with Sol.iLLaquists of Sound
By Naughty Mickie
About a year ago I was at the Glass House to see Sage Francis when another
group caught my ear-- Sol.iLLaquists of Sound. Since then, I've been
checking on their tour schedule and waiting for the right time to hit them
up for an interview. My actions may not seem unusual for a music writer,
but this is hip-hop, not my usual milieu, so you can imagine the impact
they made on me. After my research and the interview, I'm even more
enamored and impressed, as SOL is not only a DIY project, the group has a
message and they're taking it to the masses with success.
SOL is a talented quartet consisting of lead MC Swamburger, lead vocalist
Alexandrah, producer and MPCist DiViNCi and backup vocalist and additional
percussionist Tonya Combs. Their latest effort, "As If We Existed"
(Anti/Epitaph) was released Sept. 26, 2006. With a sound based in hip-hop,
kicked up a notch with soul, gospel, rap and other grooves, they take on
social issues, such as cultural revolution, ethnic alcoholism and personal
DiViNCi grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to Orlando to attend audio
engineering school, there he met Swamburger and the two became friends and
began writing music together. Alexandrah was a friend of Swamburger's in
Chicago, they collaborated on music as well and she moved because she was
drawn to their dedication. Tonya Combs, a transplant from New York, would
go to their shows regularly and finally became part of group too. The four
paired up - Swamburger and Alexadrah; DiViNCi and Tanya - and devoted
themselves to pursuing a musical career as a team.
When the home SOL shared in Florida was destroyed by a hurricane, they
decided to the best way out of their situation was to go on tour. They
caught the attention of Sage Francis and became his support act, then
moved to being a significant part of his
set. The four now share a lake house in Orlando, Florida. Since SOL was on
the road, DiViNCi and I interviewed via e-mail.
NM: Before we start, I would like to add that I am thrilled to have this
opportunity, as I caught you on tour with Sage Francis. I had never heard
your music before and am now a fan, so I feel honored to be able to share
my talent and get you some well-deserved press.
D: That really means a lot to us. We appreciate the opportunity. Thank
NM:. How did you come up your group's name?
D: When I came up with the name Sol.iLLaquists of Sound, I was really just
looking for something to sum up what my friends and I were doing when we
would produce music, which is just sharing ourselves with others through
sound. Traditionally a soliloquist is someone who writes or performs
soliloquies. A soliloquy is when someone speaks to themselves aloud to
his/her thoughts or feelings to an audience. Being Sol.iLLaquists of Sound
we do this through music and talk to the audience through ourselves in
order for everyone to learn more about who we all as a people really are,
how much we are all connected, and what we are capable of. The name also
addresses the connection that we all share by saying that as Solillaquists
we speak to each other we are essentially speaking to a reflection of
NM: Please further explain what you mean when you describe your sound as
FAHEEM (Free Astral HipHop Extraterrestrialy Energized)?
D: We came up with FAHEEM to sort of coin our sound before any journalist
got a chance to do so. No offense but a lot of journalist can be really
careless when interpreting the art they observe. It stood for Free Astral
Hip hop Extra-terrestrially
Energized Message. It's sort of a tongue-in-cheek preemptive strike to
the critics. It's sort of silly though, that we felt we had to do that,
cause really at the end of the day what we are doing is Hip Hop. Back in
the day, Hip Hop artists strived to sound unique and stand out from one
another and it was all just Hip Hop. Nowadays people seem to forget that
and don't push as much, and try to lump anything that does go against the
grain with a different name. So really FAHEEM = Hip Hop.
NM: How do you write-- as a group or is one person more prolific? Who pens
your lyrics/spoken word, etc.?
D: 99.9% of the time everyone writes their own lyrics. There were a
couple instances on this album in particular where I would help write a
chorus or something, but most of the time I stick to writing the music.
There are also the occasional songs where Alex and Swam would write
together, but this is usually when they are going back and forth or
rapping and singing simultaneously.
NM: What do you think of today's music scene? How does your group fit in--
D: Well, the popular music scene is all about business. Everyone is
trying to sound like whatever is making the most money at the time. I
wouldn't say that we fit in with that. But there is definitely room for
what we are doing out there, not to mention room for a bunch of other
artists that are making good music that are going unnoticed by the masses.
NM: Has the Internet helped your efforts?
D: The Internet is definitely a good tool. It's a double-edged sword
though. A lot of promoters are relying on just the artists' Internet
connections to sell tickets for shows it seems. It causes a lot of people
to be lazy and abuse the convenience, not to
mention it's creating all these people who only know how to interact
electronically. On the other hand, we get to be directly connected with
thousands of our fans and friends and it's nuts how many people have been
introduced to our music through the Internet. We have definitely been
using it for more good than evil.
NM: You are all vegans, correct? You also seem very conscious of
environmental and global concerns-- does this play into your music? If so,
D: None us eat any animal products, except for me. I guess I'm a pescal
vegan, if that exists, 'cause in addition to being vegan, I eat fish, ha.
I have my own feelings on what things from the sea do for my overall well
being and health. But we are definitely conscious of everything we do and
how it affects ourselves and those around. This includes but is not
limited to the environment and global concerns. Everything we do we do
cause we feel like it is more beneficial than not and that's where all of
our music is
coming from. But like anyone we are always open to learn more and are
down to change things that we may do if proven to be
more beneficial for us and the whole.
NM: You and Alexandrah are both graphic artists, do you work together on
the illustrations for your Web site and the art for your CDs, posters,
D: We are always swamped with work, so we really do as much as we can and
when it gets to be too much for one of us we ask the other for help. We
all do our own designs for shirts, album art, Web sites, and whatever.
Swam's art work is the basis for all
our designs though. Most recently Al spent a couple of months editing,
filming, and directing our DVD and I did the authoring of the menus and
what not. At the same time, I was getting all of our CD artwork and
masters up to spec and we were designing our posters, stickers, and shirts
for our new release and tour. It's a regular Solilla Factory at our house
at all times.
NM:. I bought a ring (that I wear a lot!) from Tonya at the Sage Francis
show that she made. She told me about making purses, jewelry, etc. to
support your tour. Do you still do that? What other merchandise,
particularly crafted, do you make (and who makes it)?
D: Tonya and Alex stay making jewelry, art, and clothes. Swam is an
artist and is constantly finding new mediums for his art. I finished a
book a while ago and am working on a new one soon. Like I said, it's a
factory over here.
NM: Now some background on you, if you please-- What was your first
experience with music in your childhood?
D: The first experience I can remember having any type of profound affect
on me was seeing "Yo! MTV Raps" when I was about 11 or 12. Up until then
I had my heart set on being an inventor and scientist. But I was so
inspired by the music and culture of hip hop that I just had to be a part
of that and hopefully inspire people the same way I had been.
NM: How did your parents feel about your interest in hip-hop?
D: They were always supportive of what I was into.
NM: Did you go to college? If so, what was your major?
D: I went to Full Sail Real World Education in Orlando (Florida) for Audio
NM: Do you currently work a day job? Have you worked any interesting or
strange jobs to support yourself while pursuing your music career?
D: Music is my job, I haven't worked for anyone else for almost five years
now. When I was 14 I got a job working as a waiter at an old folks home
to save up for my first MPC (drum machine). I kept that job all through
out high school to aid in buying my gear.
NM: What hobbies do you have when you're not involved with music?
D: Is eating a hobby? If so, then eating. I like to cook. Ummm... Most
of what I do is connected with music or my career as a musician, nowadays
I don't have time for much else.
NM: What is it like living, working and touring with the same people 24/7?
Do you ever need a break? If so, what do you do to get some privacy?
D: We are all family. It's honestly perfect being around each other all
the time. Swam and Alex are "married," as are Tonya and I, and I have no
complaints about being around them all the time. But we are all very
focused on what we are doing. And because of that it never feels like we
need a break from each other, cause we are always doing our own thing to
our collective goals.
NM: What is the correct name for that intriguing and terrific instrument
D: It's called an MPC (music production center). It's basically a
sampling and sequencing drum machine made by a company called Akai. I use
two MPC2000XLs and recently incorporated the new MPC2500 in to my setup.
So on this tour I am playing three MPCs at the same time.
NM: What does the future hold for Sol.iLLaquists of Sound?
D: More and more of what we already have been doing. Making music and
trying to change the world.
NM: Is there anything I haven't asked and should have or anything else you
would like to share? A word to your fans perhaps??
D: Nah, great questions though, if you have any more please feel free to
hit me up. It's really late and just got back from banging my head on my
machines so I hope I didn't sound like a fool with some of these answers.
With all these interviews I am doing, I get less and less concerned with
answering extravagantly. Nothing wrong with short and sweet. Whatever,
at least I was honest.
*** I caught Sol.iLLaquists of Sound at the Glass House in Pomona
recently, this time as the headliners. Their show was great, as was their
attitude. I wish them continued success-- they work hard, have talent and