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Soulstice - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman  



These are the transcripts of an interview conducted with Soulstice by DJ L.K. (Low-Key). Soulstice is an up and coming artist from Chicago who has recently released his debut album "North By Northwest". Soulstice is a unique emcee who is able to capture that pure essence of Hip-Hop with his insightful and intelligent lyricism. He looks to make big moves in the industry and showcase his own brand of Chi-Town Hip-Hop in the coming years.

MVRemix: First off, for those that are not familiar with you and your material, please introduce yourself and explain who you are, what your about, etc.

Soulstice: For those that haven't heard of me will soon! Until then, my name is SoulStice. By region, I hail from Chicago. I definitely hold it down for Chi-Town, but I make music that's accessible worldwide. I released my debut album, North by Northwest ( in January 2003, but I've been writing, recording and performing for quite a while. When it comes down to it, I consider myself an artist. I've always had an intense need to express. As far as hip hop goes, I'm all about making the rawest hip hop possible, while staying true to myself as a writer and a poet.

MVRemix: When did you start rapping and what made you become an emcee?

Soulstice: When I was in 7th grade somebody let me listen to some Tongue Twista in the cafeteria and it was all over. The reason I started writing was two-sided. On the one hand, there were cats like Nas, Common, Rakim, etc. that I was feeling. The classic stuff. On the other hand, I saw a lot of room for the art form to evolve. I always wanted to add to what was out there. I've never been able to listen to some great hip hop without getting inspired to write. And, as I'm sure most emcees can relate to...wack hip-hop has always been inspiring too! The first hip-hop album I ever bought with my own money was The Chronic believe it or not. I officially started writing lyrics back in 1993 with my brother and a few friends (abbott lane, baby!). I've been writing and recording ever since. I started rocking stages in 1997 during my first year in college. My first performances were all battles. In 1998 I won the "Who's the Illest" battle that included lots of Midwest emcees. Since then, I think I've evolved beyond just battling, although I've still got that aggressive edge. In hip-hop, people don't believe that you're ill unless you tell a hundred times in a hundred different ways. Trust me, I've got no problem doing that. But at the same time, and I think my music reflects this, I recognize that hip hop is capable of worlds more.

MVRemix: Who are your influences?

Soulstice: I'm very open-minded when it comes to music. I grew up listening to lots of soulful stuff like Michael Jackson, Patty Labelle, Marvin Gaye and all that, plus all the early hip hop stuff. I've always liked to listen to anything that's good. Music that makes you feel something. Who do I consider influential? Hmm...Common, Joni Mitchell, Nas, Canibus, Black Thought, QuestLove, Sara McLaughlin, Big Pun, Miles Davis, Twista, Inspectah Deck, Kurrupt, Jugga The Bully, to name a few. It's hard to pick and choose which musicians were influential to me - in a way, all the music I've ever heard has been.

MVRemix: What was it like growing up in Chicago as a child?

Soulstice: Chicago culture is the dominant culture throughout northern Illinois. My family's originally from the south side of the Chi, but I grew up in a suburb south of Chicago - University Park. If you've ever been to these suburbs, you'd know why everybody claims Chicago. The whole area's socially centered around the city. I hung with my crew of cats and my brother. We used to write lyrics and freestyle but we mostly just hung out, played a lot of basketball and when we were old enough we started driving into Chi-town to kick it. Our area had gangs or whatever, so we were around some of that. We used to get into fights with them sometimes. But we had our own crew so we never really got into that too much.

MVRemix: How was the Hip-Hop Scene in Chicago growing up?

Soulstice: Being from the suburbs, I was always pretty disconnected from the actual Chicago underground scene as a kid - that is, before I got a driver's licenses and some wheels. There's always been a lot going on in the Chi as far as hip-hop though and we used to hear a lot about it. One of my earlier memories was getting the Psychodrama EP when it first came out...that was a while ago! My crew always had its own niche but I remember always being amped about getting more involved in the Chicago scene.

MVRemix: Who do you feel in the Chicago Hip-Hop scene now?

Soulstice: It's on now! I feel great about the scene out here right now. Actually I just made an appearance on WHPK 88.5FM on a show called "CTA Radio" which is hosted by Pugslee Atomz and Thaione of The Nacrobats. That was dope, shouts to Nacro for making that happen. To date, I've shared billings with The Nacrobats, All Natural and Fam Tree, Primeridian, and opened up for cats like Galapagos, Atmosphere, Rhymesayers, Molemen, etc. Overall, I'm getting a lot of love in Chicago right now, everybody's feeling North by Northwest. Otherwise, I've been blowin' up the scene at the University of Illinois for the last several years - all the local venues, radio stations, and the occasional battles. Lot's of people know about down here.

MVRemix: Do you think the Chicago hip-hop scene is now starting to get the recognition it deserves?

Soulstice: Man, sometimes I wonder if Chicago hip hop will ever get the respect it deserves! Some of the best hip hop out these days has come from the Chi...I don't have to start naming names either. Everybody knows about the likes of Common and Twista, etc. on the "above ground" circuit and then of course, everybody I previously mentioned on the underground circuit. Pretty soon you'll be hearing names like SoulStice, Psalm One, Doomsday, Essohess and Antimatter in that list too! I still think that Chicago is perceived as secondary to cities in the East and West in many circles. I think it's shear numbers really. The amount of heads from NYC for instance, is ridiculous...they've got us outnumbered! Chicago cats got mad game though and people are starting to recognize that. Whenever I do a show or jump in a cypher when I'm on the east coast, the fact that I'm from Chicago always raises a few eyebrows.

MVRemix: Your album "North By Northwest" is one of the best independent albums I have heard in awhile, can you explain how the album came about, what you wanted to accomplish with it and what you want fans to take out of it?

Soulstice: does any album come about? I'm focused man! I've been recording music for a while now, but I was eager to get a full-length project out there. I wasn't trying to wait around for a "deal" either! I did all the investing for this album myself and I'm planning on doing the next one too. So there's a message to aspiring emcees. Go to college and get a job! Then you won't have to rely other people's money to put your music out. NbyNW was recorded over the course of a year and a half mostly in Chicago, but a few tracks were recorded in Maryland as well. This is something I've always wanted to do before I died...have a collection of music out there for people to listen to. I really love making music. I've always thought that if you can manage to write yourself into your music and make some bangin' ish at the same time, that's when you're really doing it. That's what I'm all about and I think anyone that listens to NbyNW will really get a sense of that.

MVRemix: You have said the title "North By Northwest" was inspired by Joni Mitchell's "Blue", how so?

Soulstice: It was more the concept for the album rather than the title that was inspired by Blue. I love Joni. I first heard Blue on a road trip to Florida during spring break a few years back. The way the concept of "blue" and was interwoven and explored in different ways throughout the album really hit me. When I started out, I wanted a loose concept like that for my first project.

MVRemix: What are your favorite cuts on the album and why?

Soulstice: Tough changes almost daily! I'd have to say that my two favorite songs to perform are The Melody, and Something to Prove. The Melody's just banging as hell, and Something to Prove features my brother (Essohess) who I love to perform with. SleepWalk is another favorite of mine. I love to write and SleepWalk is a thick swim through the mind of a writer. Sacred Ground is another song about music, writing and's got some of my favorite lyrics on the album. Ebony Sea and All I Got have a lot of personal significance for me. Ebony Sea is an emotional portrait and probably the epitome of the "north by northwest" concept that meanders through the album. All I Got was written for my girlfriend of three years. All the songs are significant to me in one way or another.

MVRemix: You have a lot of variety and originality to your game, is this something you consciously do when making an album or does it just come out that way?

Soulstice: It just comes out that way. I just did one song after another for this album with a loose concept in mind, but not really thinking too hard about the big picture. To a large extent, the feel and approach I take with a song depends on the beat. The vibes I get from it and what it makes me feel. A lot of the times, if a beat doesn't evoke some kind of emotion then I can't write to it. Variety's automatic though...that's how I am. If I do any one thing for too long, I start to get sick of it.

MVRemix: How would you describe your style as an emcee to someone who has never heard your music?

Soulstice: I'm all about making great music, period. Sometimes that manifests itself in the form of a battle track and sometimes it takes the form of a more introspective joint. I don't really like to categorize myself. Talib Kweli spoke down here a few months ago. He said something like it doesn't matter what kind of hip hop you're putting bangers, "conscious music," gansta shit, whatever, people will feel you as long it's tight. That's what I'm all about. Writing myself into my songs while making a caliber of music that people can't front on.

MVRemix: What do you want to accomplish in this Hip-Hop game?

Soulstice: Basically, I just want as many people to hear my music and see my shows as possible. That's my prime directive besides just making dope music. If all goes well, I'd like to get my own label off the ground in 5-7 years. I want to see more young entrepreneurs and professionals investing their money in hip hop music and culture. Big corporations are cool, but it's all profit and loss with them. If you want to put music you really love these days, you basically have to put it out yourself.

MVRemix: If you had the choice between fame/money or respect, which one would you choose?

Soulstice: Fame and respect 10% real and 90% illusion. They're transients based on other people's perspectives. As long as I have respect and love for myself and what I'm doing, I think other people's respect and love will follow automatically. As far as fame goes...who needs it? I want to be known, but being known and being "famous" are too different things. I always thought Biggie should have said "more fame, more problems," because that's what it really boils down to. In this country, money is freedom. Don't get me wrong, I'm not "all about the benjamins" or anything trite like that, but once you have money, you can forget about money and start focusing on everything else.

MVRemix: What can we expect from SoulStice in the future?

Soulstice: Lots! I'm not planning on stopping this music thing anytime soon. I'll be releasing a 12" with some cuts from NbyNW in the next few months. After that, be on the lookout for my next project tentatively entitled "Chaos Theory." And keep Banarnar Records in the back of your mind so when it pops up later you can say you were the first one up on it!

MVRemix: Any last thoughts of comments?

Soulstice: Yeah...always keep an open mind about music in all its forms. That's people's hearts and souls you're listening to. To those that are out somewhere bumpin' North by Northwest right now...thanks for the support! For everybody else... go here: and cop it...quit sleepin'!

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"Being from the suburbs, I was always pretty disconnected from the actual Chicago underground scene as a kid - that is, before I got a driver's licenses and some wheels. There's always been a lot going on in the Chi as far as hip-hop though and we used to hear a lot about it."