To say that SoulStice spits knowledge would be an understatement; after all, he does have a Masters Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and holds down a research position with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Recently named a “Modern Day Technology Leader” at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards, SoulStice has assumed a unique position of leadership in two very different fields - engineering and music. Since he started his independent label, Wandering Soul Records, SoulStice has been a fixture on the hip hop scene with 5 LP releases, features in just about every major hip hop publication and website and tours in the US, Europe and Japan.
Since the release of his 2003 debut album, North by Northwest, SoulStice has been featured in XXL Magazine, The Source, URB, Scratch, Elemental, Ballerstatus.com, Allhiphop.com and most other tastemaker hip hop publications and websites. Renowned journalist Tavis Smiley has even taken an interest, dubbing SoulStice and his music as “enlightened…outside the norm.” Energetic live performances and chart-topping college radio singles have served alongside the press coverage to create an impressive buzz. In early 2006, SoulStice and Wandering Soul Records caught the interest of Neil Levine, head of Urban Marketing at EMI, leading to a national distribution deal through EMI/Caroline. SoulStice has also developed a loyal overesas fanbase, leading to several international tours and distribution partnerships, including Universal Music in Japan. SoulStice’s song, “That Thang” was featured in the Oscar-Nominated film, “The Blind Side” starring Sandra Bullock, and his song “Always” was featured on the CBS hit show NCIS Los Angeles.
Sharing the stage with artists as diverse as John Legend and Wu-Tang Clan has set the proper foundation for SoulStice to shine through high-energy live performances throughout the US and Europe. SoulStice has collaborated with the legendary AZ of Illmatic fame, Cuban Link, formerly of Terror Squad, and many producers, both well known and up-and-coming. As a result of his music industry experience SoulStice was invited to become also a voting member of the Recording Academy and has attended several Grammy Award shows in LA. Combining a soulful blend of Chicago funk and east coast boom-bap, SoulStice makes what he insists is “commercial music” with awareness and attitude. Through this unique brand of hip hop, SoulStice documents his one-of-a-kind journey from the windy city of Chicago to the nation’s capitol of Washington, DC, and across the globe.
Joe’s Pub (Manhattan, NY)
Funky Buddha Lounge (Chicago, IL)
Sonar (Baltimore, MD)
Club Five (Washington, DC)
WPGC 95.5 FM Music Conference (Washington, DC)
Frederick Summer Concert Series (Frederick, Maryland)
BO! Music Festival (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Belgian Chill Festival (Namur, Belgium)
The Zoo (Hasselt, Belgium)
Red Cat (Mainz, Germany)
Club Game (Tokyo, Japan)
Club NUTS (Tokyo, Japan)
Events / Speaking Engagements
Longfellow Elementary School (Columbia, MD)
Pointer’s Run Elementary School (Columbia, MD)
University Neighborhood Middle School (Manhattan, NY)
Patuxent Valley Middle School (Columbia, MD)
Thornridge High School (Dalton, IL)
University of Maryland Baltimore Campus (Baltimore, MD)
University of Maryland College Park (College Park, MD)
Stop the Violence Youth Conference (Baltimore, MD)
SoulStice - vocals
DJ Tribal Son - turntables
“North by Northwest” (Wandering Soul 2003) [Japan Release] (Handcuts/Universal 2005)
“North by Northwest: Solid Ground” (Wandering Soul 2005)
“Return of the Kings” [Mixtape] (Wandering Soul / EMI 2006)
“Dark Water” (Wandering Soul / EMI 2006) [Japan Release] (Handcuts/Universal 2006)
“Dead Letter Perfect” [Japan Release] (Bella Phoenix / Lastrum 2007)
“Dead Letter Perfect” (Wandering Soul 2007)
“”Beyond Borders” (Wandering Soul 2009)
“The Melody” (Wandering Soul / TRC 2003)
“Always / The Quickening” (Wandering Soul / TRC 2005)
“Rock Solid” feat. Cuban Link (Wandering Soul / EMI 2006)
“Speak On It” feat. AZ (Wandering Soul / EMI 2006)
“Movement Music” (Wandering Soul 2007)
“Be Perfect” (Wandering Soul 2007)
“Bird’s Eye View” feat. Kev Brown (B9000 / Wandering Soul 2008)
“Crash the Party” (Wandering Soul 2008)
“Strange Kinda Love” feat. Monique Harcum (Wandering Soul 2009)
“Forgiveness” (Wandering Soul 2010)
Columbia-based rapper leaves imprint on 'The Blind Side'
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Michael Oher may be the focus of the new biopic "The Blind Side." But the Baltimore Raven isn't the ...Michael Oher may be the focus of the new biopic "The Blind Side." But the Baltimore Raven isn't the film's only local connection.
One of the songs on the soundtrack to "The Blind Side" was written by SoulStice, a rapper and producer based in Columbia.
"It was a cool, different experience," said SoulStice, a 30-year-old whose real name is Ashley Llorens.
Warner Bros. wanted a song to accompany a scene in which Oher returns to the rough-and-tumble Memphis neighborhood where he grew up, SoulStice said. About a month and a half ago, SoulStice's music licensing agent was approached with the offer.
"They were like, 'We need this kind of feel, we need a beat that hits really hard, and we need something that's thuggish ruggish,' " he said.
SoulStice teamed up with Ohio-based producer Mighty Wyte to create the song, titled "That Thang." On it, SoulStice raps over swirling organs and heavy beats.
"He's a very talented producer," SoulStice said of Mighty Wyte. "I'm able to work very fast, and he's able to work very fast."
Together, SoulStice and Mighty Wyte finished the first version of "That Thang" in just two days. Movie studio reps listened to it, asked for a few tweaks, and approved the final version soon after.
Writing a song for a film was much simpler than writing a track for one of his own albums, SoulStice said.
"In a way, it's easier, because somebody else is providing the creative starting point," he said. "On a regular SoulStice joint, I'm not necessarily going to have a sense of direction."
"That Thang" is the first song SoulStice has written for a major movie. Brash and boastful, it's not the best example of SoulStice's music, which tends to be more introspective and socially conscious.
"I usually write to tell my life story and share my ideas," he said.
A Chicago native, SoulStice has released a handful of albums on the Wandering Soul label, which he founded about 10 years ago. On his latest album, "Beyond Borders," he collaborated with rappers and producers from Europe and Africa.
"We export a lot of U.S. culture - specifically hip-hop," SoulStice said. "I was trying to import some culture on this."
"Strange Kinda Love," a song about same-sex relationships and marriages on "Beyond Borders," won both the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and the UK Songwriting Contest.
"I really try to shape my releases around this idea that it needs to be interesting and different than everything else that's out," SoulStice said.
SoulStice splits his time between hip-hop and his day job, working in applied physics at the Johns Hopkins University. He performs live sporadically in the U.S. and overseas.
In the future, SoulStice hopes to land more songs in films. "The Blind Side" is a great place to start, he said.
SoulStice Wades In Deep Waters
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To say that Southside Chicago, native Ashley Llorens is a fascinating person is an understatement. ...To say that Southside Chicago, native Ashley Llorens is a fascinating person is an understatement.
“I’m a guy with a million why’s,” said Llorens, a self-described introvert, and a lover of engineering, math, science, and the Discovery Channel.
Llorens serves as Project Investigator— essentially leading research projects— for the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland under a United States Department of Defense contract.
As the rapper SoulStice, he happens to be one of the hottest and most unique up-and-coming Hip Hop MCs in the music business today.
Recently, “That Thang”— a track composed by SoulStice and MC Whyte— was featured on the soundtrack of the hit feature film Blind Side, the true story of Michael Oher, who rose from homelessness to become Baltimore Ravens starting defensive left tackle.
“This particular song is an artistic achievement for me because I’m portraying a character with a lifestyle that’s not necessarily my own,” said SoulStice.
About two months before the film’s release, he received a call from his licensing agent who was contacted by Warner Brothers. They needed an original song for the scene where Oher returns to his old neighborhood.
“I saw the trailer in the theater before we got the deal,” said SoulStice. “I already wanted to see the film.”
The year 2003 was pivotal for the 30-something SoulStice. He received his master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), released his first album and moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C. to begin work at Johns Hopkins.
Though his accomplishments thus far may have been a natural progression, SoulStice was unsure whether he could handle both his engineering and music careers successfully.
His uncertainty became the impetus behind the name of his debut CD, North by Northwest (not named after the Alfred Hitchcock classic).
“North is the cardinal direction,” said SoulStice, “but life can veer you a bit. Eventually you will get there.”
The material of SoulStice reflects a personal journey, autobiographical sketches interspersed with sharing ideas. His record label, Wandering Soul Records is reflective of that journey.
His achievements both as an engineering project manager and international speaker about subjects like machine intelligence, and as a global independent music producer and artist answered his uncertainty.
“I thought there was no way I could do both. I decided to continue until it stops me. Then I realized, wow, I can do both. I can be happy and successful organizing my own tour, making my own records and making my own fans,” said SoulStice.
SoulStice began rapping at age seven, eventually composing his own lyrics. In 1997 he assembled a group of MCs under the name of Banarnar while a freshman at UIUC.
He and MC Haysoos— a Ph.D. who teaches African American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park— formed the socially conscious group Wade Waters. They released Dark Water in 2006.
It took time for the introverted SoulStice to learn his lyrical and stage prowess. His first time on stage was an MC battle— which he won— his hands shook.
Now his blend of Chicago funk and blues fused hip hop— “a soulfulness of indigenous music” — has led him to share the stage with the likes of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan.
North By Northwest as well as his sophomore CD, Deep Water released in 2007, earned him features in XXL Magazine, The Source, Urb, and other major urban publications and websites.
His international conceptual work released in 2009, Beyond Borders, features Belgium producer SBe, and global artists like G.L.C., Kev Brown, Oddissee and Supastition and the renowned Zap Mama.
“I wanted to gather seeds and put them on my project,” said SoulStice.
Staying true to the process, SoulStice advises other emerging artists to be diligent about their work if they want to attain success. “Your music should speak for itself before you have to speak for it.”
To learn more about SoulStice and his music, visit www.myspace.com/soulstice.
SoulStice: Chairman's Choice
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Based on it's title, "Dead Letter Perfect" (Wandering Soul), the sophomore solo album from Chi-City-...Based on it's title, "Dead Letter Perfect" (Wandering Soul), the sophomore solo album from Chi-City-bred D.C. resident SoulStice, strives for perfection. Despite such conceptual baggage, "Dead Letter's" heady author (the possessor of a master's degree in electrical computer engineering and a day job at the U.S. Department of Defense) generally avoids outsmarting himself throughout the LP's supersolid 15 tracks. Comfortable catching Rex with his references ("I'm just a bad m*** like Oedipus," from the raucous "Southside Ride"), SoulStice is at his brainiac best with his choice of producers. While boardsmen Oddisee, K-Salaam & Beatnick, and M-phazes all shine on their respective soulful number, New Jersey's Analogic produces the finest moment with the string-infused "High As You Wanna," a toast to righteous living and better days ahead that finds 'Stice stating, "We drinkin' red wine / Not the liquor / And we got each other's back if the plot gets thicker / But tonight you're my brother, fam / Not my n***." It's still a celebration, bitches!
Dead Letter Perfect Album Review
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It's a sad state of affairs in Hip-Hop music when an album shocks the listener because it's so good....It's a sad state of affairs in Hip-Hop music when an album shocks the listener because it's so good. You are forced to go back and listen several times because you are thinking in your mind "nah, it can't be this good". In a world of ringtone rappers, here today/gone tomorrow artists and enough misogyny and violence to make Hugh Hefner and Bin Laden blush, Maryland MC Soulstice' latest album "Dead Letter Perfect" is one of those albums that simply makes the listener feel good and has your head noddin' from front to back.
The album begins with a collision of that ol' boom bap Rap and some screeching soul punches mixed in for the cool as hell "Southside Ride". The next cut "High As You Wanna" has a definite "Kanye" vibe to it with its big sound and celebratory feel (think Kanye's "Celebration").
Producer Oddisee, who handles 5 tracks on the album, has his finest moment on "Book of Days". The song features Soulstice reflecting on his life and looking towards the future with vivid detail while Oddisee gives the song a straight Hip-Hop feel but with almost chant like vocals in the background making for a full, effective sound. The only real downside of the album is on the production tip at points. Oddisee, while an accomplished producer, drops the ball on "Like This" and the very incomplete sounding "Get It Right".
As an MC, Soulstice is a vivid storyteller in the same vain as AZ or Nas. In fact, he would have fit perfect on either of their debut albums. The two shining stars of "Dead Letter Perfect" are "Dreamer" and "The Time". The former is an insanely catchy, under 3-minute cut that sees Soulstice urging people to stick to their dreams and reflecting on his struggles to remain on course. Huge props go to producer SBe Audiologist (watch out for this guy) as he comes up with a beautiful soul sample that ads just enough angst to the song providing for a cut full of passion, pain and substance. The latter is a cut dedicated to Soulstice' wife. And while songs dedicated to rappers wives usually come off as incredibly corny, this one features a beat that will have you bangin' your head through the windshield while the lyrics will probably make you call your wife or girlfriend. And you can't overlook the supremely soulful hook from Stef.
"Dead Letter Perfect" is one of those rare Hip-Hop albums that is worth your time and money. It's an unapologetic glimpse at how to create real music that says something and makes the listener feel something inside their soul.
"A nightmare is a dream you don't understand yet..."
Wade Waters: Off the Radar
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Wade Waters had a lofty goal in mind when they decided to revitalize old school Hip-Hop with their d...Wade Waters had a lofty goal in mind when they decided to revitalize old school Hip-Hop with their debut album, "Dark Water." So lofty, in fact, that they called up some of rap's greatest raconteurs as their inspiration. "When we made the album, we looked at it like, "What if Nas and AZ made an album together?" says Jason "Haysoos" Nichols, who, with his partner, Ashley "SoulStice" Llorens, decided that if they were going to do this project together, they might as well channel the best in the business.
But if you think this sounds overwhelming, you should hear what they do at their day jobs. "I'm an electrical engineer for the military," SoulStice says. Haysoos' job isn't too shabby either - he teaches African-American studies at the University of Maryland. "Being a teacher, I find that I can actually incorporate rap into my lectures," he says.
Heady stuff, but if the notion of a rapping electrical engineer and teacher conjures up images of pocket protectors and braces, then you don't know Wade Waters. "We don't want to say we're not street, because you tend to alienate the audience when you say that," SoulStice says. "But when you think about it, the opposite of conscious is unconscious, and we're definitely not that either."
While Nas and AZ never did make an album together, Haysoos and SoulStice are doing their best to come as close as possible to that dream collaboration.
North by Northwest Album Review
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Chicago native SoulStice is a bangin'-ass MC who has rhyme, rhythm and skill. With slammin' beats f...Chicago native SoulStice is a bangin'-ass MC who has rhyme, rhythm and skill. With slammin' beats from DC's Oddisee, sm.arson and other crafty and soulful producers, North by Northwest deserves kudos for originality and depth. Religious references, word travel and mature perspective put SoulStice's lyrics far beyond bootie hooks (4 out of 5 rating).
Sets are typically around 1 hour long. They incorporate a dynamic mix of vocals, turntablism and drumming with lots of crowd interaction. We've performed at many different venues from large clubs overseas to elementary schools.
Crash the Party
Speed of Sound
Bird's Eye View
Return of the Kings
Strange Kinda Love
There are no upcoming dates at this time.