Complied and edited by Michael Krieger for The Higher Plane
To kick off our Spotlight week for December, we kept it close to the home team. To give you a brief background on our history, I met Soul back in my early college days at Ohio Wesleyan. I wouldn’t say we were ‘close’ friends, but he was someone I’d kick it with every once in a while. I played baseball with the homie James John, and they had a working relationship. I heard some of their earliest work, so it always amazes me when they release new material just knowing how far they have come. How much they have improved. Now, I am glad to call Soul a friend. We BBM daily and do a lot of building together. He’s a very positive dude, and a talented MC/producer. The future is bright, and I am grateful to be along for the ride.
One of my favorite things is always getting a late night e-mail (mind you I am five hours ahead of everyone in the O) with new music from Soul. Whether it is something he is ready to unleash on the World or just a new track the select few get to hear, it’s always a treat. I can speak first hand about his evolution, and I believe great things are on the horizon. We were so happy to be part of their Give Up the Sticks release earlier this year, and we will always support or have a hand in everything he does. Find out more about our good friend below.
THP: Let the readers know a litte bit about SoulKlap. Tell us a litte bit about your background, and how you first got involved with music?
SoulKlap: My name is SoulKlap. I’m from Cleveland, OH by way of the small suburb of Solon. I’ve been doing music independently for 12 years. I started writing when I was 13. It started as a hobby and was inspired by the likes of Jay-Z, DMX, and The Notorious B.I.G among others. I used to make little albums for my friends to listen to. I made my own album covers and all that! It was just for fun back in middle school and high school. It wasn’t until I got to college that I also began beat making. Then, I became more serious about being an artist.
THP: Fill people in on your moniker, and how the name SoulKlap came about?
SoulKlap: I actually picked that name while in college. I began my years as a rapper with G-Money as a name because my last name starts with G. Then, I became G-Effectz, and then for a while I was known as Burbs. I picked that because that’s where I was from and grew up at. Then after some thought and internal debate, I felt I needed another name something that meant more. I picked SoulKlap for three reasons: 1) I make all my music strictly from the soul 2) my music is more meaningful than your average and has the ability to get your soul’s applause 3) I love soulful music! After that, SoulKlap just stuck.
THP: You have done a lot of great work over the last two years from The Quan to G.U.T.S. to having your song ‘iOweYou’ featured on Talib Kweli’s Year of the Blacksmith Community mixtape to the release of your own mixtape Prelude to a Parallax. What has been the highlight for you?
SoulKlap: I think my true and most major highlight to date is my feature on the upcoming Talib Kweli Y.O.B.S. Community Mixtape. Kweli actually handpicked my song as one of the songs to be featured on the project. I was totally blown away, because I don’t usually submit my music for contests like that. I didn’t expect to be selected, but low and behold he selected my song. He actually hit me up personally on Twitter and told me he really loved the song [‘iOweYou’] that I submitted for the project. Obviously, Give Up The Sticks was a highlight as well because me and Divine Minds got to work with two internationally known and hometown DJs, Terry Urban and Mick Boogie.
THP: As a an emcee/producer let’s talk about your creative process a little bit. Is it in your nature to hammer out a beat first then write to it, or do you usually write bars first, then figure out what type of beat would complement your message?
SoulKlap: To be honest, it switches from time to time. At times, I make a beat first and other times I write first. I actually write to other people’s beats a lot, and then make my own version of what I wrote over. As far as my writing process, I go wherever the beat takes me. If the beat’s is telling me to tell a story, then I tell a story. If the beat is telling me to write about my style, I write about that. If it’s tellin me to write about history, whatever the case may be that’s what I do. The music takes me over literally. But my inspirations for writing come from life experiences, conversations and other day to day activities. If I already have something written, then I definitely make a beat to compliment the message. I do a lotta crate digging, both physically and digitally. I get a lot of stuff off YouTube, and locally from this record shop in Coventry (in Cleveland Heights).
THP: I have been able to get a sneak listen on your next project, and I have to say, like most your other work it is very well done. I think you have shown a lot of growth as an MC since your intial release of Soul-Xpolitation in 2008. What do you attribute that to and is it something you have tried to focus on?
SoulKlap: Thanks for the compliment. I actually wanted to focus more on my growth as an MC. When The Quan came out, I played the background. I produced the whole project, while J rocked on every track. I was only featured on the intro alone. Before that, I did Soul-Xploitation, which got a little bit of buzz but Quan put my name on a larger stage. People knew SoulKlap the producer, but they didn’t really know SoulKlap the MC. My goal with Klapisms Vol. 1 is to be taken seriously as an MC and a producer. This is why recently I’ve been puttin out a lot more music. Prelude to a Parallax was a project put out to introduce and re-introduce people to SoulKlap the MC. Since then I’ve been posting a lot of new shit at my blog (www.soulklap.com) and via my twitter (@SoulKlap). I’ve been getting great reception so far, and I’m so thankful for all my fans, followers and supporters. I promise Klapisms will be epic.
THP: Piggybacking off that last question, as an MC what do you feel is more important content or delivery? Why?
SoulKlap: Man, that’s a really good question. I think that although one may argue that they’re equally important, I think for me delivery outweighs content. I tend to gravitate more to artists with conscious material (i.e. Kanye, Common, Lupe) but some of these other so called “artists” are fucking wack!!! I mean it’s bad enough you ain’t really sayin shit, but you don’t even have a dope delivery?! Get the fuck outta here! Put the microphone down! Yo, I’m not a huge pothead, but I think Wiz Khalifa is fuckin dope! Why? He has an ill delivery. What separates Weezy from Gucci? Not content, but delivery. So although I’m biased to saying something with substance, you gotta have an ill delivery. I mean I listen to Nas and Wiz Khalifa and some would argue they’re not even in the same demographic. They aren’t, but they both specialize in delivery.
THP: Let’s talk about your production. You have really been successful in regards to your production using soul samples. Hence the name. On this new project, we get some fresh beats made from scratch. Talk about the difference in the process of flipping a sample in comparison to creating a beat from scratch.
SoulKlap: As far as sampling, that’s my Earth (as my man Esteban Belafonte of LMNTL would say). I just love crate digging and finding an ill sample. I always end up flippin something that touches my soul in a way or another. Whether it’s a chord, lyric or vocal. Something touches my heart, and I have to flip it somehow. As far as making beats from scratch, it’s pretty much the same thing. I look through my instruments and one instrument may strike me, and before I know it I got a melody in my head. I play that out, and then come up with some drums. I’m really inspired by cats like Chuck Inglish, Pharrell and Timbaland because they do that day in and day out. Very ill.
THP: In the last year you also opened for B.o.B. and Wiz Khalifa. What did you learn from those experiences, and more specifically, about the performance aspect of being an artist?
SoulKlap: First of all, I’m just thankful for the opportunity to open for major artists like those two. I learned that this shit is not for the faint of heart. This music shit is truly about grinding. Me and J would go to a show ready to perform and see other opening acts with CDs, posters and flyers promoting their shit. I learned you always have to have shit with you to promote your music. Always, always, always! I learned about having a set list and sticking true to it. You rehearse and everything is straight, but when you hit the stage, you get so caught up in being on stage that you forget shit lol! I also learned, I’m just one of like one trillion other artists that are just as talented or more talented and unsigned. However, with the shift of music powers from the corporations to the artists there’s more opportunity for us to succeed on our own terms.
THP: Talk about the state of Ohio hip-hop for a moment. Where do you feel it’s at right now, and what can you bring to the table with your music?
SoulKlap: Man, it’s funny cuz I actually met LxE For The Uncool recently, and we had a conversation about that. Ohio hip-hop much like any other local hip-hop scene is kind of dysfunctional. I feel like Ohio artists don’t get enough support from their hometowns. In Cleveland, for instance, if I tell a random nigga that I do music, and I’m from his hometown as well but he may be like “whoopty do,” or “so do I, what’s your point?” All of this is said instead of, “that’s what’s up, let me take a listen to just to hear what this nigga is talkin about.” Look at Cleveland-based artists that have made it to the mainstream. KiD CuDi is arguably one of the biggest hip-hop artists that’s made it, but he had to leave in order to blow up. Before him, there was Bone Thugs obviously and they are like the only artists that blew up here first, and then became mainstream. I love Ohio artists like Chip Tha Ripper, LxE, P. Blakk and Stalley. It’s just sad to me that you gotta leave the ‘land first before you even get love or get noticed.
As far as what I bring to the table, I bring something new and refreshing for Cleveland/Ohio Hip-hop. I’ve been told very often from people who have heard my or James John’s music that it’s a lot different than other local artists. Again, nowadays everybody and they mama raps. However, it takes true creativity and supernatural gifts to do this music and really be successful. Not all people are meant to do this shit, I don’t take my gift for granted at all. It’s definitely God-given. I thank the Lord everyday for my gift, and pray that it is in his will for me to spread my music to the world.
THP: The Give Up the Sticks project you released earlier this year was recieved well by the public with nearly 1,000 downloads to date. Have you been surprised by the positive response to that project?
SoulKlap: Not at all. I had a lotta faith in this project. First of all, it’s an ill concept. Video Games & Hip-hop. Dope. It may have been done before, but I don’t think it was done on this magnitude. The other thing is the group Divine Minds and myself are known for what we deliver, real ill Hip-hop shit. Quan has been held by some as an underground classic. Those are not my words. They’re the words of one of the many bloggers that posted the album on the web. I knew we’d do a solid project, but the hardest part is promoting it. Obviously partnering with you guys at The Higher Plane was helpful, but the fact that we got Mick and Terry to go along with our vision was invaluable. I’m so thankful to them both for their collaboration with us. I certainly would like to work with them again. Special thank you goes out to all of the other bloggers and supporters that have posted G.U.T.S. as well!
THP: What is on the horizon in terms of music from SoulKlap? Where do you hope to take this young career of yours?
SoulKlap: Man, just growth. I’m finishing up my next album, Klapisms Vol. 1: A Parallax, which I will be releasing early 2011. Hopefully, it will be well received. The Talib Kweli mixtape situation is definitely gonna get my name and music out to people who haven’t heard of me as well. Me and James John are working on the follow up to The Quan, it’s titled, The Quan II: In Search of Odell Jones. It’ll be out sometime next year. I’m also working with a new artist I just linked up with out of Youngstown, Keilyn Davis. He is really ill MC that I believe is truly ahead of his time. We’re doing a collaborative mixtape titled, Beautiful Losers, based off of a movie with the same title. I’m workin with Simo-B of BulletProof Army on his next album, Seeing Green, and once Klapisms Vol. 1 is out, I’m gonna start work on Klapisms Vol. 2: The Corporate Dropout. So hopefully within the next year, SoulKlap will be a name many more Hip-hop heads are familar with.
THP: Finally the floor is yours. Be sure to let people know where they can find music from Soul other than The Higher Plane?
SoulKlap: Just want to first off thank you for this opportunity to speak with my fans through The Higher Plane! Fans can download my tunes as I post them up on my website, www.soulklap.com. They can “like” me on Facebook (facebook.com/soulklap) and follow me on Twitter (@SoulKlap). Other than that, many thanks to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Shout out to my family, my girl, all of my supporters and all of Cleveland. Special shout out to LxE and the rest of the Milk+Syrup camp, ill shit! Also make sure ya’ll download my brother James John’s new mixtape From.Here.To.Pollux. which is out now!
Overtime with The Higher Plane
THP: Top 5 Soul records
SoulKlap: Big Marvin Gaye fan, so he basically dominates this list. This is in no particular order by the way [laughs]. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?, Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly, Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life and Donny Hathaway’s Extension of a Man.
THP: Top 5 Things that you’ve done in your career so far
SoulKlap: Featured on Talib Kweli mixtape, opened for Wiz Khalifa (in front of 1,000 people), opened for B.o.B., collaborated with Mick Boogie & Terry Urban on a mixtape, created a Twitter account
THP: Top 5 Brands
SoulKlap: 10.Deep, Levi’s, Nike, G-Shock, Polo