Soulstice - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman
SoulStice: Pursuit Of Perfection
With the windy city producing some of the best material these days, it’s only right that it is home to one of Hip-Hop's best kept secrets - SoulStice. The Chi-town emcee started out as most emcees do, by rocking local parties and events to build a name for himself. Eventually, SoulStice met up with a local producer, S.M. Arson, and they helped to form Banarnar Records. The label made some noise across Chicago, but it was not until SoulStice dropped his debut album in 2003, that Banarnar really took off. With North By Northwest, Soulstice took the local scene by storm with his slick flow, precise wordplay and charismatic personality. Now two years later, SoulStice is re-releasing the album in the U.S. and Japan - now titled North By Northwest: Solid Ground. The album features nine of the best songs from the original and the rest is completely new material. MVRemix.com first shined some light on the multi-talented SoulStice last year, so it was only right we hooked with Stice again to tell the world about his new release.
MVRemix: Last time we did the interview we ran through your background history - so lets skip that. Let me just continue where we left off. Regarding the first North By Northwest album, were you happy on how it came out and the responses you got from it?
SoulStice: Yeah, definitely. I thought it was very well received and I was happy with all the criticism that I got and the reviews. I thought it received a lot of love and I actually did enjoy the criticism. I think any artist enjoys the opportunity to go back and revisit a work. It’s a good opportunity to go back and tighten some stuff up. As time goes on, you progress as an artist and I think I was trying to reflect that as well. I definitely took into consideration the criticism that you and other writers gave me.
MVRemix: Did you accomplish what you wanted to with the album?
SoulStice: Yeah, to be honest, when I first started, I didn't know anything about the music industry. I was purely making an album for the fact that it was always a dream of mine. That was purely my motivation the first time. So I figured I would sell it hand to hand and to my friends - so it’s completely different motivation and I definitely accomplished what I wanted to. I made an album and that was the goal. This time around, it’s a little different. I know a lot more about the music industry and I'm a lot more serious about my career, so I was coming from the angle - I'm always going to be making music that I like to hear - but I'm also thinking about making a complete album and making a work that is well rounded and consistent. So the first one accomplished what it did, but the second one goes even further.
MVRemix: Why re-release the album?
SoulStice: To be honest, it really wasn't a goal of mine. I have some means which I continually shop material to A&R's and stuff like that and around the same time, a U.S. and a Japan label got interested in the work. They wanted to release it through their own channels, so rather than put it out in the state that it was, I wanted to update it so it reflected more what I'm about at the present. I wanted to bring it up to speed, since I have progressed a lot since 2002.
MVRemix: What is the difference between North By Northwest: Solid Ground and the original?
SoulStice: The original had 17 songs on it and from that, I took nine songs and I tossed the rest. I then built it back up with material I have done since then. Some of it is unreleased material and a couple of new joints as well. And the Japan version had a joint that has not been released in the U.S. yet. But then the U.S. has their own exclusive joint. It’s a different album now and the track listing is different. Obviously, the artwork is different - so everything has been stepped up a notch.
MVRemix: I think you did a good job at choosing which songs to keep.
SoulStice: I had a lot of help from journalist reviewing it. (Laughter) And of course my own tastes over the years.
MVRemix: So you paid attention to what journalists thought and which songs they thought were wack?
SoulStice: Well, you can't let anybody dictate the course of what you are going to do. But any criticism that is constructive I always pay attention to. There is a difference between hating on what somebody is doing, which is, "I'm just not feeling this cat," and there is no specific reason behind it. I completely disregard that. But when anybody comes to me with some constructive criticism I am always paying attention to that. Especially, when that criticism is in line with thoughts that I already have on my own.
MVRemix: How have you grown as an artist since your first album?
SoulStice: I think I have come a long way. Fundamentally, as a person in your 20's, you grow year by year. So as a person, I have progressed, and of course, my art is going to follow that. As an artist, I think I have been more willing to take chances with my style now. When you first start writing - and not that I think this describes everything on the first North By Northwest - I think your stuff tends to be very formulaic. Everything fits to a certain rhyme scheme and you kind of do the same thing. But now I'm a lot more willing to switch things up and take chances. You have to listen to the music to really know what I'm talking about.
MVRemix: For people you haven't heard Solid Ground yet, what types of concepts, topics, and issues are you dealing with?
SoulStice: I was just having a conversation with my girl the other day, and I think that all art - if it's really going to be about art - its gotta be about life. That is first and foremost. It may seem like something else on the surface, but it’s always going to be about life - the good art, in my opinion. So that is how I describe my art - it’s about life. That is true about any song I write - on any topic. So the way I try to write is - there is a topic on the surface. I then hear something in the beat and it brings a certain topic to mind. Then I'll touch on that topic in the chorus, but when I'm writing I'll always touch on it, but I will allow myself room to write whatever I'm feeling. At the center of it, its about life, progression and not doing things the way you know you should, but getting them done regardless. Because when you come from the angle that a lot of us come from who are in Hip Hop now, you are just trying to get these done and are not concerned with following the rules. So that is the central theme. But other than that, I am basically talking about different stuff, while trying to show my skills at the same time.
MVRemix: Who is doing the production on Solid Ground?
SoulStice: I have Oddisee, who is the core producer of the album. Then sm.arson from Chicago, this cat Dijmon from France, Bring It Back from VA and Shuko from Germany.
MVRemix: How did you hook up with Oddissee and what is your relationship with him like?
SoulStice: I met Oddisee about three or four years ago. I was in D.C. for the summer and I met him at an open mic. We made a few songs and continued to work with each others over the years. We just bang out a lot of music and I think we are on the same page as artists.
MVRemix: What about the Bring It Back Entertainment family? What is you relationship with them like?
SoulStice: I was out here in the summer and I met a couple artists from Baltimore. I didn't meet them directly, but I was put in touch with them from somebody else. They were real hungry and they sent me beat CD. And I was real hungry too, so it was a perfect match. They were putting a mixtape together, so they hit me with a beat for that. I got some newer material from them for my next album as well.