Since starting out in the game in 1993 whilst still at school Soulstice has developed a soulful sound and in 2004 his own imprint – Wandering Soul Records. The Chicago based artist has a degree in Computer Engineering and a new LP entitled Dead Letter Perfect out now. Check out what he had to say to britishhiphop.co.uk's Lady Jay UK…
Lady Jay UK: Whats the SoulStice sound?
Soulstice: “Bangin’ soul music” is how I’d describe my sound. It’s “soul music” because every song makes you feel something when you listen to it. You’ll feel whatever I was feeling when I wrote it happy, sad, invincible, whatever emotion the instrumental music originally inspired when I listened to it.
Lady Jay UK: What inspires you?
Soulstice: Every song has a unique inspiration, so it’s easiest to answer by example. I’ve got a few songs on “Dead Letter Perfect” that are based heavily on personal experiences. “The Time” is about my wife and I making the transition from going to college in Illinois to living in DC / Maryland. “Be Strong” is about a sexual assault that somebody I know went through in college. “Recognize” is about realizing that everything in life has a purpose and finding the meaning in our struggle. Some other songs are based on ideas like “World’s On Fire.” That one is my reaction to a lot of the political and social strife happening in the world right now.
Lady Jay UK: How long has it taken you to get where you are now?
Soulstice: As artist, I’ve been developing my craft since I was in high school. I started writing lyrics in 1993. The first lyrics I wrote were written to the “G Thang” beat, just to put that in perspective! Over the years, I’ve grown a lot as an artist and as a person and all that comes through in my music. My sound will keep changing as I change. From a business standpoint, I started Wandering Soul Records in 2004. That was the point when I really started building my career on the business side.
Lady Jay UK Has it been difficult to create your album whilst working full time?
Soulstice: Doing both things definitely keeps me busy! But in the end, I think having my masters degree in computer engineering and working at the department of defense makes me better as artist. At the end of the day, I have more to offer in my music. It gives me perspective and insights that most artists don’t have.
Lady Jay UK: You’ve supported artists such as John Legend and Wu-Tang Clan, do you think you’ve leant anything from these experiences?
Soulstice: I learn something new every time I step on stage. Every crowd has its own energy, every city has its own feel, every sound system has a unique sound…and some sound systems don’t work right! So putting on an excellent show is different every time and I love the challenge. Sharing stages with great artists always helps too, because I always get ideas for my own show. Seeing a dope show is like a hearing another emcee spit a hot 16 – it gets me excited to go back to the lab and step my game up!
Lady Jay UK: Which other artists do you rate / listen to at the moment?
Soulstice: I’m listening to Kanye’s “Graduation” pretty heavy right now, Common’s “Finding Forever” and Jay-Z’s “American Gangsta.” I think those three, along with “Dead Letter Perfect” are pretty much the best albums this year.
Lady Jay UK: And who do you respect musically?
Soulstice: Definitely the three artists I just mentioned. Outkast is a group I have a lot of respect for. In general, I have a lot of respect for artists that aren’t scared to take chances and push the envelope. I love it when an artist makes a song that I would have never thought to make or says a line I would have never thought to say. Those are the cats I like to listen to, the cats that challenge me to go and get even more creative with what I do.
Lady Jay UK: Which artists do you think have influenced your music.?
Soulstice: More than I can name! I have a lot of influences in hip hop, but also in other genres as well. Being from Chicago, Common was always someone I looked up to as an artist. Joni Mitchell is another artist I have a lot of respect for. Her album, “Blue” was influential for me when I was writing my first album, “North by Northwest.” I loved the way she really opened up and put her feelings into the music and I try to capture that level of honesty that in my music. That’s one aspect of what I do that separates me from most other hip hop artists out there.
Lady Jay UK: Tell me about the Dead Letter Perfect album.
Soulstice: It’s the perfect hip hop album! I’ve been a fan of hip hop for so many years and I’ve always had this concept of what I perfect hip hop would be like. The beats would be banging and soulful, the lyrics would be entertaining and witty and the artist would open up to you in a way that made you feel like you knew them personally. Every track would be strong and unique and you’d be able to listen through from front to back without skipping any tracks. That’s what I feel I’ve accomplished with “Dead Letter Perfect” and that’s why I consider it the perfect album. In the music itself, I explore the theme of perfection. “Be Perfect” talks about being the best version of yourself through hard work. But on “Not Perfect” I come clean and admit that I’m only human and nobody’s perfect – I put all my own flaws on blast.
Lady Jay UK: What does that title mean?
Soulstice: “Dead Letter Perfect” is a phrase that actors use when they’ve completely memorized a script. When they’ve got it “dead letter perfect” they’ve nailed all the technicalities of the performance and they’re ready to jump into character. That’s where I am in my career right now. I’m better than I’ve ever been as a songwriter and I know who I am as artist.
Lady Jay UK: You have some gorgeous beats, who’s producing for you, and what’s your creating process?
Soulstice: Thanks! I spend a lot of time getting the right beats. If a beat doesn’t inspire me, I can’t work with it. So I usually work backwards from the beat. The first step is finding a great producer and the next step is challenging them to give me production that pushes the envelope. From there I sit down with the beats and feel them out. Then I write songs that amplify whatever energy was there to begin with. But in order to make it all come together, you have to work with the best. On DLP, I’ve got Oddisee on the album, K-Salaam, M-phazes, Analogic, SBe and Bring it Back handling my production. They’re all some of the best at what they do.
Lady Jay UK: How important is creating the right image to you?
Soulstice: Image is everything when it comes to putting your music out into the world. There are so many artists now that people aren’t really buying music just because it’s hot. They buy music because it offers a front row seat into an artist’s mind and into their experiences. As an artist, I’m the product and the music is a reflection of me.
Lady Jay UK: What are your plans now?
Soulstice: Now that I’ve made the perfect hip hop album, I’m working on selling it! The biggest challenge as an independent artist is to get the right level of exposure for my music. I know it’s the best album out right now, so I’m excited to get the word out. I’ll be doing shows all across the US and I’ll be touring in Europe in March. Send me a message at www.myspace.com/soulstice and I’ll let you know when I’m in your city!