I had the pleasure of interviewing Sol after the release of his Eyes Open EP in 2013. He was in Boise performing with the legends, Zion I, at one of my favorite venues locally. The dark, intimate atmosphere at the Neurolux made for a show I won’t soon forget. It is always a pleasure to see Zion I. The nostalgia runs deep and they are not only amazing artists but genuinely great people so it only makes sense that they would choose someone of that caliber to open up for them.
This year Sol released The Headspace Traveler which is lush with social commentary, reflections of love or love lost and a definitive sense of self and growth. This year Haiti was also hit with another devastating hurricane leaving his family’s village in ruins. When I seen that he was utilizing his platform as a progressive artist to help in the relief efforts I was eager to reach out and see what I could do to help and hear his take on everything from his new release to to the relief efforts, as were the rest of his fans.
Sol not only started crowdfunding efforts but threw a concert that sold out where all benefits from the show went to help fund rebuilding in Haiti. We are beginning to see more artists utilize their platform to create positive change and this is just one example of the beauty that can come from these efforts. Check out the photo gallery from our time at the sold out Haiti Relief Show as well as the interview below.
SR: In the 100 song off of the Headspace Traveler you say, “What’s 100,000 followers if you ain’t never been a leader.” As you grow as an artist do you feel it’s your responsibility to use your platform and to lead in a sense?
Sol: I definitely feel a responsibility to use my platform for good. Both of my parents are teachers and I think seeing the impact they’ve had on their students’ lives while I was growing up taught me a lot. As an artist and performer I have an opportunity to contribute to all kinds of conversations. I don’t have to have all the answers, but I’m definitely going to engage in the conversation and the issues I care about.
SR: The benefit show sold out and your crowd funding efforts have almost reached their goal, when you decided that you were going to start crowd funding and reach out to get help for the people of Haiti did you think that people would respond as well as they have? Why the $15000 goal? Is there a reason for that number?
Sol: Repairing the damaged schools will be a long process. There are multiple organizations and many individuals that are stepping up to help, I am simply joining the effort in using my platform to raise awareness and organizing everyone around me. $15,000 felt like a good, achievable goal for the online campaign because it is equal to the amount we would raise with a sold out benefit concert. That way both campaigns run in tandem. The total $30,000 we’ve raised looks like it will be enough to rebuild one or possibly two schools. Which is extraordinary. To be able to say we built a school with hip-hop music. This is my proudest accomplishment of my life so far.
SR: In your interview with Seattle Weekly you call your aunt your closest mentor. How has she reacted to your efforts? Have you spoken with her about it?
Sol: I remember when I first went back to Haiti and stayed with my aunt, I saw first-hand the work she is doing running these schools out there and I asked “How can I help? I want to help.” The way she is, of course she told me to focus on building my career and focus on my music so that one day I could be in a position to REALLY give back. I was frustrated at the time but I went back to the US and got back to work on my music. Now, in a moment when my aunt and these kids need all the help they can get I am here and ready to give my everything.
That’s how everyone who has ever connected with Mica and the schools in Apricots are feeling right now. We’ve seen all the hard work that has been done over the last 41 years and we know that now is the time to step up and help however we can. Talking with my aunt every week since the hurricane, I can tell that all of us rallying for these schools is helping her keep pushing forward as well. Some days are really tough, and Mica will sound really down when I talk to her. People have died and many are really struggling right now, some families and groups are sleeping standing, all holding each other or laying down on top of each other to keep warm, there is little food, it’s still a crisis situation. There are so many short-term needs just for survival, but then there is the long-term… rebuilding these schools so that future generations can help push their community forward.
SR: In one of my favorite songs off of The Headspace Traveler, See The End you say, “I see my nephew playin with guns make believin and such, had to tell him about Tamir Rice and take away the fun. Now he resents the fact that he’s black. Says he wishes he was light skinned like I am. Self hate.” Considering all that has happened this year and the America’s choice for the president elect, what is you take on forward action? How should people respond?
Sol: I think our hope is in the youth. People like my nephew… The seven year olds. If you look at the demographics of this last election. Old people clearly have a lot of hate and fear in their hearts. The young people continue to push forward but we didn’t show up like we needed to. The key is to be engaged and take action on issues we care about OUTSIDE of the voting booth.
Beyond my music and everything, I view my greatest responsibility is part in raising my nephew, my godson Freedom. That’s why teachers are so important and parenting is so important. Because these kids are hearing crazy shit on TV and in the media right now. We’ve got to counter-act that and raise the kids to have open minds and hearts.
SR: Now that you have begun delving into the power of your reach as a musician and as a portal for action do you see yourself being actively involved in any social movements in the future?
Sol: It was political and social issues that brought me into making music as a youth and I don’t think that will ever change. My love for humanity and community are much like my love for my family and romance. They bring the same passion out of me and make for my greatest art.
To lose that would mean to lose the human connection that makes my music resonate with others. I do look forward to continuing to become more involved in various issues as my platform grows. For me, the definition of success means to be in a position to help others and I hope to do that on as large of a scale as possible. All of my musician heroes were strongly engaged in social justice and that is part of the reason their music will live forever. Marley, Pac, Nina Simone…
Fingers crossed Sol gets booked for Treefort this year! If you are interested in checking out any other releases or want information on Sol check out his site HERE.