Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Supreme Era: An Interview with Soul King

 Black Lion

    Soul King debuted with his crew, the Barbershop MC's, a part of the legendary Likwit Crew, on the Wake Up Show and subsequently dropped an EP, backed by E-Swift, in 2000. After a short hiatus, he returned to music with his excellent Supreme Era Volume 1, which saw a more mature and fully realized style take shape. Around the same time, SK was an original member of the Get Dat Money Boyz Choir, a crew featuring Born Allah, Zagu Brown, Panama Redd, Akim and SK which was the origin of the Tabernacle MCz. He's currently working on a new project called The Diaspora, as well as an EP with Born Allah, and took some time to discuss his history, from his earliest years, up to the present.

What were you earliest experiences with hip-hop?

    My family is Haitian. My mom and dad moved out to California and my aunt, my mom's sister, lived in Brooklyn and every summer I would go there. I think I was maybe about 12 years old and I went out there, to Flatbush, and my cousin Dominic is the one who introduced me to hip-hop. We're about 6 months apart in age. I'm 6 months older. We were close when we were small. Basically, when I would visit Flatbush, where he stayed at, that's where my introduction to the culture was first sparked. Then I would go back to L.A. and I would share my experiences with the kids that I lived with, in that neighbourhood. So, the whole break dancing, battling, I would come back with stories like that. I would come back with tapes of Mr. Magic's show, shit like that. Whatever I learned out there, playing, running around in the street, and being introduced to the culture, I took it back with me and shared it with my friends in L.A. In high school, I started rapping seriously, but my first introduction, I was maybe 12.

Who were some of the artists you were listening to that inspired you to start rapping?

    When I was young, Mr. Magic played a lot of Juice Crew, so a lot of the Juice Crew were my earliest inspirations, Kane, Biz Markie, stuff like that. When I was older and started getting my own wax, Ice Cube, N.W.A, King Tee, Act a Fool, you know? Those were the things I got from the west coast when I'd go to the shops and pick up the 12" singles. But Juice Crew were my earliest influences, with Kane and Biz Markie, and then, overall, Rakim was super, super influencial on what I do.

I read that you met Phil da Agony and Chocolate Ty in high school. So was that the genesis of the Barbershop MCs?

    Yeah, I would say it was the genesis. Me and Chocolate Ty actually met looking for records. He was looking for a record and I was looking for a record. I think he was looking for MC Shan and I was looking for Biz Markie, and Fresh Prince, I think, at the time. That "A Touch of Jazz" record. So we met looking for records and then started rapping once he figured out I rapped, I figured out he rapped. We linked up then and then we both got kicked out of that high school. And Phil also went there. You'd hear his name all around 'cause at that time, we was makin' names battling in high school and battling different high schools, so that's how that came about. A few years passed and we graduated and in our junior college years, that's when the Barbershop really formed. We all started going to Santa Monica Junior College and then we decided we should all be a crew. There was a local DJ, by the name of DJ Smooth, who made these mix tapes and we used to go over to his crib and record. And all the niggaz on the block would come by, like, "Oh, this is nice!" That's when the Barbershop formed. In high school, we knew of each other, but as far as forming a group, it didn't happen until a few years later, in junior college.

So would that have been early 90s?

    Yeah, yeah, early 90s. Probably like '92. Actually, no, '91. '91 to like '93ish were the formative years. Once we graduated, we were really, really trying to do something in junior college, make a name for ourselves.

How did you hook up with E-Swift and get down with the Likwit Crew?

    We used to go to the Wake Up Show, you know what I'm sayin'? And it kinda happened almost simultaneously, but at the same time we were going to the Wake Up Show, we earlier went to a conference they had at the Hollywood Roosevelt for people who wanted to go into the industry. So me and Phil met E-Swift at that function, just chopping it up, and later on we went on the Wake Up Show and - we used to freestyle on Sway & Tech's show, Saturday nights on 92.3 FM, at that time, a lot of our name came from that - we met Xzibit. Mykill Miers was up there. Western Hemisphere, the crew Ras Kass came from, they was up there...

Is that where you met Born Allah?

    Yeah, yeah! We acutally met at CSUN (Cal State University, Northridge) but we was more or less on a cultural - we were 5%ers - and I was just trying to inquire about being a 5%er and also rhyme. We met at Northridge. We reconnected at the Wake Up Show. Me and Born, we study the same way of life, so that was kinda seperate. I didn't even really approach him about rapping until later on. He always knew I did it, but our relationship was more or less about our way of life.

I heard the track "The Man" on Youtube, that was a Wake Up Show exclusive. Was that one of the first things you guys recorded?

    Yeah. We also had "Music, Money and Women" - it was released in Europe - and it was big over there, you know what I'm sayin'? But that was actually the first official track that was out. Then me, Defari, he put me out on my first official track, a song called "Blast". Kiz did the beat. But the same time we were releasing stuff, all our feature shit was poppin' off too. "The Man" was, like, exclusive to the Wake Up Show. That's why you don't hear any recording of it, besides the Wake Up Show. We didn't know if we should put it out as a single or not. We were just like, "Let's just play it on the Wake Up Show and see what kinda response it gets.

Researching for the interview, I heard "Money, Music and Women", I heard "Blast", I heard The Barbershop EP, but, to me, "The Man", that was my favourite of all of them. That's a really raw, dope track.

    [laughs] That's what's up! You know, that's how it was. We would drop songs not really knowing how people would react. And people were like, "Yeah! 'The Man'! That was the one!" I was like, "Damn! That should've been the single!" [laughs]

This is kind of a broad question, but do you have any stories or memories that stand out to you, that you could share about your time with the Likwit Crew?

    Man, there are so many stories. Aw, man! I would definitely have to think about it because, you know, Stylistic and Kiz was over here yesterday and Stylistic had hilarious tour stories that had me rollin'. But off the top? Nah, man. There were so many stories. Barbershop, we were like the bad apples of the bunch. So we had a show one time in San Diego and the show was poppin' but me, Chocolate Ty and Chuck Hustle ended up getting arrested, you know what I mean? We had stories like those. If a fight broke out, it was probably somebody from our group in the mix. Trying to get into Canada and not being able to go through 'cause somebody had some shit on them. That was us [laughs], you feel me? Those type of stories.

    Once we linked up with E-Swift and Phil did that record, "Likwit Connection" with Defari, you know, we all had experiences from shows and touring. All the advice I used to get, I got it from Tash. Tash and J-Ro, in the early days, I would fall through. J-Ro was in Northridge at that time. Tash used to stay with some of my homeboys. It was crazy. But as far as doing shows and all of that, that was really Tha Liks that opened up a lot of doors 'cause we used to open up a lot for them. That's where we got stage presence and knowing how to do a show and rockin'. We did every venue on the west coast, trying to get our name out there. But everybody had somebody that they took. Like Xzibit would take Phil on the road and Tash would take me out to do some shows with him, and things of that nature. But from the early days, it was shows, partying. We was the Animal House [laughs]. 'Cause we were young and was wildin'! In the early days, it was a lot of partying, through the roof.

When I was like 14, 15 years old, my favourite rapper was King Tee. Did you ever get a chance to chop it up wit him? I saw a picture of you guys on stage together.

    Yeah, yeah! We used to kick it with him and Broadway back in the day 'cause, you know, King Tee put out Tha Liks. He was always in the mix. Back then, I was SK, which was Soul Kid, 'cause I was young. Recently King Tee hit me, like, "Yo, I'm doing the Art of Rap. I need you to back me up." So I was like, "Oh, ok! Cool!" So I did the Art of Rap with him, chopped it up with a lot of people. Chill from Compton's Most Wanted was with us when we did the rehearsal. We hit the road to Oakland and did Art of Rap at the Irvin Meadows. We had a show maybe two years prior, the Likwit Crew Reunion show in Santa Anna. It's on Youtube. Basically we did a whole Likwit Crew showcase. There was Tha Alkaholiks, Tee, Defari, Montage, Stylistic, Black Silver, Ras Kass was there that night. Oh, man! That shit was poppin'! I did my song "Black Cesaer" with Planet Asia and Stylistic Jones that night, and that's when Tee was kinda like, "Oh, shit! That's what's up!" That's how that relationship built. But we always knew each other, just chillin', hangin' out, and then musically, everybody would do songs with each other. But it was more of a mix. Certain people would do songs with Xzibit. Certain people would do songs with Defari. So we always collaborated and recently, with the pictures, Teela just hit me up.

After the Barbershop EP, did you take a bit of a hiatus after that?

    Not only did I take a hiatus, I went back to school, got my Bachelor's. I would say I was a bit bitter about the game. Certain things didn't pan out the way that I wanted, you know what I mean? So I fell back a little bit, tried to take care of myself, and then really clearly decide if this is something I really want to pursue. Phil, at that time, was just about to drop In Search for Stoney Jackson and had a show and kind of just put me back in the mix, inspired me to get back into the music biz. I saw what he was doing with Strong Arm Steady and he came and got me and we did a couple of shows and that kinda got me back into the mix. So when I did that, I dropped Supreme Era Volume 1 and I did it under Soul King because I wanted to see honestly what people's reaction to my music would be. I didn't wanna be like SK, remember me from back in the day? I thought, "I'm just gonna reinvent myself and if they're really feelin' me, they'll know." You understand what I'm sayin'? And people received Volume 1 well. So it was like, "Oh, ok."

    And then I was working on Street Ministry and the first song I was workin' on was with Krondon. He produced "Honor". While I was working on that Chase had came through and he had a song for this mixtape called "Deliverance," which is me, Chase and Phil, produced by DJ Khalil. That song got crazy love on the internet. All the blogs picked it up. And that really rekindled the career, you know what I'm sayin'? Now I'm doing interviews over that song, while I'm working on Volume 2. Then once I did Volume 2, mixed, mastered, I shot two videos. At the time, one of the ladies on Clear Label Records - Tajai's label from Souls of Mischief - was peepin' my moves. She was like, "Wait a minute. I remember you from Barbershop. I see you doing this, this and this." What sparked her interest was the song I did with Chase and Phil da Agony. So then once I brought her my material, like, "I got a project. Here it is, and I got two videos" which was "Teach the Truth" and "Black Ceasar", and Tajai just signed me off the strength of that.  He was like, "Man, you did damn near everything already, by yourself. Let's make this happen!" So that was my record deal for Supreme Era Volume 2, and people started catchin' on after that.

So you had Supreme Era Volume 1 & 2. Can you talk about what the Supreme Era means to you?

   Supreme Era to me is the resurgence of the effects that the Gods have on hip-hop. You know, the Gods, the Five Percenters, the Supreme Being. That was what Supreme Era was about, to me. The emcees that had knowledge of self, that were saying something, was gonna be able take back hip-hop to its rightful place. So it's almost like a crusade. 'Cause with The Church of Hip-Hop and Financial Prosperity, it's resurrecting the B-Boy, and within that resurrection is the Supreme Era. It takes more than one person, you know what I'm sayin', to make a change. You gotta be a movement. That's what the Supreme Era was putting focus back on. When I was recording Volume 1, I put a lot more emphasis on lyrics and saying something and putting my way of life in there, and that's what it really was about. The Gods is gonna take hip-hop back.

You mentioned the Church of Hip-Hop and Financial Prosperity. Born was telling me you were actually an original member, along with Zagu Brown, Panama Redd and Akim. Can you talk about that period, before they spun off into the Tabernacle MCz?

    Yeah, all of us had aliases in the church. I have a new song with the church called "Cold as Ice". But all of us, once we started kickin' the gospel of resurrecting the B-Boy, a lot of people, veterans in the game, started taking on aliases, Erule, Medusa, Big Arch. So we all have our little aliases. Born Allah is Daddy Grace. I'm Bishop T.D. Cakez. As a bigger crew, we was definitely gettin' it poppin', you know? Me and Born right now are just in the forefront. Panama Redd is doing his solo thing too. So we're just doing it that way to see how it works.

Yeah, Born was saying you guys are working on an EP, just you two?

   Yeah, we just have a lot of material together that we hadn't decided who's project it was gonna go on, so we just put together this EP and that shit should be droppin' soon. I'm thinking early next year. But you're gonna see that combination. We're gonna be shootin' a video for "Cold as Ice" which features A.K.M. of Cypha 7. You're gonna get to see, visually, what the Church of Hip-Hop and the Get Dat Money Boyz Choir looks like through that process.

When I listen to your music, a lot of it I would describe as struggle music, where you describe hard times and overcoming them. Do you feel that's something that's missing from hip-hop right now?

    Yeah, I think so because everybody has to face challenges and music can help you get through those challenges, so you want to make music that people can identify with and help them escape the reality. I think with resurrecting and any challege, it's about going from dark to light, you know? So that's how my music comes across. That's the message in my music. There's gonna be struggle but you can make it. There's gonna be hard times, but you're gonna get through them. There's gonna be some down, but there's gonna be some up. Sometimes when you're in the mix or you're in the struggle, it's like, "Man, it's so bad! Could it get any worse?" And it's like, "No. It's gonna get better!" Even moreso, I wanna be able to unite people with my music, at the end of the day. My next album is gonna be called The Diaspora. It's a Haitian word that means foreigner. If you're from the States or another country, they call you a diaspora. That's how I'm approaching it, being from the west coast, being from another country, it's a foreign look at how things are, here on the west coast. And there is struggle, but you get out of it. And there is moments where you're lost but you can be found. You understand what I'm sayin'? There is times you do wrong, but you still do right. All those things, I try to project into my music. I want people to think, at least.

I was actually gonna ask you about The Diaspora. Other than that and your EP with Born Allah, do you have any plans for the future you'd like to discuss?

    Well, The Diaspora is gonna have, of course, Agallah, it has Born, I got Stylistic Jones on there. Right now, I'm also working on a song we did at Hiero Day called "Did That" and it's me, Stylistic, Born Allah and J-Ro of Tha Alkaholiks. That should drop any time soon. I'm gonna be leakin' that out to the blogs. The Diaspora is still in the mixing/mastering process. It's almost done. I'm gonna shoot that video for it. And I'm gonna shoot another video with Tattoo and Tahmell, the song "Loco". And, you know, Tahmell is Rakim's son...

Oh, really? Wow, I didn't know that...

    Yeah, the last person on that song is Rakim's son. That was really dope to do that song. We're gonna do a video for that. And then I have another song called "Run That" with Dawn Gun from The (Sis)tem and Stylistic Jones. I'm gonna be definitely shooting a lot of visuals and there's gonna be a lot of music out there.

So you're selling copies of Black Lion on CD right now. What's the best way for people to get those from you? Facebook?

     Yeah, hit me up through Facebook or my website, soulkingsk.com. You can order it through there, or send me a message. PayPal me and I'll get it out to you the same day. And just support good music, man. I definitely appreciate it when I get the cheques in the mail, especially when it's doing something you love.



  1. Replies
    1. Peace SK! Glad you dig it. I'm looking forward to The Diaspora and the EP with Born and I encourage people to support those projects