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Vice Souletric: The New Ohio [Interview]

“We’re trying to put Ohio back on the map musically…hip-hop wise.” –Vice Souletric It was an evening early last month…

“We’re trying to put Ohio back on the map musically…hip-hop wise.”
–Vice Souletric

It was an evening early last month when I received a cold-call — if you will — from an Ohio-based rapper named Vice Souletric. A quick peruse of his SoundCloud revealed an impressive amount of quality material and features, which I directly correlate with cosigns. Ones that immediately jumped out at me were “Respect The Legends,” produced by the iconic 9th Wonder, “Stayin’ Out The Way,” featuring the BK rapper Skyzoo, and “Return Of The Blackman,” featuring Talib Kweli. Alongside his partner in rhyme, G.Huff, the two have formed an on-wax chemistry similar to Cuban Linx-era Ghostface and Raekwon. With premieres on platforms like Okayplayer, and most recently Revolt, the two seem to be making a tonne of moves at an accelerated rate.

Aside from rap, Vice is also an accomplished [visual] artist and producer. The latter he attributes to sheer necessity; “I couldn’t find anybody who made the type of beats that I like, so I learned how to make beats myself. Being from Ohio, it’s crazy because a lot of cats around here aren’t necessarily on that East Coast boom bap type of feel, but that’s what I like, so I had to teach myself how to make type of beats.” His cover artwork also led to him forming a relationship with producer Pete Rock, whom he’s considered a mentor over the past 3-4 years. With their biggest release yet, Vice and Huff [finally] released a song produced by Chocolate Boy Wonder, “Bills,” with a visual expected to follow shortly.

With two knocking mixtapes under his belt, and tonnes of exciting things in the pipeline, I decided to take some time to sit with Vice and learn more about his process, his music, and more. Check out the new song, “Bills,” and the interview below.


One thing that stuck out when I went through your stuff is that you had some pretty heavy features. Give me a sense of how you got involved with some of these people?

Over the last two years, I dropped two projects. One was an EP called Vice for President. On there, I was able to work with Guilty Simpson and Reks from Boston. Then this last project, Vice for President 2, was a full-length EP. I was able to work with Kweli, Skyzoo, 9th Wonder, and Rapper Big Pooh. A lot of times people do ask me a lot, like “Wow, how did you get to work with these cats?” It’s nothing more than stepping to these cats in a business manner — keeping it completely professional. Handling my business the way that they want to handle it. To be honest with you, I’m not personally friends with any of these cats; I had to hit up their management. I had to hit them up directly to see what they were talking about and just had to network. If I had to break off some bread, I did that; in some cases, I didn’t have to do that. But, at the end of the day, it’s just about building the best mutual respect, and I think all those cats have respect for me. I’ve got respect for them.

Did they give you feedback on the joints?

Oh yeah, definitely. All the cats that I worked with gave me feedback. One of the cats that I collaborated with that I didn’t have direct contact with was 9th Wonder, though. I collaborated with King Magnetic on that track, and he has a direct relationship with 9th. So as far as that beat, he pretty much worked with 9th on that, but as far as everybody else, I heard back from them, and they gave me good feedback. They liked the tracks; and you know, a lot of times with these cats, it doesn’t matter what the terms are, they’re not going to be a part of something that they’re not feeling.

Your latest joint on Vevo with Hi-Tek — how did that come together?

With that situation, that track is part of G.Huff’s album, and I’m featured on the song. We had to go [hard] for the longest, with us being from Ohio, to be able to reach out to Hi-Tek, and it was just something where we reached out to him on Facebook. We presented our music to him; we told him who we are, what we were trying to do, and it took a while — because Hi-Tek isn’t a cat that just works with anybody. So it took a while to crack that nut, but he eventually responded back to us like, “Yeah, let’s work,” and he sent us a few beats. It was very hard to pick the one beat that we wanted to use, but you know, we’re happy with it, and he liked the song. Like after the video came out and everything, he hit us up; he gave us our blessing, like “Yeah, that’s dope.” We intend on doing some more work with Hi-Tek in the future.

Alright, so you guys are indie right now, yeah?

We’re indie, man. Everything. It’s like I’m a producer, I naturally write my music, I’m a graphic designer, I do all my covers, websites, all of that stuff, man. Like, we’re pretty much a one stop shop. We take care of all of our business because, one, you need to be able to do that, just to cut costs, because it’s very expensive trying to do music. Two, it gives you more leverage when you’re trying to network and work with other people — being able to wear more hats. So yeah, we’re completely indie. We would like to get signed, that would be ideal, but right now we’re indie, and we’re happy with our position.

Have you had any interest from labels? Have you talked to labels?

We’re just in the beginning stages. To be honest with you, we’ve been doing it for a while, but just over like the last year and a half, people have been starting to take notice of what we’ve been doing. We buckled down and started releasing these projects that we put a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of resources into. But we are getting more interest by the day from different A&Rs, we’re connecting with a lot of different people in the industry, and they’re looking at us. As of right now, we haven’t had a contract pushed in our face yet, but with the moves that we’ve made, and a couple of things we have in the works, we’re expecting something to pop by the end of 2016, for sure.

Who are some of the artists that maybe you haven’t worked with yet, or that you wanted to get on this project, that you’re going to try to get in the future?

Well, one is Pete Rock. Like I have a joint on Vice President 2 called ‘Irap’, and like I know him personally — and I want him to rap on the song. Like I didn’t even want a beat, I just wanted him to rap, because the song is all about being a producer and an MC, so I thought it would be great to have him on it. It wasn’t able to go down because he was really busy working on this project he has coming out with Smoke Dza. But actually, Huff and I were just down there this past weekend, and we hooked up with him, and we got a beat from him. We’re going to be releasing a joint with Pete Rock real soon. It’s gonna be crazy; it’s gonna be nuts, man. [Editor’s Note: The song has since been released, it’s called “Bills.”]

You’ve been friends with him for quite a while, and you consider him sort of a mentor. Maybe talk a little bit about that relationship.

I would say maybe for like the last four or five years; he’s a real cool cat. Like, he’s a cat that interacts with people via social media, so we’ve always interacted online, and actually like I said, I do graphic design, so I did a cover for him. If you remember the project that he did with Camp Lo
maybe about two or three years ago, he had like this cartoon type cover – I did that. I’m the one that did that joint, so that’s sort of how we linked. It was real crazy. He hit me up in the middle of the night, dude. He hit me up, because he got my number from Huff, and he hit me up in the middle of the night with like 20 text messages. I wake up to all these messages from Pete Rock, talking about, “Yo, I need a cover.” So I did the cover man, and ever since then we kept in contact. You know we talk sports, we talk hoops; we talk music every once in a while. He has a mutual respect for us, but we never try to be too thirsty with him, and like beg him for beats, this that and the other. Everything has to happen in its own time, and you know, now it’s time, so we about to get it cracking.

So what’s next? What’s the next project we can look out for?

What I’m working on now is an instrumental album. Because I put out the two projects that I was rapping on, and I just want to showcase like the beats, and let people know like how serious I am, and how into the production I am, and how detailed I am with it. So that’s the next thing coming out, that’s probably going to be dropping within the next two months, and it’s not going to be throwaway beats either. Like I already told my boys in my crew, “Y’all gonna be pissed when y’all hear some of the beats I put on this because I’m putting out heat.” Because, no matter what you release, you’ve always got to put your best foot forward, and I want people to take me seriously as a producer as well, so that’s the next thing that’s coming out.

Any last words, or anything else you’d like to leave on the blog?

Pretty much, man, just check out Vice for President 2, and check me out on vicesworld.com — that’s my website. You can find all my social media up there. We are just trying to represent Ohio, man. Like this is a big year for Ohio, but we’re trying to put Ohio back on the map musically, hip-hop wise, so by the end of 2016 man, we’re just gonna try to be in the position that we want to be in.

 

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
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A Conversation With New York Creative Rodney Hazard

“The process is never linear.” Those were some true words spoken by the New York DJ, Producer and Art Director,…

“The process is never linear.” Those were some true words spoken by the New York DJ, Producer and Art Director, Rodney Hazard.

He’s been on the music scene for quite some time now and recently dropped a new album titled Saint or Savage. The album features several up and coming artists that had a chance to collaborate with the Producer. He spoke with AAHH and broke down the meaning behind the title.

“It’s about making less of a choice and having more action. Stepping into who you truly are and who you want to become, but with more redemption. Which one are you right now, Saint or Savage?”

The basis of the title is also the same mindset he used when he approached the artist on collaborating with him for this project. He only works with artists who are trying to make a difference and be their best self.

“When I decided which artist I would have on the album it was a natural process. I’ve mostly worked with them in the past as well. They all had versatility and were different. The process is never linear; creativity comes in all forms and I wanted to express that.” Hazard wanted this album to be something people never heard before, and you can be assured it’s definitely different!

While some people typically crave to become rappers and singers, its rare to hear that someone’s dream is to be a producer. So we asked Rodney Hazard what advice he would give other people who inspire to be in his shoes.

“It’s important to know that an artists work is never finished so just put your material out there! You must pay attention to the music but keep the people, your audience, as the main focus point.”

It’s clear that Rodney Hazard is making his way through the music industry and bringing new artists up with him. Names such as Young $yrup and True City are on the rise as well.

Young $yrup is also featured on Rodneys newest music video for his song “True Eyes” which is off of his album Saint or Savage. Check out the official music video, below!

 
I’m sure it won’t be long before the name Rodney Hazard becomes a household name. He’s full of knowledge, creativity and knows how important it is to put his audience first. He also lives by the famous saying “each one, teach one.” He believes that we all should strive to help each other, lead and do well!

Saint or Savage is available now on all digital platforms.

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Koncept Talks Korea & Premieres New Video For “Never Again”

The Queens MC flipped a two-week tour into a two-year odyssey of success

It’s all about trusting the journey because sometimes following your gut can take you into unexpected territory. Just ask Queens (New York) rapper Koncept — one-time Fat Beats employee and former member of the Brown Bag All Stars. He’d built a bankable brand as a solo act, blazing from the onset of his debut LP back at the top of 2012. Having worked his J57 collaborative project The Fuel and having just about wrapped his next LP (which would become 14 Hours Ahead), he set off on a short tour in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. That was almost two years ago, and Kon has finally made his return to New York City after what became an unexpected odyssey of overseas fame.

RELATED: Read Our 2015 Interview With Koncept [Released In Support Of The Fuel]

“I was only supposed to be there for two weeks … the tour got extended,” he reveals to AAHH. “I ended up partnering with Sony Music [Asia], and it was a domino effect into a bunch of things.” The label made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, but as they agreed to release his 14 Hours Ahead LP, the deal required him to stick around indefinitely. “They said they wanted me to stay over there for the rollout of the album, so I could be face to face in the country, play shows, promote my brand and the album.”

The LP’s success led to a consistent touring schedule. “I tried to come back a few times,” he notes. Each time he attempted to return, bookings would pile one, forcing him to abandon the plans. “This time I was straight up, like, ‘all right, I’m going to go back to New York. I’m going to fly out June 20th. Like there are no bookings after June 15th, you know what I mean?'”

“I just been nonstop,” he continues. “I just finished this new album, and I want to drop these news videos I have … but I just [needed to] regroup and take a little rest, you know what I mean? Chill for a little bit and then get back into everything.” The first of these new videos — there are five in total — “Never Again” is premiering right here on AAHH. “It’s just about not making the same mistakes and learning from your experiences,” he says of the track, “just getting rid of all of the negative things in your life, from relationships to friendships, etc.”

 
Ultimately, he credits his time in Korea with helping him break ground that merely networking online wouldn’t have allowed — which is a big takeaway for any artist considering touring overseas. “I’m constantly booked … I play three shows a week. There’s a real connection with the people, the fans, and with the industry as a whole out there.” Though he’d already tasted some initial success stateside, the same success that led him to Korea in the first place, what’s he’s built over there has been next level. “Going out there and just being the unicorn, just being different, instantly people gravitated towards it.” On top of just a hectic live schedule, he also landed numerous print magazine placements and even commercial placements — notably appearing in Spyder clothing ads that appeared across Asia in movie theatres.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s sparked a whole new wave of creativity for Koncept. “It’s dope because it’s in a different place is just really inspiring. You know what I mean? Walking outside every day and just seeing things that I’m not used to, meeting different people … it’s a whole other inspiration.” As he explains, the outlook has given his music an even more unique vibe than it already had. “I’m not to trying to be pigeonholed as a New York rapper … there’s a big world out here. I’m trying to be a fucking a global artist, you know, global musician.”

14 Days Ahead
is available everywhere.

 

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Expect Excellence from Fashion Startup [strive/arrive]

To its 21-year-old founder, fashion brand [strive/arrive] does much more than put out dope apparel; it utilizes raw emotion, promotes…

To its 21-year-old founder, fashion brand [strive/arrive] does much more than put out dope apparel; it utilizes raw emotion, promotes self-empowerment, and thrives on community involvement.

The official brand entitled & stylized as [strive/arrive] was created in 2017 by then 20-year-old Anwar Alston in Greensboro, North Carolina. From the get-go, Anwar placed a heavy emphasis on pushing clothes to his community and keeping everything local. Frequenting the Greensboro Cultural Center for runway fashion shows, Strive has become a stylish symbol of the city’s youth culture and garnered an “if you know you know” type of following.

According to Anwar, every article of clothing visually represents his state of mind throughout his design process. This has led Strive to produce a variety of custom pieces like jackets and jeans scribbled with a vibrant sharpie, to professionally tagged and branded collared shirts and sweatpants; each incorporating different meanings and phrases within them. Strive’s garments showcase eloquent diversity in style and function, and continue to evolve in colorways and material. My personal favorite from the Strive catalog is a baby blue t-shirt reading: HANDLE THE PRESSURE, in a simplistic square outline.

While diverse, the main thing you will notice is consistent in Strive’s clothing is the use of bright colors. Anwar notes that this is intended to promote positivity and mental wellbeing; both important factors to his creative process. One upcoming drop stylized as s[PRIDE] will advocate for the LGBTQ community by incorporating the pride rainbow into t-shirts as well as a thought-provoking design reading “love is ____.”

And though Strive makes an effort to push clothes locally, the brand is also making big moves internationally. This summer will mark the brand’s first major collaboration with London based streetwear brand: Amien Ghaker Jomaa. The drop is scheduled for mid-July along with a separate line of athletic wear. s[PRIDE] is currently available for pre-order on strivearrive.com and in the meantime, Anwar will be holding a fashion show periodically in the Van Dyke performance space of the Greensboro Cultural Center.

Stylish, refreshing, and impressively busy— [strive/arrive] is a growing company that fashion scouts must undoubtedly keep an eye on.

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REVIEW: Redemption by Jay Rock

As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken…

As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken through to his final form of artistry and is forging his way ahead. The project came with two documentary-style visuals, Road to Redemption parts 1 & 2, that show the TDE rapper’s evolution since signing with Warner Bros Records in 2007, to signing exclusively with Top Dawg and Interscope. The visuals also portray the extremely positive impact the rapper has had on his community in Watts, California since flourishing in the music industry. This mini-doc series serves as a visualization to many of the concepts on this album and provides insight into Rock as a person and his perception in Hip Hop. There is truly no slowing down for the TDE spitter, who showcases his striking ambition for life and Hip Hop on this exemplary 13 track album.

1) The Bloodiest

“The Bloodiest” is Rock’s opening track. Perhaps it’s name is a metaphor for his past life as a violent criminal, perhaps a prelude for the album’s rawness, but either way it’s a hell of an opening statement. The Devil thought he had me I was on back burners, are the words that start the song. Emanating chills, he continues with ghostly, technical bars before wrecking the beat with quick & agile rhyme schemes he matches with the dense subject matter. The listener cannot help but focus like attending a college lecture. The beat, while fire, is the least important aspect of “The Bloodiest,” because Jay Rock is able to say so much in so little time.

2) For What it’s Worth

Track two. “For What it’s Worth.” I’m not even gonna front, at first listen I skipped this song because of the background singing that is now a staple of “woke” Hip Hop. But I’m glad I went back and listened in depth because it is by far the strongest song on Redemption. It’s mellow- but if you hone in on what Rock is spitting you will literally get chills up and down your spine. Exploring the problems of having a relationship during the brink of success, the TDE MC explains how dangerous pussy can be. That pretty flower will spoil you then it poisons you, is just one quick outtake of all the truth he spits on this male-centric, relationship anxiety inspired second track.

3) Knock it Off

“Knock it Off” immediately lightens things up by upping its tempo while Jay Rock touches on a new and less serious subject. The track is dedicated to exposing fakes that try to be like Jay Rock and TDE. The groove is spit over the now classic flute enhanced rap instrumental. “You ain’t me n*gga knock it off!” The background vocals on this track are saucy as hell but don’t overpower Rock’s energy; showcasing the tastefulness of the mix.

4) ES Tales

“Back in these projects/back in these projects/ I lost it all…now I’m back in these projects,” is the haunting opener to Rock’s next track: “ES Tales.” The tone of the album switches up at this point to a digital sounding, video game inspired upbeat tempo; though Jay Rock sticks to his Watts inspired storytelling rap style. At this point in the album, he has outdone himself in regards to lyrical capacity and rhyme scheme, and this track is perhaps one of the strongest in showcasing how many different flows the artist is capable of.

5) Rotation 112th

“Rotation 112th” maintains an upbeat tempo with the fire flute samples that complement the lyrical transitions from low sing/rap to high energy yelling. This song is impossible not to nod your head to; it’s a perfect filler track in the sense that it fits the mood thus far in the project but doesn’t too much to progress its major themes. A smoke break to Rock’s relentlessly meaningful content.

6) Tap Out

TDE calls upon Jeremih’s soothing vocals for the mid-album radio song: “Tap Out.” I call it a radio song because its bound to be stuck in your head. Not in an annoying mainstream way, but in a way that you don’t even notice until you’re humming the lyrics at random times all day. Other reviewers called this track the token sex song of the project.

7) OSOM

I was happy that TDE showed J. Cole some love on this next track; because even if you claim you hate Cole you can’t hate on TDE, especially on this track. “OSOM” (outta sight outta mind) is a tribute to paranoia, as shown in the visuals that recently dropped featuring Cole and Rock together fighting off an overwhelming feeling of dread after a botched robbery. Cole always spits with uncharacteristic rawness when featured and this track was no different.

8) King’s Dead

I don’t even have to go into “King’s Dead” since it was Redemption’s first single. But if for some reason you haven’t heard it yet: it’s fire. K Dot freaked it.

9) Troopers

“Troopers” is an ode to loyalty; noting the kinship that comes with drug dealing and crime. “you ain’t gotta question when its brackin’” is a nice line that sums up the unspoken allegiance Rock feels to his closest homies in Watts. The track is ominous in sound and subjects with the chorus continuously warning his momma that he might not make it home from his escapades with the streets. Though not a hype track or a deeply lyrical journey this track is a good Segway between “Kings Dead” & “Broke+-.”

10) Broke +-

Track 10 is the densest of this project. The Black Hippy rapper delves into American history, capitalism, and personal morals before painting a sonic image of what it means to be “broke” in America. B is for the blood/R is for the ropes/O is for oppression/K is for the kush need it just to cope/E is for the evolution. The words are rapped over a slow, gloomy beat and does well to ground the project after taking its listeners up and down.

11) Wow Freestyle

Wooooow. K dot and Jay Rock reminisce on this joint. It’s a fun sounding track that lightens the mood with back and forth from Rock to Dot and back again. Rock also experiments with his voice adding a little crack to his breathier bars; similar to what Kendrick does on songs like “u.” It gives his words an exasperated effect and adds a nice variety to his cadence.

12) Redemption

Aaaaaand the title track where Jay highlights his near-fatal motorcycle crash that inspired a lot of this album’s subject matter and sound. He explains how he imagined his funeral would be while hooked up to various machines in the hospital helping him breathe. The track is also a testament to second chances; which is what Rock felt life gave him after he made a full recovery from a broken femur and pelvis among other severe injuries. The song isn’t pushing itself to be too strand out, but includes beautiful words from TDE’s one and only: SZA, making it an objectively fire and insightful title track.

13) WIN

“WIN” is a perfect closer to the album. It’s almost a corny track with the chorus a repetitive Win, win, win, win trademarked with Kendrick’s backing vocals. It doesn’t have as much lyrical depth as the rest of the album but it doesn’t need that because it’s almost like a summation of what the album felt like. A thin slice of tiramisu after a hearty meal; eaten simply as a compliment.

REDEMPTION is one of my favorite albums thus far in 2018. It contains the quintessential components of what makes a Hip-hop album fire; from concepts to storytelling to hype tracks. And for Jay Rock specifically, the album represents his growth and development through life and as an artist. If you listen to Hood Tales and Redemption back to back you can really grasp these changes and see how much ground a rapper can cover with a lucrative career. The crew at Above Average is hyped for what TDE will follow this project with!

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Like Controlla: Dancehall And Contemporary Mainstream

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