Sol.illaquists of Sound
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Sol.illaquists of Sound


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"Sol.iLLaquists of Sound Music Review"

For years now, I've maintained that rap, when done right, is potent street poetry with the power to affect social change. Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" convinced me of that idea more than 25 years ago. Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back remains on my list as one of the most important albums of the past 20 years for that same reason. And Jay-Z's "99 Problems" is so dead-on that its central line has become a part of popular language.

But let's face it: rap — indeed, hip-hop in general — has grown bloated and lazy of late, lolling about in dreams of bling and Cristal. Sure, there are exceptions — Kanye West and Rhymefest come to mind — but by and large, the genre has become an example of absolute power corrupting absolutely. The newer artists have bought into the MTV hype.

On their debut album As If We Existed, Sol.iLLaquists of Sound (or SoS, as I like to call them), take dead aim at these superficialities in a work that eloquently speaks to the soul. They haven't merely reinvigorated rap - they've reinvented it. This is an album that utilizes the cliches of rap in only the most minimal style, turning them inside out and infusing them with elements combining free form jazz, urban blues, Parisian cafe stylings and more than a liberal dose of ultrafunk.

SoS are serious about their work. DiVINCi welds his MPC's with such virtuosity that it's almost impossible to discern where one sample ends and another begins, while Swamburger fires off his rhymes with machine gun intensity. Alexandrah's vocals swirl and hover between Lauryn Hill phrasings and chanteuse cabaret, punctuated by the poetry of Tonya Combs' background vocals. The resultant mixture resonates with an exuberance rooted in social conscience. This group isn't content to chronicle life in the ghetto - they're determined to shake it at its roots, slap it around a bit and demand personal responsibility from its inhabitants.

"If sound is essentially a movement, ultimately the fate of the movement lies within me," SoS quietly proclaims in the CD opener, "Pledge of Resonance." They make good on that pledge through the course of the 12-song work, focusing on themes that cut to the heart of issues such as racial profiling in advertising ("Mark It Place"), apathy in cultural revolution ("Black Guy Peace") and the perils of individualism ("Choices").

As If We Existed soars, weaves and swirls, sampling genres at a breakneck pace, and reassembling them in a way that makes them feel both alien and oddly comfortable. This is music that sets a new standard for hip-hop, quietly indicting the negative aspects of the genre's current state, and offering a fluid alternative to those aspects. What emerges is an album infused with jazz grooves and gospel/political messages.

Sol.ILLaquists of Sound eloquently demonstrates the power inherent in rap as a cultural force. But what's most remarkable about them is they do it in such a smooth but textured way that their statements are almost subliminal in their delivery. The raps never assault the listener - they're wrapped carefully in silky vocals and cool instrumentation. The rhymes are entrenched in layers of samples so that you pick up bits and pieces of lyrics. The message is disjointed, to be sure, but still coherent enough to make its intention abundantly clear.

Think of As If We Existed as a manifesto for the next generation of hip-hop: a message of personal responsibility and social awareness.

And that's a message that bears repeated listening. -

"Humans Being (Cover Story)"

Sol.iLLaquists of Sound

Humans Being

Orlando’s First Family of Hip-hop talks about life, love, and the pursuit of humanity.

“If there were a charity called ‘Human Beings,’ that’s where we would contribute everything we do,” muses DiViNCi, one-fourth of the Orlando Hip-hop clan Sol.iLLaquists of Sound. A clan, in this case, is more than a figurative description for the two couples that make up the group—a self-proclaimed <I>family<I> of artists that share both an address and a life-guiding ethos. Their music is inseparable from their message, and the message, he insists, is a simple one: “Being aware and responsible for your own power as a human. That power to make change doesn’t often get used, and even more so than that, it gets delegated to things outside of ourselves because of fear.” Even over the phone, DiViNCi radiates a mellow gravitas that simultaneously puts you at ease while challenging you to hold your own ideals under the interrogation lamp. Yes, this is “conscious” underground Hip-hop. But the Sol.iLLaquists of Sound (or Solilla, for short) are not your typical underground Hip-hop crew by any stretch.

Their newest release, <I>As if We Existed<I>, is a concentrated and unrelenting polemic against the bullies and briar pits of modern existence. Lyricist and MC Swamburger inveighs against the hypocrisies of our times with acrobatic tongue-twisters, while his female counterpart (and life partner) Alexandrah Sarton fires off equally pointed rhymes in a voice steeped with mellifluous soul. Poetess Tonya Combs provides backup vocal support, introducing the album with a serenely spoken “Pledge of Resonance.” Throughout its twelve tracks, social ills ranging from urban alcoholism and dogmatic religion to careless and insipid Hip-hop slide beneath Solilla’s cultural microscope. The coherent effect is like an intervention for the soul, hosted by your own nagging conscience.

Musically, it is also startlingly dynamic, with elements as disparate as drum’n’bass breakbeats and chamber strings fused in seemingly natural harmony. Here, producer and MPC-maestro DiViNCi reveals his prodigious skill for both midi production and interpersonal mediation. As the sole instrumental voice of the band, it is up to him to create music that expresses each member’s distinct tastes. Luckily, this is a role he feels especially well suited for: “It’s very convenient that I’m the producer because, it’s funny, but growing up I was always very much a mediator type. I always was very open-minded about lots of different things.” From knowing his bandmates so intimately, DiViNCi can confidently compose music that all the Sol.illaquists will relate to. “The other members … definitely have their signature stuff that they get into, and I tend to get into all of it. So that works out really well for all of us, because I’m the one that has to interpret our stuff into a particular sound.”

The Sol.iLLaquists of Sound hail from all over the nation, culled from such arbitrary locales as Lake Geneva, WI (Alexandrah) and Womelsdorf, PA (DiViNCi), but it was in Orlando that their fates would ultimately align. Swamburger left his hometown of Chicago for sunny Florida when his father’s job relocated. Once transplanted, he soon earned a name for himself as an up-and-coming MC in Orlando’s underground scene. DiViNCi migrated south to attend the music production school at Full Sail, and it was through an instructor there that he was introduced to Swamburger. The two kindred spirits hit it off immediately and forged a friendship based initially on their shared love of Hip-hop. Then things started happening. Swam landed a deal doing the intro rap for the ’02 edition of EA Sports’ <I>John Madden Football<I>. He used the Madden money as a community endowment of sorts, opening a colorful shop in downtown Orlando called Culture Mart.

It was here that he started what became known as the “Sunday meetings,” an informal gathering of musicians, artists, and community members. DiViNCi recalls these days with more than a twinge of nostalgia: “[The meetings] were a weekly effort to get people together and concentrate on what moves we could make as a people—to unify the culture of Orlando, start doing what we love for a living, better ourselves in any way.” By the time the meetings had run their course, the casual forum had expanded considerably in scope and attendance. “It grew to a point where there were older people there, there were kids there … We even had a guy come in and teach us tai chi!” Music was always a heavy theme, but social activism soon played a large part. On one occasion, a throng of inspired fans marched en masse to a venue to show support for a pioneering local DJ whose club night was flagging. Swamburger paid everyone’s admission.

Most portentously for the future Sol.iLLaquists, however, were the impromptu jam sessions that would invariably follow the Sunday colloquia. Held in a tiny loft space called the Bodhisattva Social Club, Swamburger and DiViNCi would freestyle for hours on end—the “MC-ist” versus the “MPC-ist”—and people would regularly pack the joint. It was at one of these sessions that Tonya Combs made her appearance, quickly becoming a core member of the Culture Mart community.

The culminating act in the saga occurred in August of 2002 when a group of Sunday habitués embarked upon a pilgrimage to Chicago. Here they would reunite with Alexandrah Sarton, whom Swamburger had met in college, and who had recently paid a visit to Orlando herself to record an album with her old collaborator and friend. She and Swam had a musical history before, but the inclusion of DiViNCi to the mix must have been too perfect to ignore. Less than a week after her guests had departed, Alexandrah quit her sundry jobs, piled her belongings and cat in the car, and drove down to Florida to join them.

Once all the members were in one place, the union of the group took on a meaning of its own. Only one word seems to do their unique relationship justice. “It was really apparent that we were a family, you know, before anything,” DiViNCi asserts. “And that’s the way we like to present ourselves, because we make a choice to be a family together before being musicians.” This informal proclamation met with an unexpected referendum in July of ‘04 when, after mounting complaints from neighbors on the appearance of their lawn, the group faced eviction. Under Edgewood city law, an antiquated statute still on the books ordains that no more than three unrelated adults may share a residence. Despite an impassioned and eloquent appeal by the newly formed family, the code enforcement board reluctantly ordered them to vacate their home. They were granted a slight reprieve in the form of a two-month extension. As if on cue, Hurricane Charlie arrived a scant three weeks later and transformed their contested domicile into a condemned disaster area. The Sol.iLLaquists did the only thing that made sense: they went on tour.

With only the clothes on their backs and the gear in their trunk, the four set up a series of last-minute shows on the way to the one gig they already had booked (and couldn’t afford to miss): a charity concert organized by Hip-hop demiurge, Sage Francis. The gig was as make-or-break as can be conceived, and the Sol.iLLaquists stole the show. Sage took the upstaging with the ultimate humility, inviting the group to join him on his upcoming tour as both opening act and his backing band. From February through March of 2005, they played forty shows across the US and Canada as part of Francis’ “Healthy Distrust” tour. Solilla’s incendiary performances blew audiences away in city after city, and Francis soon had them out with him on a second tour that fall.

It is as a live act that the Sol.iLLaquists truly shine, as DiViNCi explains: “There’s so much more that you can give at a show than you can on a record. There’s so much more that plays into the experience. You get to, for one, have a lot more of your senses tuned into what’s going on—being able to, you know, touch a person next to you and feel them freaking the fuck out.” If anyone can ruminate on freaking out during a performance, it is authoritatively DiViNCi. With all the schizoid brilliance of Jimi Hendrix at his most unhinged, the goateed, wispy-maned square pusher convulses in time to the beats he pounds from his dueling Akai drum machines. Rapid-fire solos are played, note trigger by note trigger, with any combination of his fingers, elbows, or entire face glancing off the pads. As a unified force, with Alexandrah and Swamburger sauntering confidently down the stage while unleashing crisscrossing vocal salvos, and with the poised and radiant Combs adding to the lyrical fracas, their shows have been said to bring audiences to tears.

Francis did the Sol.iLLaquists one more significant favor when, at a Boston show, he introduced them to Andy Kaulkin, the President of Epitaph records. At first, the band was apprehensive. “Really, we weren’t too interested in signing with anyone, as we felt that the industry had nothing to offer us that we weren’t already giving ourselves,” DiViNCi recalls. They ran into Kaulkin periodically along the tour and kept up correspondence— along with their defenses. But once the awkwardness and formality subsided, the group began to feel a necessary kinship forming with the Epitaph people. “We really took a liking to not only the way they did things, but most of all, to the people that worked there. We related with them,” he acknowledges. “To make a long story short, we signed a three-album deal.”

The band chose the Anti- imprint of Epitaph (home to such indie heavyweights as Tom Waits and the late Elliot Smith) where they felt the roster’s diversity suited their eclectic sound. When questioned about the artistic control they might have given up, DiViNCi speaks frankly: “We’re not really relinquishing shit … They make suggestions here and there.” The relationship between entities is one of mutual respect, with the label leaving Solilla’s creative autonomy in their own capable hands. “Really man, I invite more criticism from them … because they’re a label, they know what they’re doing. And I know that we’ll never compromise what we’re doing, so they can say what they want all day. It’s up to us at the end of the day.”

With <I>As if We Existed<I> seeing international distribution, and with two more albums guaranteed, one might expect the Sol.iLLaquists to relax a bit. One who expects this will also be tragically unfamiliar with the very nature of the group. “We find ourselves doing even more work now that we’re signed than before,” says DiViNCi. Laughing, he mentions a friendly competition they are engaged in, to try and out-sell the label through their own grassroots efforts. “We get really amped about that kind of shit … like ‘Oh we’re gonna show this label that we don’t fuck around!’” This is, of course, spoken with a conviction that is at once lighthearted and profoundly intense. “It’s just like, we sort of get motivated by proving to people that we can do things, you know, that we can make things happen,” he explains. “We’ve overcome some crazy shit to get to where we are, and we love proving the potential of people. So anytime we make an accomplishment, we’re not just making an accomplishment for us … we’re making an accomplishment for the human race.”

-S. Corey Thomas


- SE Performer Magazine

"Okayplayer Review"

Politics and art have long gone hand in hand. The risk such a marriage entails is the potential conflict the two forces may encounter within the subjective ears of the listener. Orlando-based quartet Solillaquists of Sound present such a confounding union with As If We Existed, making no bones about the challenges of social and personal change and the impact music can have on such a process.

Emcee Swamburger, vocalist Alexandrah, and poet Tonya Combs preach a message of self-love, respect, and knowledge within the confines of a culture which seems designed to mute personal expression and freedom. “Preach” being the operative word; it can be overwhelming to be subjected to the oft-times radical dogma of this collective in one sitting, as the members don’t attempt to sugarcoat the urgency of their message.

All that’s well and good, but how does the music sound? Hip hop isn’t dead, it just needs to take some notes on resuscitation from some of its brethren in the Sunshine State. Producer/MPCist Divinci crafts an encompassing and clean sound throughout the album’s twelve tracks, characterized by thumping ever-changing drum patterns, melodically haunting piano and strings (both live and sampled), and a slew of production tricks that make for a quirkily encompassing listen. Swamburger’s rapid pace flow is impeccable, seamlessly racing along the music here, all of its changes and switch-ups included- truly a breath of fresh air in an art form that has long grown stale. Alexandrah’s lushly layered, jazz-inflected vocals don’t take a backseat in the mix, either; her uniquely melodic lyrical style holds its own. To study the intricacies of her harmonies throughout the record is akin to diving for deep-sea treasures in the aural sea.

The Sollilaquists have a lot of strong opinions on a bevy of topics: from the conspiracy-heavy up-tempo freak-out of “Mark it Place” to the not-so-subtle critique of the hip hop of the Black Eyed Peas (the hard hitting bounce of “Black Guy Peace”) to tackling gender roles and sexism on the dramatically haunting “Ur Turn,” there’s a whole lot of content to digest here. Tellingly, some of the album’s more powerful moments occur when their approach is less bombastic and more subdued (“Beautiful Catastrophe” and “All Too Common”). Still, those seeking impassioned original art should take heed. Far from a passive listening experience, the album is an interactive encounter- the more work the listener puts into absorbing it, the more rewarding it can be.

- Sean Kantrowitz -

"SoliLLaquists of Sound Album “As if we Existed” is The New Sound of Hip Hop"

SoliLLaquists of Sound Album “As if we Existed” is The New Sound of Hip Hop

This one of the most original groups within the Hip Hop world to emerge in recent times. SoliLLaquists of Sound delivers a powerhouse album in “As if we Existed.” Their sound is totally out-of-the-box, soulful militant peace-mongering progressive music that delves in a multitude of genres including Drum –n- Bass, Neo Soul, Spoken Word, and futuristic R & B. With that said, it can be argued that S.O.S. are the Hip Hop forefathers’ dream come into fruition, almost three decades after the emergence of a sound that was supposed to be based upon originality, creativity and positively, but somehow took a mostly negative and destructive turn for a good part of the last decade and a half. Now, the future of Hip Hop makes itself known in DiViNCi, Swamburger, Alexandrah and Tony Combs.

Although you can become immersed in “As if we Existed” upon listening, it is not possible to digest the album’s full essence in one sitting. It’s built with layers upon layers of sound and a barrage of loaded lyrical ammo that aims to kill ignorance, stereotypes and stagnant pop culture with love. DiVINCi is without question one of the most exciting and talented producers out today. Swamburger delivers rapid fire intellectually-laced lyrical bombs so effortlessly that he makes most emcees seem primitive. Alexandrah might just be the most talented female in Hip Hop and soul. And, Tonya Combs adds a touch of spoken word with a soulful eloquence that’s hard to find in urban music.

Here’s are some lyrical samples from the massive track “Mark It Place”:

I heard that Black and Hispanic consumers were considered the easiest target markets on the scene since Damage and Used jeans…

And from “Property and Malt Liquor”:

Blacks were promised 40 acres, but only got 40 ounces…
This is no hype, the album is something you have to own if you are seeking next level music. SoliLLaquist also have one of the most dynamic live shows in music today. Without question, they are something to get excited about.

For more info visit them at: - Insomniac Magazine


"as if we existed"
Anti-/Epitaph Records



Discovered by firebrand rapper Sage Francis, the Sol.iLLaquists’ combustible live presence prompted the world renowned MC to take them along on two global tours. Steered by machine-gunning MC and Vocal Polyrhythmatician Swamburger, The Sol.iLLaquists achieve lift-off with the fervent virtuosity of MPC (MIDI Production Center) whiz DiViNCi. Yet the urgency of this group’s approach is keenly tempered with the harmonic vibrance of Alexandrah’s soulful vocals and the spoken contemplation of Tonya Combs.

Fusing brutally honest messages with a multi-dimensional sound, As If We Existed – built with irrepressible positivity, chest-filling spirit, and body-throbbing rhythm – is a public service announcement with spit. Launched with “The Pledge of Resonance,” a poetic musing that links personal action, sound, and truth, S.O.S. focuses in on specific issues, including cultural revolution (“Black Guy Peace”), ethnic alcoholism (“Property & Malt Liquor”) and personal wellness (“Our 2 Cents”).

A thinking person’s brand of the genre – imagine Digable Planets or The Fugees with greater dynamics and a bigger chip on their shoulders – Sol.iLLaquists of Sound look to change the world one listener at a time. Leaving music lovers well-grooved, duly enlightened and – quite possibly – inspired, The Sol.iLLaquists are a family based on likeness of mind and because of it are, in many ways, more functional than any unit based on bloodline alone. A collective in every sense of the word, the two couples that make up Sol.iLLaquists of Sound not only jam together, but actually live together in a slightly overgrown Orlando lake house.

Artistic and intellectual alignment was what cemented the friendship between Swamburger and DiViNCi. They supported each other’s art and organized weekly activist meetings at The Culture Mart, a downtown Orlando shop that serves as a community center for the urban underground. But the roots began to take shape when the pair took their provocative thought and put it to a beat. In a cramped loft club called the Bodhisattva Social Club, these amorphous, free-flowing sessions became soul bleeds that went from abstract to freak-out. Collaborating on the conceptual open mic scene, their infamous performances often brought attendees to tears.

Next came Combs – a small-town transplant from New York State – who soon found a forum for her poetry in the Sol.iLLaquist realm while giving the troupe its first touch of feminine grace. Following years of close friendship and musical collaborations with Swamburger, Alexandrah had the opportunity to spend some time with S.O.S. when they visited her in Chicago. Two days after their departure, she intuitively quit her four jobs in the city and uprooted to Florida, solidifying Sol.iLLaquists of Sound as we know them. They may be four distinct forces but, together, they speak with one large voice.

Although they were lucky enough to find one another, the Sol.iLLaquists have known their share of struggle. When their home was destroyed by a hurricane, the members were left with no recourse but to hit the touring circuit as a means of survival. But loss turned to gain when their heady, electrifying performances commanded the attention of industry luminaries. Working diligently, The Sol.iLLaquists of Sound came to Francis’ attention and before long blossomed from support act to a significant element of Francis’ own set.

Be it the gospel-soul dig of the title track – a song the SoL.iLLaquists themselves say sums them up in under four minutes – or the tense jungle jump of “Mark It Place,” which attacks the subversive politics of advertising while glowing with an Andre 3000 sort of incandescence – the group’s urgent, emergent style is undeniable.

Their lifestyles and practices may bring to mind labels we’ve all heard before, but The Sol.iLLaquists of Sound would love to see those labels overshadowed by action and be simply referred to as human. To this, As if We Existed is a profound testament. You won’t find any of the lazy, foot-dragging mumbles that pass for rap in these Cristal-ized top 40 days. Laterally meshing intellect, spirituality and action, their music isn’t a sermon, it’s a harsh mirror and a challenge to elevate that comes in whip cracks of rap and rhythm.