At a time where real estate mogul Donald Trump has positioned himself as a viable candidate for President of the United States, another candidate looks to gain some public support. Vice Souletric, a hardworking, Average Joe from Small-Town USA, is trying to make a difference.
The rapper/producer is poised to lay down the planks of his platform that present him as the right man for the job, playing unheard songs like "T.A.M.I.R." and "There's No Tomorrow Til You Wake Up" from his latest release, Vice for President 2
"I'm just an artist in the purest sense of the word," Souletric says as he sits at console of his in-home studio. "Musically, I'm a producer, I'm an emcee. I actually started rapping first. I only started making beats because I couldn't find anybody to make the type of beats that I like. So it kind of forced me to learn the style and the rhythm because I always had an East Coast kind of influence in the stuff that I liked and the stuff that I wanted to do. What a lot of people don't know is that behind the scenes. I do everything. I do my own artwork. I do my own CD art. I do my own web design. I'm pretty much like like a one-man show. The only thing I don't do is my final mix. I've got a cat in Germany who does that. He's off the hook, so I let him handle that. It makes it easier when you're working on a solo project, like the last two that I've done."
If elected, Souletric already has his Cabinet selected in the form of his United Grind collective.
"We actually have a website UnitedGrind.com that is a blog supporting independent hip-hop and gives independent hip-hop advice to artists," he says. "It consists of myself, G. Huff and HiJinks. We're all artists as well as bloggers. We've been in the game for so long and we have so many different experiences that we try to help other artists out. "
While Souletric was born in Louisville, he's called Lorain home since the age of one. He acknowledges a small town can have its limitations, but he's thankful for it all the same.
"Lorain is your typical small town," he says. "And with growing up in a small town, you have a lot of small town mentality but I'm that cat who comes up in a small town with bigger town aspirations. It's almost like being a big fish in a small pond. But the small town environment is what keeps humble. It's what keeps me grounded. And what keeps me laid back. I guess I can appreciate that. "
Souletric and his crew were late bloomers and didn't really get serious about their craft until they were in high school. In fact, Souletric says he didn't create his first beat until he was 21 years old.
"I first got into rapping by just being in the back of art class freestyling," Souletric says. "We would just crack on each other for the fun of it, then we would go over to Johnny's [HiJinks] house after school and freestyle and that turned into us getting a little more serious. It was me, Jinks and another friend of ours by the name of Dwayne, we were in a group called Play Havoc [in which Souletric rapped and produced under the name Ill Advice]. We actually did shows in the Cleveland underground hip-hop scene for awhile in the early 2000s. We did our thing, so a lot of people met me through those Play Havoc days. Then it ended up being just me and Jinks after Dwayne ended up quitting. Then after that, it was just me. As far as the production, when we first started rapping, once we got to the point where we were going into a studio and making music, we figured out that we couldn't find anyone to make the type of beats that we wanted to rhyme to. We were big into DJ Premier, Pete Rock and that kind of stuff and we couldn't find anybody around here making that kind of stuff. We couldn't even find anybody with a MPC or an SP-1200 [sampler]. I took it upon myself to invest into the equipment."
The investment seems to have paid off as Souletric has collaborated with the likes of Talib Kweli, N.O.R.E. and KRS-ONE among others both as a rapper and producer.
"With Vice for President
, that was like the debut album for me as a solo artist," he says. "That was the first time where it was just completely me and my project from beginning to end. Before that, most of the features that I would have would be pretty much doing the production. A lot of the stuff I did when I was working with people was production, but everything you're hearing from me now as far as features is me rapping."
One of Souletric's career highlights up to this point would be the collaboration with Talib Kweli on his latest single, "Return of the Black Man." He describes making the connection with Kweli's management as a "shot in the dark," but Soletric and G. Huff would find that they had just enough skill and talent to hit their target.
"I'll never forget the day I got the email [containing the track] back," Soletric says. "We had company over here, and I went into the bathroom like 'I gotta listen to this now'. So I put on my headphones and I was in the bathroom rocking and thinking 'He killed this!' I couldn't even believe it. The other thing is that when you're working with somebody and it's not really their project and they have no stake in it, it's hard to get the best out of them. I made sure that we had sent him a reference of the song with me and G. Huff's verses already on it so he could get a feel of what we were really trying to do instead of just sending him the beat. I think he was able to vibe off of that and he gave us honestly one of the best verses I've ever heard him spit."
Released on February 1, "Return of the Black Man" speaks with frustrated voices from the point of view of some black men living in today's society.
"Probably with everything that's going on in society, it sort of just hit me," Souletric says. "As far as putting Kweli on it, me and Huff already knew that we were gonna go in and we were thinking something like, 'If we got somebody. who would be the only person in the industry?' And we couldn't honestly think of anyone better than Talib Kweli to put on it. So that's how that came about. As far as the concept of the song, we just wanted to make noise because I feel like a lot of hip-hop artists are dropping the ball as far as speaking about what's going on. It's cool to rap about whatever you rap about, but I think a lot of the big names are dropping the ball as far as talking about the things that's relevant to what's going on right now."
Even with that, Souletric insists that there's something for everyone to enjoy on Vice for President 2
"I love hip-hop, so I just put everything into it that I think hip-hop should be about," he says. "Partially, it should be about coming with a message. I don't think everything should be preachy. I think hip-hop should show lyrical skill. You should be able to show that you can really rap and come up with clever metaphors. I also feel like hip-hop should be like feelgood music. You know, people should be able to vibe to it. It should be a party atmosphere. You should be able to put your song on and people don't have to pay close attention. Like 'Return of the Black Man' is a song where you have to listen because there's a lot of stuff we're talking about but 'Stayin' Out the Way' is more of a jam where it's like riding music. I try to incorporate all of that in the album so somebody can't necessarily say, 'Oh, he's one of those conscious rappers' or 'He's trying to be like Little Brother.' No. I'm influenced by all of that stuff, so that's what comes across in the music."
Vice for President 2
comes out tomorrow and can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp. Souletric says he's looking forward to addressing his supporters live in a house party-like atmosphere.
"I've got my release party, on March 5," Souletric says. "It's going to be at a spot called Our Space. That party is going to be a '90s hip-hop house party type of thing. It goes back to where we were talking about hip-hop starting off as just music to vibe to. The way we're doing it in the format of a regular party. We're not going to have a "stop and perform" type of situation. He'll just bring my beat in and I'll grab the mic. It's something different, but it's something I always wanted to try."
Vice Souletric CD Release Show, 9 p.m. Saturday, March 5, Our Space, 201 East 29th St., Lorain. Tickets: $10, clubourspace.net.