such, you get a little glimpse into who each student is by reading these worksheets.
Here is the script (lesson plan) that I use on the first day of school. I have used it successfully for the past three years and I just modify it slightly for whatever grade I am teaching. I hope you will find it useful as well.
I like starting off the day by having hula-hoops in place of the student desks. This really shakes things up a bit and serves as a great discussion about personal space and school equipment. It even allows for team building by allowing the students to construct three-part Venn Diagrams.
Here is a brief excerpt of my lesson plan for the first day of school,
8:00 Set out hula-hoops with a sharpened pencil, and the first assignment Student Information Sheet in each hoop. Make sure that “Grade 3/4 Mr. March’s Class” is written on the door and the board.
9:00 Please quickly find the hula-hoop with your name, and when you sit down, you will find an activity there. I think you will enjoy doing it. Please begin working on it right away. Thank you.
Any student who does not come in the room correctly, ask them calmly but firmly to return to the door, tell them why, give specific direction, and acknowledge that they understand
I am sorry, but that is not the way you enter the classroom everyday. When you enter this classroom, you walk in quietly, go directly to your seat, and get to work immediately on the assignment that is posted. Are there any questions? Thank you, _______. Now show me that you can go to you seat properly.
Make it routine on how to enter the room and reinforce it everyday.
9:10 Introduce “Give Me 5” and refer to the poster.
Students, I have a procedure when I want your undivided attention. You will see me stand here with my hand up. I will count up to five. When you see me counting or hear me, you will count up to five as well. If you didn’t see me, you will be able to hear your classmates and then we will follow this procedure:
1. Freeze 2. Turn and face me; pay attention and keep your eyes on me 3. Be ready for instructions. I will have something to say
Please note the “We Listen” poster
1. Eyes on the speaker 2. Mouth quiet 3. Hands Free 4. Feet still 5. Ears listening.
Tell the class that they have 5 minutes left to finish the assignment. If they have already finished they may draw a picture relating to one of the questions on the back of the sheet.
9:15 Ask the class to “Give Me 5” and then praise them if the do it well. If not, reinforce how it works and why. This is not the time to sharpen a pencil, keep writing, or talk. All eyes must be on me. No exceptions. Thank you.
As you can see, I structure my day so that there is no time left to lag. This sets up the expectation that school time is important and that it will be used efficiently each and every day. Also, keeping up a good pace lets the students stay focused and doesn’t give them the opportunity to goof around.
So my first day planner is extremely detailed. See the entire lesson plan here. My day plans each and every day after that are sufficiently detailed as well. You can see an example here.
Well, I hope this has helped. If you are a brand new teacher this year, you might want to check My New Teacher Guide. My other teaching tips are listed on the sidebar for easy navigation as well.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, or would like to write a guest post for Teaching Tip Tuesdays, please leave me a comment below, send me an email, or get at me on Twitter. Teachers helping teachers is what it is all about.
Komoka Provincial Park is a beautiful place to go for a walk or a nice trail run. It is located along the Thames River, just outside of London, Ontario, Canada.
I’m not sure why it is considered a provincial park since it really only offers a nice trail. There aren’t any facilities here at all. But you can hike down to the river for fishing, or hit the trails and look at the river and the nature all around you.
I went for a run there on the weekend and took my camera along with me. I snapped pictures every couple of minutes so I could present you this visual tour of my run. I hope you enjoy it.
This sign really needs to be updated or replaced. But it gives you a good idea of how much land this park has and how the trail runs along the top of a bluff, overlooking the Thames river.
Here we go. My running pace is steady at 4 minutes per kilometer and just under 6 minutes per mile.
The trail winds through the woods. There are some rocks and tree roots that you need to watch out for. But it is a nice quiet trail to enjoy.
This is the first of many small bridges and boardwalks that help guide you through some of the rougher parts of the trail.
I love running up hills. A good trail needs to have hills. I can’t stand running on flat ground. I need a challenge. And this one presents a further challenge. There are so many rocks here that you really need to be on your toes. It almost feels like running through the tires in football practice.
This boardwalk runs for a few hundred meters passed a swampy area.
Another nice hill to dash up.
This bridge crosses a deep ravine.
I love trail markers that give you some information about where you are. If I was walking I would’ve taken the time to read it. I only stopped long enough to snap this picture and I was off again on this amazing trail run.
You can see the river here. A little bit further up there are some rapids that you can hear from the trail. I love being able to hear all the sounds of the nature. The city just melts away and you are transported. It’s amazing.
More information that I zoomed passed without reading. I loved running this trail.
I took about 30 photos during my run. I stopped every couple minutes to snap a new picture. I have so many beautiful pictures but chose these few to give you a brief idea of what this place is like.
Well, that’s it. I figure I ran about 7 kilometers. It might’ve been less since I took so many pictures. I’m going to have to go back there soon and run it again without a camera. What an amazing trail.
I hope you enjoyed this visual tour of my trail run.
Here is another great route you can take here at Komoka . . .
Here is the wrap up of the interview I did with Chicago native and talented MC SoulStice. Make sure you check out Part 1,2, and 3 and be sure to download the podcast for free.
We had a lot of fun doing this interview. Without further ado, here is the conclusion.
CHASE: I wanted to talk about a few of the lyrics there. We’ve already talked a bit about community, but in that last song we just played you got a lyric that says ‘I’m still looking out for my neighbour / team player / ‘cause I know we all part of something greater.’ And I’m kind of tying that in with ‘Book of Days’ which we played earlier where you talk about life as a story and your life is being a page-turner.
And I kind of have this philosophy that we’re all in a story and that the people in our story are our supporting cast so we really should strive to be more of a team player in life than we are. And it’s kind of nice to see how you’ve said that in those two songs.
SOULSTICE: “Thanks, man. For ‘Book of Days’ Oddisee just gave me a really dope beat and I was just trying to be as dope as the beat was. But book of my life as a page-turner is actually a lyric that comes from an earlier verse. And I just wanted to talk about, like you said, in terms of my life as being a story that I express through my music. And then, in the last verse, I really talk about the cyclical part of the whole thing.
And the sample that that song comes from, the song is called ‘Going in Circles.’ – you got me going in circles. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the actual song but I actually tied that into the theme. Where in my last verse I’m talking about just the progression, you know how the young cats come up and they’re the sh*t for a decade or two, or whatever it is, and then eventually you become dated and the next cats come up. And so it’s all going in circles. It’s the whole cyclical thing. Same story but different chapters.
For ‘Closer’ when I talk about being a team player, obviously I’m from Chicago. I’m from the US, a capitalist country and I am a capitalist individually. Ya know, I’m trying to make as much money as I can before my ability to make money is up., before my time is up. So I really am trying to do that. But at the same time, that lyric really reflects my personal philosophy.
I consider myself to be a progressive and sometimes that means I’m a liberal in terms of political philosophies. But I really do believe in things like education for everybody, health care for everybody, and things like that. So even though we do compete with each other, I do believe we should all have some minimum standard of living. And so I do try to be a team player in the way I manifest my personal politics and all that.”
CHASE: “Yeah, ‘cause there’s no reason we shouldn’t. So definitely good points made there. But it must be hard because you are balancing a full-time job, a young family, and hip-hop, so that must be a little bit hard to do, eh?”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah, it’s a challenge but if it wasn’t a challenge, it wouldn’t be fun and worthwhile. And I’m lucky enough that I’ve had many years to get good at doing what I do and get efficient at doing what I do.
Ya know, I’ve been writing rhymes, like we talked about, since the early 90’s, I’ve been releasing albums since the early 2000’s, and you know, you get better at it. If I had the job and the family and it was me back in ’97, I probably wouldn’t be able to do it. But with the experience that I have, I can sit down a write a verse, I can sit down and write a song or conduct a business deal with all the experience I have and make it all work together. And when I go on tour, I take my wife and we make it a vacation. You find ways to make things work together.”
CHASE: “That’s what it’s all about. I think we’re gonna wrap things up now. I just want to hammer home the fact that intelligent music is commercially viable and that you’re able to show us that with your music. And that it’s important for us to shoot for our dreams. So I think that it’s fitting that we close out with ‘Dreamer’
SOULSTICE: “Alright. Well said.”
CHASE: “Thank a lot for being with us SoulStice. We really appreciate it. It’s been a honour and a privilege having you on the program. So hopefully today we’ve introduced some more of our listeners to you so they’ll actually go to iTunes or your myspace. Do you want to give that information out if they want to find out more about you?”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah, yeah. Well first of all, thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure. And in terms of people looking me up people can definitely catch me on myspace or you can find any of my music on iTunes. I have a website I created just for the Beyond Borders project that talks about my experience with all the different artists and some behind the scenes information on all the songs at thinkbeyondborders.com
CHASE: “How did I miss that when I was doing my research for this interview? Man, I’m gonna have to check that site out for sure. Awesome! Well, thanks for being with us. Once again, we’re going to close off with ‘Dreamer’ off of your 2007 album Dead Letter Perfect. I just wanted to play this track because the lyrics are really nice in it and it talks about how you need to follow through with your dreams, keep your eyes open, and ‘what’s a dream if you die hoping?’
So here’s the track. Thanks a lot. Stay tuned because, once again, Dope fm, we’re here all night long, playing the best music for you and having great interviews and this has been one more for the canon.”
GAMMA KRUSH: “Yeah, thanks again SoulStice. Yeah, keep it locked ‘cause once again, ‘We are never stale in Westdale.’”
That’s it. If you are an artist that would like to be profiled or interviewed for Dope FM or Silent Cacophony, please hit me up either here with a comment or on Twitter.
SoulStice is a talented rapper with a lot to say. Gamma Krush and I interviewed him on our radio show Saturday night. You can download the podcast of the show for free from the Dope fm page. Or you can read Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview here.
Without further ado, here is part 3.
CHASE: “We were talking about how hip-hop is everywhere around the world. But hip-hop is a culture that we live. I know that Gamma Krush, Daddy J, me and you, we’re all living this hip-hop thing every day. And it’s interesting to see how the world is watching. One of the lyrics in that last song we played you say, ‘Every step we take the world watching / Hollywood, sports, and Billboard Top 10 / at times united, at times misguided / but this is what I call home / no place like it.’
Nice lyric, ‘cause that talks about the influence that hip-hop has on everything. And we can see how it’s worldwide on this album. It’s pretty nice.”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate that. So there is kind of a double meaning there. In one way, I’m talking about the United States and its impact of different places. In US sports, everybody knows who Michael Jordon is. Earlier in the verse I talk about Michael Jackson, everybody knows who he is. And the impact that US culture has had. And yeah, you could think of it as hip-hop as well. That’s definitely a universal movement and every step we take the world’s watching – very true.”
CHASE: “Very nice. On your bio, it says that your music is ‘commercial music with awareness and attitude.’ I like that because there are so many different ways that we describe music, especially the stuff we play on Dope fm as underground, or alternative, or conscious, or anything like that. I really like the way you say it’s commercial with awareness and attitude. That’s kind of nice.”
SOULSTICE: “Thanks, man. I expected some people to get at me about that a little bit. ‘Cause, I mean, there’s the way you perceive yourself and there’s the way people perceive you. And I know that the Average Joe looking at my music is gonna think ‘Okay, this is an underground cat’ or ‘this is an indy cat.’ And that I am. I am independent. But I call my music commercial because I don’t want to limit myself. I think my music is commercially viable. I think you could put it on the radio tomorrow and it has the potential to be just as mainstream as what you hear on the radio, if given the chance. And that’s really what I’m trying to say with that.
I say ‘with awareness and attitude’ because obviously not everything on the radio, while it’s all catchy and has its own merits, those merits don’t always include awareness and consciousness as you would say, in terms of being socially conscious and actually having some intelligence behind it. So that’s definitely what I’m bringing to it.”
CHASE: “Yeah and I think that’s a challenge because too many rappers either are ignorant or feign ignorance. And too many of the commercial listeners don’t seem to be concerned at all with lyrics. I mean, there’s too many people that listen to a song and you ask them what it’s about or talk about some lyrics and they go ‘What? Oh! I just like it cause I like the beat.’ Ya know, like they don’t actually listen.
I really wish that your music was more commercial and that more people knew about it. But the simple fact of the matter is, I don’t know if intelligent rap can actually sell nowadays.”
SOULSTICE: “Here’s the thing, I feel like you can have both. I think songs can be catchy and universal and also be intelligent. Just look at all of the decades of music that we’ve had that fit both of those criteria. But it’s funny. I don’t dislike commercial music. That’s another thing, as an underground or independent rapper it would be really kind of cliché for me to say, ‘Nah, I don’t really f*ck with this artist or that artist.’ And I guess Soldier Boy is kind of the scapegoat now for mainstream music. And it’s funny because I was on Twitter and TalibKweli is one of my Twitter friends or whatever. And it’s funny because I got a tweet from him one time that was like, ‘ya know what I like the song she got a dunk.’ That’s one of Soldier Boy’s songs. And I tweeted back to him ‘I like that song too.’ It’s a catchy song, ya know what I mean? It’s totally brainless. You can read everything into that song from the title – a girl has a big ass, and there’s nothing more said during the song. Totally decoded from the title. But, it’s catchy. I like the beat and everything like that.
But I feel like he could have had the same chorus and the same beat and just said something worthwhile in the verses. Same thing with any of these other songs. You can have the beat. I know because I’ve taken some of these commercial beats and put lyrics over them that make sense, ya know, just to do a freestyle or whatever. And if you took my verse and the hook they came up with and the beat they already had, it would’ve been a commercial song with awareness and attitude.
So sometimes I just think, like, ‘Take a step back. You got the catchy chorus. You got the hot beat. Now just challenge yourself a little bit to say something that makes sense in the verses.’
CHASE: “Definitely. I wanted to talk to you about the significance of your name. Like how did you come up with your name and what’s the meaning behind it?”
SOULSTICE: “I released my first album in 2003 but I really kind of started rapping in 1993, just to date myself a little bit. I know the first time I ever recorded my voice on tape was over the g-thang instrumental. I don’t think I even had a name then. But probably around 95-ish or so, I came up with the name Solstice.
First thing is that the name has got to sound cool. It can be the most meaningful name in the world and if it sounds weird or doesn’t flow, you can’t say it on the records. Otherwise it isn’t really meaningful for a hip-hop artist. So I wanted a name that sounds cool and has some significance to it. Obviously the dictionary definition of the word solstice ‘the longest and shortest days of the year.’ There’s a lot of significance there with the sun and the calendar and all that. People can do their own research on that.
So I had the name with just with the dictionary spelling for a couple of years and then I adopted the current spelling SoulStice, as my music was becoming more soulful, it made sense. The funny thing is that I didn’t actually think of that myself. In 1997 I did a battle on stage. I won the battle and was in the local newspaper and they misprinted my name that way. And at first I was mad. I was like, ‘Yo! That’s not the way I spell my name’ and then I was like, “Yo! That’s better than the way I spell my name.’”
CHASE: “That’s awesome!”
SOULSTICE: “It was fitting at the time because I think that was the last battle I ever did, and my music was becoming less battle oriented, less rookie-ish and, I guesss, just becoming more meaningful and more soulful.”
CHASE: “Yeah, I just discovered you but I found all your old stuff and I’ve been listening to some of your older albums and you’ve got some straight battle rhymes on some of them. And they’re nice.”
SOULSCTICE: “Thanks, man. So you can see my lineage as a battle rapper shining through, mostly in some of the earlier material.”
CHASE: “It’s nice to see that you’ve got such a catalogue, and such strong music, and I like the way the soul is spelled in your name because I’ve seen a progression even though I’ve only been listening to you a short time. But I’m really enjoying what I’m hearing. And there’s three more songs I’d like to play. And I know we’ve been talking for a long time so Gamma, could we play like two songs in a row?”
GAMMA KRUSH: “Sure.”
CHASE: “Alright, so we’re gonna play two songs in a row, give you some nice SoulStice music here and then will come back and chat with you some more. And then we’ll play one more and we’ll be outta here. How’s that sound?”
SOULSTICE: “Word, it sounds great. And by the way, never worry about having me talk for too long ‘cause I can talk forever.”
CHASE: “That’s awesome because I know a lot of people are pressed for time. They got things to do. You got a young family there. I like how we’ve been talking about a lot of different issues here. It feels like I could talk to you a lot longer. So this has been really nice.”
SOULSTICE: “There’s not a lot of interviews where I actually sit down with somebody and they say, ‘Oh wow, I actually listened to all your albums or this cross-section of your albums.’ We talk about career progression and we talk about ‘oh this song means this and this lyric means that.’ It used to be that a lot of my interviews were like that. I’m talking about 2004, stuff like that. But nowadays, almost nobody does that. So, it’s refreshing.
Now so, it’s more like the canned interview questions like ‘How did you get started as an MC?’ and all that, like ‘What do you think about the state of hip-hop?’ But you know, we cover those things but it’s in the context of a larger line of conversation. Where before that was more common, now it’s like, ‘Yeah, I got the same set of ten questions I ask every artist’ kind of thing.
CHASE: “Nah, I definitely don’t do that. I like doing my research and I think we’re getting into our groove here at Dope fm where we’re actually having conversations with the artists right now. We had a remarkable one with Windchill from After.words and Artists Over Industry a while back, it was amazing. I could’ve talked to that cat all night long. It was really an excellent interview. This one’s been awesome too. It’s nice when you can actually talk to a real hip-hop head and actually have intelligent conversation and that’s definitely what we like to do here.”
SOULSTICE: “And I like to be a part of it.”
CHASE: “I’m sure glad you are. I’m sure glad that Gamma Krush said, ‘Hey, check this cat out.’ Because I’m feeling your music and I want to drop two tracks right now. I want to drop ‘I Found It,’ and then ‘Closer.’ Those are both off of your new album Beyond Borders. If you don’t got that, go cop that.”
SOULSTICE: “Go to iTunes. Go type it in. Search for it on iTunes.”
CHASE: “Definitely, definitely. Okay Gamma Krush spins those and we’ll be back to wrap up the interview after that. Stay tuned.”
This is Part 2 of the interview I did with SoulStice. You can listen to it as a stream here, or you can download it for free from the Dope FM page.
At the end of Part 1, we played the song “Strange Kind of Love” off of the Beyond Borders album from SoulStice. If you don’t have this album, go cop that now. It’s an amazing album produced by Sbe. That last song we played is a great song too and we go further in depth with it here in Part 2.
CHASE: “Nice, nice track man.”
SOULSTICE: “Thank you. I appreciate that.”
CHASE: “I really like some of the lyrics in there. The one lyric you say, ‘You making me proud when you wearing that ring … make love then show our kids what love is.’ That’s really nice ‘cause you don’t actually here too much on this type of topic in hip-hop, about actual true love and showing kids what love is. That’s amazing.”
SOULSTICE: “Thanks. And we’re coming from a community in hip-hop, and I guess the black community at large, where the family is really in crisis. A lot of rappers talk about how they didn’t have their dad in their lives. And I was talking to Gamma Krush on text and mentioned that me and my wife just had a kid two weeks ago.”
SS: “And I’ll be really happy to be a part of this kid’s life and show him what I think love is, you know, share our values that, you know, people deserve to be treated with a minimum of respect. And to really respect people’s humanity and to allow people the basic freedoms to pursue their own happiness and love without all these barriers that we put up as a society.”
CHASE: “Yeah, that’s what really what’s needed because there’s too many dads that aren’t dads. And too many kids growing up without any strong male role model in their life at all, and they need that. So it’s nice to see that you’re going to be doing that with your new born, so congratulations on that.”
SOULSTICE: “Thanks man, I’m gonna try my best.”
CHASE: “Yeah, that’s awesome. I want to talk to you a little but about your spirituality. You say, you write all your own stuff so it probably is autobiographical but also talk about God in this song. And in a couple of your other songs, you mention it too. In this one you say, ‘God is love so it’s meant to be.’ I’m assuming that’s about you and your wife that line.”
SOULSTICE: “Absolutely. That line is in the second verse where I’m talking about same sex love, same sex marriage. And you know, I have a lot of different friends, of all different religions and all that. And the people that are the most religious, that I know, a lot of times tend to be the most opposed to gay marriage. And people look in the Bible to try and quote this and that. To me, they’re using religion to, I hate to say it, they’re using religion to promote hate and bigotry, you know what I mean. And that’s really what I’m getting at here.
So I’m saying ‘God is love,’ in terms of if you are a really religious person, I think that’s one of the tenets that I know of Christianity. God is love. And so that means any example of love, any relationship, is God, ya know what I mean. God is love. So if two people are in love, that’s meant to be. You can’t use God to try and keep people from being in love and try to keep love from happening. And that’s really what I’m saying in those two lines.”
SOULSTICE: “I have some friends that are really Christian that might take issue with what I just said.”
CHASE: “Ya, well that’s the interesting thing about quoting things. I mean, I’ve already quoted you wrong in this one interview. And when I hear people quoting the Bible, it kind of brings me back to my university days because there’s a couple essays I wrote where I used a misused a quote and I know I did it but I made it say what I wanted it to say.”
SOULSTICE: “Right, and with the Bible, it’s tough man. It’s easy to quote out of context and use the exact words and take them out of context even if the words are correct. There are just so many problems with taking the Bible literally. It’s a historical document, complied from lots of different stories from different writers. And to zero in on any one thing and say this is what I’m gonna latch on to, when there are so many things in the Bible that we all consider to be ridiculous in terms of interpreting literally. There’s something in the Bible that says you shouldn’t sit in the same chair as a menstruating women. It’s crazy stuff. So to zero in on one thing and cherry pick like that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
CHASE: “Yeah, I think some of it misses the point. That’s why when you say ‘God is love,” if people could concentrate on that, then that’s cool.”
SOULSTICE: “And you asked me about my own religion. I’m kind of open-minded. I went to Catholic grade school 1-6 and that kind of beat the Catholicism out of me. So, I don’t subscribe to any particular religion but I do consider myself a spiritual person and I do believe in something greater than myself. So when I say God, for me, that’s what I’m talking about, that which connects us and unites us and all that. So that’s where I’m coming from personally.”
GAMMA KRUSH: “I know how you’re saying how people always are using the Bible for bigotry and all that stuff. But at the same time, those people that they’re attacking, could the Bible be used to counterpoint all these people that are using something from the Bible? Has the Bible ever been used to counterpoint? I’ve always wondered that.”
CHASE: “I think it has.”
SOULSTICE: “I think you can certainly find dialogue in the Bible, in the New Testament, that talks about love and has themes of universal love, especially in some of the Apostles’ writings. I’m not an expert but when people try to counterpoint with the Bible, a lot of times, what they do is they do is say, ‘Well, if you could interpret this passage literally, if you interpret this other passage literally, that leads to something ridiculous.’ Ya know, something that’s clearly outdated, something that’s clearly a reflection of the times and something that we should’ve moved beyond by now.”
CHASE: “I think it’s time to drop another track. We’ve been talking for a little while. Do you have anything you’d like to hear?”
SOULSTICE: “Y’all been taking it back with all these different albums, there’s so much material. Since, we’ve been talking about Beyond Borders why don’t we play ‘World Star’ with Zap Mama?”
CHASE: “Alright, let’s drop that track right now. This is ‘World Star’ featuring Zap Mama off of the ‘Beyond Borders’ album from SoulStice. If you don’t got that, go cop that, ‘cause I’m really feeling it. I definitely want to talk some more after we play this track about the concept behind the album as well.”
SOULSTICE: “Right on.”
CHASE: “So Gamma Krush spin that track. Chase March will be back with SoulStice after this.”
SORRY but I couldn’t find this one to embed here. Listen to the podcast or pick up the album. It’s worth it. Great song!
CHASE: “The one thing I like about your new album Beyond Borders is that you kind of go on an international tour across the whole world and you’ve got artists from everywhere on there. It’s pretty amazing.”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah man. As I said on the album, I just got interested in travel in college when I studied abroad in Russia. You know, you go to all these places and you see the effect that US culture has had in places even as far a field as Japan or Russia, especially Europe and places like that. It’s clear that we export our culture to those places and have for a number of years. But what I don’t see a lot of, is reversing that flow and really tapping the art in those different places to see, not only what’s happening there in terms of the indigenous and native music, but also take a first hand look at how we’ve impacted their culture.
For instance, on ‘Two Days in Paris’ on Beyond Borders, it’s myself collaborating with a French MC. I actually have him rapping in French and that’s something you’re not gonna hear on a lot of US hip-hop releases.”
CHASE: “Definitely not. Sometimes you hear it on a few Canadian ones because French is our second language up here. But yeah, that’s pretty interesting. Your beat maker, Sbe, was this entire thing produced by Sbe?”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah, all the instrumental music was provided by Sbe.”
CHASE: “And he’s from Belgium, right?”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah, he’s outta Belgium. And we just met, I guess kind of cliché at this point, ya know, we met on myspace about four years ago. And he’s just been providing beats for a lot of my projects that I’ve done in between. And somewhere we got in our heads that we need to collaborate on a project. And at first we didn’t have this international theme. We were just gonna do a bunch of songs and put them together. And he was telling me that we should collaborate with this artist that he knew in Belgium and I’d say, ‘Oh, well we need to get this artist from the US.’ And I was like, wow, we should really make this a whole international project. And from there, the theme kind of unfolded, the different collaborations and the song concepts and all that.
I really wanted the entire album to tell a story. You don’t want it to be too repetitive and beat people over the head. At the same time, I wanted each song to play into the theme. And that’s one of the reasons I’m really proud of this album. I’m really proud of all my albums but I feel this one is the most cohesive in terms of all the songs playing to the theme of the album. I think it really tells a story.”
CHASE: “I think it does too. How did you do these collaborations. Did you have to travel or were you able to do it all online?”
SOULSTICE: “A little bit of both. As much as possible, I wanted to be in the studio with these artists. I know it’s popular to do the remote collaborations but I really like the experience of being in the studio with an artist. And the song we just played ‘World Star.’ I was lucky enough to get to do that session with Zap Mama while she was on tour.
Zap Mama was born on the Congo in Africa. She lives in Belgium and I actually caught her in New York while she was on tour in the states. And so we recorded that song in New York while she was on tour. And various other songs we were able to record with the actual artist. And some we got the verse over email or whatever and plugged it in. But we tried to do the live studio sessions as much as possible.”
CHASE: “Nice! Alright, you’re talking with DOPE Fm in Canada up here so definitely I gotta shout out the song you did with Eternia. Did you get a chance to work with her in the studio?”
SOULSTICE: “I didn’t, but I kind of give myself a pass on that one because I’ve met Eternia several times. We’ve done shows together and all that. So, I guess the real point is that you want to have a personal relationship with the artists you collaborate with. At least, that’s my goal. And Eternia is somebody I’ve had a relationship with over the years. We’ve corresponded, and like I said, we’ve rocked shows and everything. So, she was up in Canada at the time and did her verse up from Toronto. But we were in the studio together in spirit on that one.”
CHASE: “That’s pretty awesome that you can make stuff happen like that and not even have to be in the same place. I really like how, that track in particular, really hammers home the whole concept of the album – how hip-hop is at home everywhere on the globe. I think it just ties in the whole concept of the album very nicely.”
SOULSTICE: “Word. I appreciate that, man. I really wanted to hear some different voice on that one. United States is a great place, like the song title says ‘No Place Like It.’ I wouldn’t rather be from any other place. But I do feel that we can be introverted at times, in terms of being inward focused, looking at our culture and not really understanding what it’s like to live or be apart of these other cultures in these places around the world. And so I reached out to Eternia and asked her to write me a verse that tells me something about what it’s like to be from Canada. What do you like, what do you dislike?
And I reached out to Rich and I said the same thing. I know for a fact that Ireland is an under-represented view in hip-hop. And I said the same thing. I said, ‘Tell me what it’s like to live in Ireland’ in the verse. That’s what I wanted to capture and then I came in with the last verse and did the same thing for the US.”
CHASE: “Alright, let’s drop that track so everyone can hear what we’ve been talking about. You want to throw to that for us?”
SOULSTICE: “No doubt. This is ‘No Place Like It,” featuring Eternia, Richie Filth, and Stefernia on the chorus. Check it out.”
CHASE: “Thanks, cool.”
Well that ends part 2 of this exclusive interview. Make sure you come back tomorrow for Part 3 of the transcript and go to the Dope FM page to download the podcast for free. Consider subscribing as well since we always bring you the best in underground hip-hop with great mix sets and interviews. See you tomorrow.
Gamma Krush and I interviewed SoulStice this past weekend for Dope FM on 93.3 CFMU on the campus of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. We discussed his music, some relevant issues of the day, and spun tracks from his extensive discography.
I typed up the interview so that you can read it here or you can go and download it for free to listen to anytime you want. I hope you enjoy. Without further ado, here is part 1 of the SoulStice interview. Enjoy!
CHASE: “Alright everybody this is Chase March, here with Gamma Krush on the 1’s and 2’s, and we’re lucky enough to be on the phone lines with SoulStice. How ya doing?”
CHASE: “Yeah, I’ve just been introduced to your music but you’ve been making music since the early 2000’s.”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah, I put out my first album in 2003.”
CHASE: “And that album was North by Northwest. But then I saw your discography, you released two years later, North by Northwest: Solid Ground, so what’s the story there?”
SOULSTICE: “Well, basically, North by Northwest was an album I put together while I was finishing grad school to get my masters in electrical engineering. And I was doing that and putting an album together at the same time. And I was really still kind of coming into my own as an artist. The first joint had a bunch of songs on it, and you know, they were kind of all over the place. It was a really good album, I got a lot of really good feedback, but in ’05, I actually had the chance to re-release it with a distribution deal through Sony and Universal in Japan. And rather than just take the album as it was, I wanted to clean it up ‘cause I’d done a lot of maturing as an artist in those two years. And also as a label and a music producer, I knew a little bit more about how to put an album together at that point. So, I just wanted to go back and clean it up a little bit. Update it.”
CHASE: “Nice, that’s not something a lot of people get a chance to do.”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah, you know, when you release an album, just selling it out of your trunk and you only press a thousand, once those are gone you got a chance to control any further releases out of it. So, it’s kind of nice to be an indy artist, in that way, you get a lot of freedom.”
CHASE: “Definitely. So are you still signed right now for this latest release Beyond Borders?”
SOULSTICE: “Well, I’ve never been signed per se, ya know. I do distribution deals and usually those are just one-off. So I’ve always been a free agent. I have my own label, Wandering Soul. I produce all my own music. The way I do it, is basically, produce the album and then I have a product. I take that product and then see if I can partner with a larger company on distribution. And sometimes I’ve done that I sometimes I haven’t. In ’05 I did that with Sony. And for the Wade Waters release, Dark Water, in ’06, we actually partnered with EMI. And that’s basically for the US market.
For the foreign markets, I pretty much always do a partnership. ‘Cause in reality, I know about putting records together but I don’t really know anything about selling records in Japan. I don’t speak Japanese and I don’t know how to write their characters, ya know what I mean? So, it’s advantageous for me to partner with Universal Music over in Japan or anywhere from that to a small indy label. So they can take my music and really make it marketable in Japan. So I’m always looking to make a deal in terms of a win-win situation like that.”
CHASE: “ Yeah, that sounds like a good plan and it seems to be working for you because you’ve managed to release music every couple of years on average here for the past several years. I’d like to drop one of your tracks right now off of your previous album Dead Letter Perfect. I want to drop ‘Book of Days’ and talk about some of the lyrics after we play it.”
SOULSTICE: “No doubt.”
CHASE: “All right so this is ‘Book of Days’ by SoulStice off his Dead Letter Perfect album. Gamma Krush is gonna spin that and Chase March and SoulStice will be back. More of the interview in a second, stay tuned.”
CHASE: “Alright. We’re back that was ‘Book of Days’ off of Dead Letter Perfect by SoulStice. SoulStice, how ya doing?”
SOULSTICE: “Yo, I’m doing good man.”
CHASE: “I like one of the lines in there. It says, ‘Too wise to let another man write for me.’ and I just wanted to talk about how you feel about ghostwriting.”
SOULSTICE: “Ha, ha. Actually, we can talk about that, but actually the lyric says ‘fight for me.’”
CHASE: “Oh, ‘fight for me.’ Oh, wow.”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah, so the lyric is actually saying ‘I’m too proud to let another man fight for me.’ And that’s just in terms of fighting my own battles. Ya know, I am too proud in some cases and too much of a perfectionist to ask for help sometimes. So that’s kind of what I was getting at with that line.
But you raise another good point in terms of ghostwriting. I don’t know. You know, the music business is a business. For me, personally, I’m in the kind of situation where, as we’ve been through before, I have a Masters degree in engineering, I have a career that puts food on my table, and I make music because I enjoy doing it. I try to do it in a way that makes good business sense where I can still make money and break even on the album, or make money on my tours, or whatever. Sometimes I’m more successful at that than others.
But in terms of the larger artists that are doing this moreso for their primary source of income, it makes. I mean, you think about a, Snoop Dogg for example. Snoop is busy touring and filming a TV show and doing the clothing line and all that, so for him for every hour he’s sitting down writing lyrics, his enterprise in losing money. Y know what I mean?
So that’s kind of the way the business works. You’d be surprised at the artist that are coming up, now that I’m doing writing for myself and other artists. A&R’s put out a call, Snoop, or MusiqSoulchild, or whatever artist are looking for songs and they collect ideas. And even the artists that write for themselves, they take those ideas and build from them but they are still soliciting ideas from the writing community.
So a lot of artist are doing it. It’s pretty much almost all the major label artists are doing that. And I’m happy to write for some of those artists and contribute. I think that’s dope. I mean I used to be a little bit more of a snob as far as ghostwriting but it is what it is. It’s how the business works.
Now, in terms of my own music, of course, ya know, I write every single word. And every single idea, comes from myself. Some songs, I collaborate with other artists but for me I don’t think fans are coming to an indy artist like me to just hear random thoughts and ideas put together. I guess that’s the benefit of being a fan of an indy artist, you get to know them personally. That’s what I offer above and beyond what’s happening with a major label artist. You’re hearing me. My thoughts and ideas.”
CHASE: “Good answer. Ya, cause I guess I’m probably a little but of a snob that way. And one of the reasons I like hip-hop is that most people do tend to write their own stuff. At least that’s the impression you get.”
SOULSTICE: “That’s the impression.”
CHASE: “Yeah, that’s definitely the impression and maybe it’s not necessarily the reality so that’s kind of cool.”
SOULSTICE: “Well how do you feel about this? A lot of the time when artists solicit ideas, it’ll be like someone will come at them with a beat, and a song idea, and a hook, and then the then the artists will write their own verses in. As a fan of an artists would you still feel slighted in that case?”
CHASE: “I don’t think so because that’s more of a teamwork between the MC and producer. And that kind of goes back to the golden age when you had a DJ in every crew, like Primo and Guru in Gangstarr. Even Marco Polo and Torae that are doing it now. Like, that’s nice.”
GAMMA KRUSH: “And also the token producer, that’s what Marco Polo is, he’s a producer. For example. Ultra Magnetic MCs and NWA, you had MC’s, a couple producers, and a DJ. Or they could be am MC / Producer, DJ/ Producer, I don’t know if you really had an MC / DJ, it was very rare. It was different in those type of times then.”
CHASE: “Yeah but I think more of what you’re saying there is that it’s about collaboration. And I think two heads are ultimately better than one.”
SOULSTICE: “And in reality, with these major label releases, if there’s any money being spent on it, trust, there are more than two heads. There are four, or five, or six heads.”
SOULSTICE: “And sometimes on one song, You just open up a Kanye West album or whoever’s album and look at the liner notes and see how many names are listed on every one of those songs. There’s a lot of people contributing.”
CHASE: “Yeah, I actually have noticed that. But in recent times, liner notes, we don’t really get them. We get a lot of music sent to us here electronically at the station. And sometimes you don’t bother looking at the jpegs ‘cause you just get so much music. So it’s kind of crazy.”
SOULSTICE: “That’s the problem man. I feel that nobody’s really listening to the music now. I used to put out releases, and now I’m sounding like some old times but we’re really just talking about 2003, 2005 ya know. I’d really be looking online and waiting for the reviews of my album to come out and people used to take a lot of pride, even in just the critiquing of music. And they would actually listen and get real deep, down, inside of it like you were in an English class studying Thoreau or something, ya know what I mean? And sometimes, they would see things in the music that I wouldn’t even see. It would be great. I really looked forward to the process of putting an album out there are seeing what people said about it.
And the volume of music has increased exponentially since then to the point that now, that the reviewers are so overwhelmed. You can tell they spent 15 to 20 minutes listening to an hour-long album and writing some surface level review.
For instance, in Beyond Borders there’s a song on their called ‘Strange Kind of Love’ and in that song, the first verse is about an inter-racial relationship. Me and my wife basically, black and white. And then drawing a parallel in the second verse with homophobia and same sex marriage and all that. And it’s actually kind of a deep song. And I read one of the reviews and it said, ‘Strange Kind of Love’ is a song about an ex-girlfriend. And, ya know, it just made me really disappointed.
On one side of it, I emphasize with the writer and I’m sure that they have such a volume of music they’re trying to get through but it made me lament the state of affairs. In hip-hop, there’s too much music coming out. And in hip-hop journalism and on the critique side the quality of all that has gone down based just on the volume.”
CHASE: “And it’s a shame too because that is an amazing song and I wanted to drop that and actually quote two lyrics out of it and talk about the concept behind that whole song, cause that song really hit me. I’m like a lyrical dude and I liked what you were doing with that.”
SOULSTICE: “Thank you, man. I appreciate that.
CHASE: “So we’re going to drop that. We’re going to come back and touch on a few of the lyrics. And I hope that people out there are listening to the lyrics these days and not just the beats because you can tell from your stuff that you’ve got a lot to say, that you’re an educated man, and just the way you deliver it, everything is nice about this album. I want to talk a lot about it, got a lot of stuff to say, but let’s here some more music right now. This is ‘Strange Kind of Love’ of the album Beyond Borders. We’ll be back.”
Well that’s the end of Part 1 of the interview. Please go and download the podcast for free and consider subscribing to it as well since we always bring you the best in underground hip-hop mix sets, and dope interviews.