Due to the modest financial returns it offers the majority of its artists, British hip-hop has had more than its fair share of casualties over the years. One example of this is the defunct collective Lords of Rap. After releasing a string of singles in the early 1990s with limited success, the London-based quartet decided to split up. Eight years on, the group’s main producer and rapper Def G now goes by the name of Soliheen and was the man responsible for producing two of the tracks on Ty’s well-received debut LP as well as crafting beats for new rhyme-slinger Joker Starr.
Soliheen’s music career has evidently progressed since his Lords of Rap days; but what happened to the rest of the crew? “Lords of Rap ended in January 1994… Immediately after we split up, me and Extreme became Oaktree,” Soliheen recalls. “We only did a couple of tracks, plus a show at the Subterranea [night club in London] with Beverley Knight, Rodney P and a whole load of other people. Then what happened is that Extreme became a postman and I was doing a lot of studio engineering at the time and basically our hours were just the complete opposite. We just couldn’t keep the contact up, so, that just sort of fizzled out. After that, people started getting families and things like that.”
Soliheen still keeps in touch with DJ Extreme and MC Reu from his old group and he reveals that the two former colleague of his have recently started collaborating together on some new music. “I don’t know what it is [they’re doing],” he admits. “I think they’re just working some stuff out casually before they bring it to me. I can’t wait to hear it!”
As a hip-hop producer, Soliheen built a reputation for himself (using the name Def G) through making beats for Lords or Rap and for other up-and-coming acts including Flintstone, Lethal, Chris Smoove and eventually Ty. “I had a production company called Mad Dog Productions,” he remembers. “One of the other producers was producing for Bloodhounds, so I submitted a couple of tracks for them. Ty heard them and stole one of the tracks. I think that was for ‘That’s Definite’ which came out with ‘Shortee’s Theme’. I ended up doing a whole load of tracks with Ty and Shortee Blitz, like thirty or forty.”
Soliheen is currently working on an album project with the Slough-based rapper Joker Starr, as well as producing tracks for Wildflower and singer Alison Evelyn. All of his recent work falls under a new production company he helped set up: Wise Child. “It’s not just me,” Soliheen explains. “There’s another guy – James Yarde ‘The Black Jack’. He plays keys in the Apricot Jam band and he’s done some production work for r&b acts. We’re basically the people running Wise Child at the moment.” When the pair set the company up in 1997, they decided that Wise Child would have an educational role to play as well as an entertainment one. “I teach music and so does James as well, so we’re looking at incorporating that side of things, and the whole educating of Black people in this country. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all gonna be about teaching music, but music is the obvious medium to [use to] get information across.”
The WiseChild.com web site is due to be launched in March 2002 as the main base for Soliheen and Black Jack’s ‘edutainment’ activities. Until then, they have plenty of studio work that will keep them occupied. “James has just been doing quite a big project that’s coming out on Def Jam,” Soliheen says. “It’s this new artist who’s just signed called Terri Walker. She’s a female vocalist and he’s done about four or five tracks for that. That’s gonna be ready soon. I’ve done a lot of stuff for Wildflower. Her thing is hopefully gonna blast off very soon. It’s not officially an album project, though we have done an album’s worth of tracks. She’s just getting a portfolio of tracks together to [use to help] shop for a deal.”
Soliheen also has the task ahead of him of selecting and mixing down the tracks that will be used for Joker Starr’s debut LP. He has handled the majority of the beat-making on the project so far and believes that when working with Black Jack, their complimentary production styles have plenty to offer listeners. “The whole aim of when James and me do production as Wise Children is that it’s got to be rugged,” he says. “That doesn’t mean that every tune has gotta be hard – the smoothest r&b ballad can be rugged. There’s just gotta be an edge to it. It’s an organic thing…The main thing, though, is to make this Wise Child thing work. Wise Child is gonna be a long-term thing and we intend to be around for a long time.”