SoulStice - one of the dopest emcees out there and we’re extremely pleased he has taken the time out to answer our questions. We would like to extend our huge thanks to him on this.
For those of you that don’t know SoulStice, he is Chicagos finest and is also part of Wade Waters with emcee Haysoos. Please take a listen to some of the YouTube clips at the bottom of this interview, we have picked 3 of our particular faves but there are many more great tracks to listen too, so please, don’t stop there and go out and get all his stuff, you won’t be disappointed.
Rockfresh: Firstly, huge thanks for agreeing to this. Without doubt you’re one of the best on the scene at the moment and we are honoured that you’ve taken the time to do this for us.
SoulStice: No doubt, I appreciate the interest and the kind words!
Rockfresh: You’re making music, you have a demanding job, you’re a husband and a father. How do you fit it all in? Do you ever sleep?!
SoulStice: A few years ago, when “all” I had going on was the demanding job, the music career, and the marriage, I would have said something about time-management and not minding putting in all the hours because I had a passion for all of my various pursuits, etc. All that is still true. However, throwing a couple of kids in the mix changes everything. All of a sudden, priorities get shifted around that delicate “time-management” balance basically goes out the window. Now, if I record a song, I gotta REALLY wanna record that song cuz it’ll mean losing sleep at the end of a crazy long day. If I do a show, it’s gotta be a show I REALLY wanna do because it might mean being away from my family for a night or two.
Rockfresh: Clearly you don’t do all this for no reason. You always speak so positively about your life and the people around you. You must look at yourself and be rather proud of all you’ve achieved? What would be your key piece of advice to any up and coming artists?
SoulStice: As an artist “why am I doing this?” is a question I’ve confronted myself with almost continually since the very beginning. I usually come up with a good answer, but the motivations shifts over time. At the very beginning I was doing it purely out of a need to express myself. That’s always been the baseline motivation. As I went on, I became more driven by a desire for artistic achievement. The more people I spoke to through my music, the more it validated and justified all of the time and effort I put in. For a time I was motivated by the idea that one day my music might provide for my family financially. I’m in an interesting space now in which I’ve achieved everything I set out to achieve to a significant extent, although maybe not to the extent that I’d originally thought possible. Now I’m sort of back to basics - I make music because I love to make music, everything else will work itself out. If I make the music that’s in my soul, people will find it. People are still discovering music I put out almost 10 years ago like it’s brand new. Anyone interested in following an artistic path should make sure they’re doing it for reasons that make sense to them.
Rockfresh: Planning and timely execution is sometimes a theme of your music, which to juggle so much effectively must be the main core of your being. Is that your natural way or did determination to achieve make you that way?
SoulStice: I love making lists and checking things off. I love “accomplishing” things, that does lie at the core of being - I like the way you put that. My predisposition towards achievement makes the creation of an album like a kind of project management task for me - something I do in my “day job” as well. That may sound dry, but it’s invigorating to me to conceive of something out of the blue, a grand artistic (or algorithmic, in my day job) vision that slowly takes shape through hard work. For me, my mixture of right and left brain manifests differently at different stages of creation. At the lowest level - writing verses is almost all left brain - spontaneous creativity driven by mood and atmosphere. At the highest level - putting an album together is more algorithmic, creating order from the chaotic low-level creations.
Rockfresh: If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
SoulStice: I look at that question like those stories where people go back in time and kill a fly and then come back to the present and everything is different. I love my life and the people in it, so it’s hard to know what I’d be giving up in the present if I was to go back and started changing my decisions. That said, it would be interesting to see what would have happened if I’d have moved to somewhere like New York, LA, or even Paris after college.
Rockfresh: It has always been quite apparent through all your work that you’ll talk about what you want to talk about. Tackling issues that are important to you, speaking fondly about your wife, and genuinely speaking confidently about who you are. These days, there’s an outlet for all kinds of hip-hop on the net but things were different 10-15 years ago. Was it difficult finding your feet in the industry when starting out when portraying a positive, intellectual image and message?
SoulStice: I love this question. You’re right man, back when I first starting taking myself seriously as an artist (early 2000’s), I thought that there was a deficit of honest, down-to-earth conversation in hip hop. For me, my music is about telling my story and doing so in a way that a lot of people can hopefully relate to. That’s what I’ve always tried to bring to the table, even when the kind of things I’m talking about aren’t popular. I talked about being married when rappers were talking about dating culture. I talked about LGBT issues when rappers were still talking about “No-homo.” I’ve never been an “industry artist,” even though I’ve had the opportunity to perform and record with industry artists and do industry things like attend the Grammys. From what I can tell, there are like 2 or 3 slots in the industry for hip hop artists with a “positive, intellectual image and message” and they’re all filled. I make music independently and cast it out like a message in a bottle for people to discover.
Rockfresh: Do you listen to your own music regularly? What is your favourite track?
SoulStice: Yes! Call me self-involved, but I love listening to my own music. Albums are like time-capsules. I can throw in my early work and remember exactly what I was thinking at the time, what my goals for the future were back then, and I can see how my creative process was different. I don’t know that I have a single favorite track - sometimes it’s fun to throw in the songs with a lot of a shit-talk and bravado…I always think to myself, “I gotta make more of those…lol.” Lately my two-year old son has gotten into “Dead Letter Perfect.” Sometimes he requests “daddy-music” in the car, which is an amazing feeling for me. Right now his favorite song is “Like This.”
Rockfresh: You’ve worked with Oddisee before, what’s the chances of you 2 dropping an album together? Maybe even throw in Kenn Starr to the mix? We can’t see how that wouldn’t transpire to being one of the greatest albums of all time!
SoulStice: I work with a lot of artists remotely nowadays, but Oddisee is someone I always created with in-person. I always felt like we had a special chemistry in the studio. I have many fond memories of his studio in mother’s basement (back in the day!), stopping the session to eat whatever his mother had cooked that night. On the way home, savouring the sound of the latest mix in the car speakers while noting a dozen or so things that needed to be tweaked. Those were fun times - I would love to get back in the studio with O - if you see him on the street, tell him I said so! Of course, we’d need to get features from Haysoos, Kenn, Kev, and Kaimbr to make it official.
Rockfresh: What will we be seeing from you in 2012?
SoulStice: I’m slowly working on an awesome project with my producer and friend, Mighty Wyte who is incredibly talented behind the boards. The sound beds are refreshing and different from my previous music and I’m doing what I do best - narrating my latest chapters. Can’t wait to get this one out there - hopefully in 2012 but like it or not, I do have to sleep sometimes…so, we’ll see!
Rockfresh: Again, thanks so much for this. Look forward to hearing more from you in the future, hopefully with Oddisee!
SoulStice: No doubt man, thanks again for the interest.