When we sat down with Chicago MC/producer SolarFive, he was putting the finishing touches on his banger of an album 88Soul (available here), a beautiful, haunting blend of mournful meditations and quiet aggression. Humorous, humble and introspective, we got a better sense of his influences, where he’s been and where he’s about to go, both as a solo artist and with his production crew OnGaud.
GLM: Here with the man, the myth, the legend, the Super Saiyan- SolarFive.
SolarFive: Hi guys, I’m SolarFive.
G: Who are you and how did you get here?
S: I’m SolarFive and I got here through my mother’s vagina and my dad’s semen. Pretty sure that’s how I got here. I could be wrong though. I might’ve came from a solar flare, something. But I’m pretty sure it was my mom’s vagina.
G: Now you said solar flare- does that have anything to do with your name?
G: What does your name mean?
S: SolarFive is just a nickname I got. People used to call me “Soul” all the time because I used to be old as fuck so they’d call me an old soul. Five is a number that references power.
S: Chicago, south side.
G: Born and raised?
S: No, I’m originally from Texas. San Antonio, Texas.
G: When did you move?
S: I moved here when I was 7 years old so Chicago is home. It’s what I know, where my mom lives, where I was raised, where all my family is. I don’t have any family in Texas.
G: Where do you draw your inspiration as an MC but also as a producer with OnGaud? What elements compel you to create?
S: That’s a hard question.
G: We have nothing but time.
S: Something that I’ve always done, literally since I moved to Chicago I can remember writing raps.
G: What attracted you to it?
S: MC Hammer. I thought he was the coolest when I was a kid. One of the 1st songs I ever learned was “Too Legit To Quit.” My mom says I was a baby singing that shit. I thought he was cool as hell.
G: Did you or did you not own a pair of Hammer pants?
S: I did NOT. My mom could sew them though. She can still do that to this day.
G: So if someone were to give you Hammer pants today, would that possibly be the greatest thing ever?
G: Not even to frame hang on your wall? What if they were HIS pants? Like the actual Hammer pants?
S: See this is something my mom told I liked as a child.
G: Brand new, 2nd hand memory.
S: Right. My earliest memory of rap is “Thuggish Ruggish Bone.” I draw a lot of inspiration from Bone Thugs, super raw. That was kinda my introduction into rap as I know it today.
G: How about production?
S: Production? I started playing trumpet when I was a sophomore in high school and band really got me more so into the production side. Playing the trumpet helped me really start to understand music. I draw a lot of inspiration from sounds and shit, walking out in nature, feeling the grass beneath your feet…
G: (drops phone)
S: Dropping phones! That could be a snare right there!
G: A one drum hit song called “Dropping Your Phone.” 2015 Pootie Tang, “Drop The Phone.”
S: Man I love Pootie Tang. That shit is the best.
G: Tell me more about OnGaud- what is OnGaud?
S: It’s a trio of producers that make beats really raw in Ableton. We use Ableton, that’s kinda your friend.
G: Do you guys ever incorporate any live instrumentation? I know you said you play trumpet. Do you ever play it on the songs?
S: I actually don’t! I’m a few years out of practice. But hopefully I’m getting this trumpet really soon, looking forward to that.
G: 2015 resolution, play trumpet?
S: Yeah. I need to do like 3 months of intense training before I’m back. But yeah- we haven’t done it too much with live instruments but we have done it. We did this Closed Sessions joint with Dally Auston, NoName Gypsy, Saba and Mick Jenkins. We had live drums on that. Not too much, keys n shit.
G: Who have some of your favorite artists been to work with- both sharing the mic or sharing the sound?
S: Mick Jenkins on both accords. Even mixing Mick’s music is really dope. I can always hear how it’s supposed to sound; he can spit me a verse a capella and I can make him a beat that will fit it. He has a good ear for music and I think our ears match.
G: That helps everything.
S: It really does. I had an interesting experience working with Vic Mensa the few times that we had worked together. But I think it’s dope just watching people work, how they interact, it’s raw. He was just off in the corner rapping to himself. And I’m thinking, “This is the strangest shit I’d ever seen.” But then after he raps the verse, I’m walking back and forth around the studio like I’m at a track meet or something when I’m writing so who am I to judge? I think the movement helps get the brain flowing.
G: What I’ve found to be useful is going into the recording as if it were a performance, not a separate entity. If you combine the two, it becomes possible to create something that is immediately more stage ready versus having to ask yourself how you’re going to perform something. Certain songs, it’s obvious that it’s time to bring the turn up, others it’s time to be somber. There’s also a lot of gray area music, where the performers don’t bring the proper energy to sell the performance. If you guess wrong, you can really alienate people, even if it’s a great song.
S: Definitely. I feel like I do that sometimes (laughs), that’s real.
G: What are your immediate plans for the future? What does 2015 look like? You excited?
S: I’m very excited. January 13th I’m dropping 88Soul, my project. Hopefully the 1st four months, I’ll be able to produce a new project. I’ve been working this whole year on multiple projects- hopefully 2015 is the year to let them shits loose, set up tours, shit like that.
G: Where do you plan on going?
S: I plan on going to Canada for sure, have some connects out there. Where ever people fucking want me!
G: What would you say have been some of the most challenging experiences you’ve dealt with on the road?
S: It’s always the getting to the show part that’s the problem for me. It’s like, once you get there- half the time I’m getting there 30 minutes before I’m supposed to sound check. I’m on this long ass bus ride. I wanna smoke. I don’t know this town. I don’t know if I should light up right here. Should I hit an alley? Shit like that. (laughs)
G: Finding shelter. Even finding floors to sleep on.
S: I don’t mind floors! Good for your back. Maybe not multiple nights in a row preferably but one night is not bad. I remember there was this one time when I was in Minneapolis doing a show, the show ends. My bus didn’t leave for another few hours, so I’m walking around, no clue where the fuck I am. Stumble across a movie theater, watched a movie twice just to have shelter! It was cold as fuck out there, I have no idea why they call Chicago the windy city (laughs).
G: If you could have a dream collaboration or event, what would that look like?
S: Can I say both dream collaboration and event?
G: Of course.
S: So- it would be- collaboration: SolarFive right? This is a dream right? So, Notorious B.I.G., Krayzie Bone, Young Thug, Lil B, Key and Father. We would do a song called the “10 Hoe Commandments,” talking about nothing but bitches. That’s my dream collab. As far as the event- I would put 2Pac, Biggie and Scarface on a bill. I would just want to see that, that would be raw as fuck.
G: What about a show you could partake in?
S: A packed out stadium in Japan, on stage rocking it with a whole bunch of Japanese bitches.
G: Final question, big time stuff- in one word, describe what you would like to leave the world?
S: I’m too high (laughs). One word or thing I would want to leave the world- life. Too much death in the world. I’ve never handled death well, so I would want to leave life