Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Hype Magazine: Where Are They Now? Sole'

Where Are They Now? Sole'
By: Todd Davis
First things first, it's been over fourteen years since the release of your first and only solo LP, Skin Deep -- Can you please catch everyone up to speed as to what exactly you've been up to, both personally and professionally, during your lengthy musical hiatus.
During the past 14 years, I took time to focus on family, being a mom and wife and evolving as a woman. Entrepreneurship is in my blood, so naturally I started a few businesses, as well as developed myself professionally in various areas and explored different interests I had. I was certified by the Protocol School of Washington to teach corporate etiquette, business image consulting and international protocol. I was also certified as an interior decorator and owned & operated a successful decorating business for a while, in addition to investing in and opening an independent living program in Missouri in 2007, S.P.R.U.C.E., which I'm currently the Vice President of. We house and care for mentally and physically disabled adults. We will be expanding into Kansas this summer with P.R.I.D.E., which is a group-home for children in foster care and/or transitioning from the juvenile correctional system. I'm a fitness & martial arts lover since childhood, so in the interim, I was also certified to teach group exercise, practice Kung-Fu -- I'm currently a red belt -- kickboxing and yoga, and plan to eventually open a martial arts school. In addition to that, I've taken acting lessons, I do lots of charity work for the Somaly Mam Foundation, which fights human trafficking, I'm a dance mom and home-school my two younger children; Story and Dream. 
Following your debut, I believe that there were even plans for a follow-up collection -- What caused the ultimate change in those plans? Was there actually material already recorded for that proposed second album?
Yes, a sophomore album was completed entitled Fly Away. There is a track out there called "Never Had" that was to be the first single. I was unhappy with my record label and didn't think they would do what needed to be done to really make the album successful. I didn't think they "got me" and understood my vision. Therefore, I asked for a release and was finally granted it. I wasn't dropped from the label...I asked to be released. 
What then prompted your decision to take so much time off from music? Or, was it not something you consciously decided, but yet still happened anyway?
Initially, I didn't plan to take so much time off. I wanted to get a new deal with a different label, but as time went on I became less interested in being an artist and more focused on wanting to play the background and focus all my attention on being a wife and mother. I was growing spiritually and wanting to make changes, including the content of my music and messages I would put out. I didn't want to be traveling so much and on the road with two young children and two babies, so I at that point decided that I would not record again. I wanted to just have a normal life for them. 
Which brings "us" to now! It is my understanding that you are finally recording again -- Thus far, what can you reveal and/or divulge about the new music?
Hmmmmmm...Thus far, I have a full concept for the album and a ton of song titles and ideas.  I'm excited to be writing and recording again. Being an artistic soul, I need to express myself creatively. I write, I draw, I act, I rap and sing. It feels good to express myself that way.  The new music will be a reflection of who I am now...A musical representation of my growth and evolution as a woman. 
How does Sole' 2014 differ and/or compare to you circa '99? 
Wow...Sole' now is a grown, confident woman. I don't care so much about others opinions of me, but I do care about being an awesome woman, mother and friend, and leaving a legacy of love and success for my children. My whole life now revolves around doing good for others, having love and compassion for others, and being spiritually attuned to the universe and happy! I'm not so loose with my mouth either *She giggles* though I am a serious jokester who loves to laugh.  I think I'm a much more sensual and sexy woman now though, as opposed to the somewhat raunchy artist I was in '99. 
Production-wise, who all are you working with this time around? 
I'm working with some new up and coming producers, and hoping to align myself with a couple heavyweights. I'm just getting started, so the list shall grow.
Famed industry impresario, songwriter-producer, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, had a heavy hand in the creative process of Skin Deep -- Any chance of bringing him on board again?
Tricky was the biggest creative force, in addition to myself, behind Skin Deep. He believed in me from jump, signed me to RedZone and got me signed to DreamWorks Records in '99. We have great chemistry in the studio. We work well together and I couldn't imagine doing another project without him having a hand in it. We've been in touch recently, and hopefully we will be able to get together and create something magical.
Also, are there any planned special guest/cameo appearances? 
I'd love to have a few surprise guest appearances, but we shall see...None solidified yet because we're just starting, butKendrick Lamar would be awesome, as well as some unexpected appearances; like, Bhangra artist Jassi Sidhu,Susheela Raman, Nas...Those are just a few on my wish list. 
Do you have a specific favorite song or song(s) yet? If so, why that/those particular one(s)?
Actually, my favorite creation right now is an erotic spoken word piece I wrote called "Offerings." It's beautiful and sensual and deep...A bit unexpected, but completely spellbinding. 
Let's retrace your musical roots...When did you first become interested in music? And, how did it all actually begin for Tonya Lumpkin, nee' Johnston? 
I was always interested in music. My mother was a club singer, as well as a gospel singer. Music was always a big part of our lives. I think I knew from the time I was about 5 that I wanted to be in music and entertainment. It always fascinated and pulled me. I memorized every lyric of "Rapper's Delight" as a 6 year old. I used to perform in musicals in school, write poetry and songs, memorize raps and then rewrite them, battle the boys on the bus and enter every talent show known to man with my best friend Shurhea. We started a rap group called Divine around 1986 or '87. 
Growing up in Kansas City, MO, whose music were you a big fan of? 
Growing up, I was big fan of Michael Jackson, Run-DMC, Ready For The World, Luther Vandross, Prince, Salt & Pepa, New Edition, Heavy D, Eric B & Rakim, Hall & Oates, N.W.A....Too many to name them all.
Where does your moniker, Sole', originally derive from?
Sole' is actually spelled Soleil...For some reason, I couldn't trademark it that way when my album came out in '99 so we changed the spelling. Soleil means "sun" in French...I actually got the idea for the name from Lela Rochon's character; Sunshine, in the movie Harlem Nights...If you're old enough to remember the movie, you know why her name was Sunshine! *Sole' laughs*
Initially, how did you manage to hook up with rapper J.T. Money, ultimately signing to the DreamWorks Records' imprint? 
Tricky had signed me to a production deal with his company Red Zone Entertainment already and we were recording and trying to get me a label deal. He was working on a track for JT Money at the time, which turned out to be "Who Dat." Tricky decided to feature me on the song for exposure. I literally wrote my verse in a few minutes, recorded it and the rest is history. The success of that song gave me leverage to negotiate a great record and publishing deal. 
Are you happy with the current state of Hip-Hop? And, even more specifically, women in rap, or the lack thereof? 
You know what, I honestly don't keep up. There was one point from around 2004-2010 that I didn't listen to any current music on the radio. People didn't believe me, but I seriously didn't know who any new artists were at that time. I typically listen to Bhangra, Reggae, Rock, Old School Hip Hop and R&B, Soul, World Music, Old Bollywood, Meditation Music. I'm weird like that. Sometimes I'll hear my older daughters listening to some current Hip-Hop and some is pretty cool, but some I'm like, "What the hell is that? I can't even understand what they're saying!"...But the track will typically be hot.
As far as the lack of women making noise in Hip-Hop, I don't think it speaks to a lack of talent being out there, I think it speaks more to the mindset of the masses. For some reason, and I don't know why it happens so much with female artists, but the consumer will have their favorite artist and then make it as if it's a competition with every other artist in the same genre. That's always baffled me. Sure, people will have their favorites, but I never understood the constant comparison between artists in the same genre and the fickleness of consumers not supporting others as opposed to appreciating each artist individually for their art and what they bring to the table. It's never been my mindset, so I can't begin to pretend I understand it. For me, it doesn't matter though. I have nothing to prove. I'm just interested in making music that I'm happy with, that represents who I am as a woman... That inspires others...And if people like it, I love it and if they don't guess what...I still love it. If one person is inspired and moved by what I put out, I've succeeded in my eyes.
That said, what are your thoughts on current reigning femcee, Miss Nicki Minaj?
I think Nicki is extremely talented and a marketing genius. She does her and does it well. It's not my lane, probably because I'm much older now, but I appreciate her expression of her art. Her success speaks for itself. 
How has the industry changed and/or evolved since your early beginnings in it? And, as an artist again, where do you think you'd fit into the whole big scheme of things? 
The industry has changed tremendously. The internet, digital music, social media, all changed the game. Before you couldn't be heard for real without a major record deal. People didn't have as much access to artists as they do now because of social media. I think it has its disadvantages, like decreased record sales, etcetera, and an influx of people looking for fame for the sake of fame, not for the fact that they're talented. But, the upside is more people have access to more music, indie artists specifically who may have never been heard if not for the internet and social networking...Some extremely talented. As far as where I think I'll fit in? That remains to be seen. I honestly don't know...I'm not concerned with fitting in anywhere though. I'd much rather stand out...Be set apart and different from anything that's out now. I'm just writing and recording what's in my heart and soul, and wherever that finds its place and settles in the universe is fine with me.
To date, what has been your biggest career moment? 
Winning a Billboard Award for Rap Single of the Year for "Who Dat." 
Looking ahead, say 5 or even 10 years from now, where do you see yourself? 
Five or ten years from now, I see myself having put out a couple musical projects, acting in theatre and the big screen, continuing charity work, traveling and completing a degree...I'll forever be a student. 
As for the immediate future, what's next for Sole'?
For the immediate future, I plan to complete this record, get into film and television, continue to bring awareness to the foundations I support, write a couple of books and get my black belt in Kung-Fu, all while continuing to be a full time hands on mom. 
Finally, how's the hubby, Ginuwine, doing? Any chance of the two of you ever collaborating on a record together?
He's doing well. Touring with Tyrese and Tank and recording a new solo project. As far as collaborating on a record...I doubt it, but I don't like to say never.
Any message for our readers?
The message I'd like to leave your readers with is to be true to who you are, but know there's always room for growth...forever be a student and always seek knowledge. 

Photos - Before Dark ft. Sole - Baby (Screen Caps)