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 Talib Kweli 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.”
Sorry but I could only find one video to embed here. Make sure you go buy the album or download the podcast to hear both tracks. And see you here tomorrow for the conclusion of the interview.