SoloS Unit
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SoloS Unit


Band R&B Hip Hop


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"Spontaneous Combustion"

Monday night to begin to recharge for next weekends revelry. Even if you were young-and your youth made you feel invincible- you didn’t go out clubbing. You stayed home, plopped yourself in front of the tube and tried to keep your eyes open through the final quarter of Monday night football-or whatever happened to be on TV.
A band named Solos has changed potentially routine Monday nights into club going weekly events that border on phenomenon. For months, the band has been performing beginning at 11 p.m. each Monday at the Rubber Soul bar. Crowds of a hundred or more young adults from a variety of backgrounds have been coming to hear tham, filling up the club on Burke St. in the process. (Solos also performs, intermittanly, at other clubs, including Ziggy’s.)
People who hear Solos perform at Rubber Soul typically don’t leave until the end of the last set, which can be as late as 2 a.m. “It’s kind of a miracle,” said Kent Dunn, the owner of Rubber Soul. It is Dunn who snagged Solos for his club on the same day that the band found out its regular gig at another establishment had ended.
“They’ve invented something,” he said.
That “something” is always musically different and unusual-in its content and in the way it is created. It is music that islargely improvised, a constantly evolving fusion of hip-hop, jazz, funk, R&B and techno-inspireddance grooves that draw from drum n’ bass, jungle, and house music. Performances feature singing and rapping, as well as the funky sound of a human beatbox, a process in which vocal sounds imitate percussion.
In many respects, the group is less a band than a community of free thinking musicians. “Its not so much a blend of music, but a blend of people,” said Nathan Harris, a.k.a. MC Mr. Mo’Halyn, one of Solos’s two emcees.
The result of this musical, social and cultural blend is music that has jumped stereotypes and boundaries. For instance, the band’s refusal to be chained to any musical genera has enabled it to bring hip-hop flavored music to clubs and to people that it never would have otherwise have touched.
The band’s creative method is fascinating. Over time and performance, polished tunes emerge, some of which are on Deep Speed, the band’s recent CD. Once polished, the songs can, and often do, begin to morph. To see Solos perform is to hear and view art in constant metamorphosis. Bill Stevens, Solos’ keyboard player, explained the creativity behind a lot of the bands compositions. He said that many songs “are made by chance improvisation, things that happen on stage. We don’t want people hearing the same thing night after night.”………….. (article continues)
---Relish Magazine, Sept. 15, 2005
---by Ken Keuffel
- Relish

"Performing Solos: A seven member Winston-Salem band offers listeners a mind-opening experience"

Winston-Salem – It’s late on a Monday night when I arrive on Burke St, a four bar strip in downtown Winston-Salem where commerce often bustles after midnight. Most places around the triad are quiet on Monday. But not Rubber Soul, a funky, L-shaped bar where three upright pianos line a wall.
Walk into the bar’s amber glow on any Monday night, and the cigarette smoke – and anticipation – hangs heavy in the air. Islands of people huddle around the bar. The local sharks circle a solitary pool table. A crowd has already gathered in the small section where performances are held. Despite the crowd’s buzzing activity, the nerve net is a band that plays here every Monday: Solos.
Solos is a seven-member musical hybrid. There are four instrumentalists and three MC’s, or what we’d all call vocalists. The band members have influences and sounds from jazz, R&B, soul, rock, drum ‘n’ bass, trance and hip-hop. The music defies description. It’s easy to call it fusion. But drummer Jonathan Pratt calls it something else: “transcending.” And MC John Harris has coined the term “Genera X.” No matter what you call it, you’ve never heard a band quite like Solos.
I refer to Solos as a metaphysical phenomenon because although I am able to observe specifics about the bands performance, the overall event remains a mystery. Let me describe it for you.
I sit at a small table and watch the Solos musicians arrive. Pratt makes some final adjustments to his drums. He glances up, sees me and calls out, “Kathy Clark is in the house!” His eyes sparkle with mischief as he flashes me a big grin. Pratt’s animation is contagious. And I find myself infected with the pre-show buzz.
On this particular night, I find bass player John Ray barefoot, dressed in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. I ask why he’s dressed in such a manner on such a cold night. “I just thought I’d warm things up,” he says.
The three MCs – Ian Merrigan, John Harris and Nathan Harris – have arrived and the band launches into “Mic Check,” and improvised performance lasting roughly eight minutes that serves as the band’s sound check, during this time, Solos draws from the street a music-hungry pack. The room quickly fills, and the buzz intensifies.
After “Mic Check,” the band disappears into a dark corner for its pre-show huddle. During this time, the band discusses themes for the night’s performance. If any visiting artists perform with them, as they often do, Solos determines the placement of the guests in the show. They discuss starting and finishing ideas as well as the placement of composed material. Soon, the magic worked in that circle manifests on stage, compelling almost everyone to dance.
It’s all improvisation, all music created on the spot.
“(It’s) a time for us to really listen to a musical voice that’s going on inside of our head,” said guitarist Joseph Hundertmark, “and also the voices of everyone else on stage… where they can take you and what kind of things they’re telling you.”
From there, he says, the musicians create a musical dialogue while “keeping that group voice.”………………. (article continues)
---by Kathy Clark
---publisher Feb 3, 2005 in Go Triad magazine
- Go Triad

"Last Call: The Mellenium Center"

..............Sounds Heard: Already onstage and causing a sea of arm waving was Rubber Soul's regular Monday night act, Solos, the popular jazz fusion group.
"I just wanna be free," sang one of the hip-hop frontmen, John Harris, who friends call "Renaissance." After hearing their first song, I was an instant fan, and so was the girl behind me, who tapped me on the shoulder to ask if they were selling CDs.
After their set, I stood in the long line of beer-buzzed well-wishers to talk to Harris.
"We're so honored by this opportunity; we'd sing in the dirt for a chance to share a stage with Ghostface," Harris said. "I know everyone is dissapointed that De La Soul canceled, but it's hard to be mad at the group that helped start an art form."
--Jessica Knight - Go Triad

"Ready for prime time players: Five local bands deserve the Big Time"

Solos started two years ago as a weekly jam session at Rubber Soul between diverse and talented musicians. Since then, the ad-hoc group has solidified into a group that mixes elements of hip-hop, jazz and R&B into a multidimensional sound of considerable and broad appeal. All the musicians are strong, but it is the arranging of keyboardist Bill Stevens and the energy-and-flow of singer/rappers Nathan Harris and John Harris that make it something special. The band has a full album ready to roll - complete with a guest turn by monster bassist Oteil Burbidge of Allman Brothers fame. Advance copies have already attracted attention from some national movers and shakers. Look out.
--by Ed Bumgardener
--Nov. 2, 2006 - Relish

"Solos Unit Promotes Debut CD at Murphy's Saturday, February 24"

If you believe the old adage that the best things come to those who wait, then you will have no problem understanding why it took Winston-Salem’s Solos Unit more than a year and a half to record and release their debut CD, “Electric City.”
The band will undoubtedly be touring the new disc when they return to the stage at Murphy’s this Saturday, Feb. 24, at 10:30 p.m.
During the last three years, local live music fans became well acquainted with the Solos Unit’s relentlessly grooving live shows. If bands that play intense and exploding rock music thought they cornered the market on tension and release dynamics, a quick listen to the tight knit quintet ought to quickly convert any non-believers regarding the power of live hip-hop, R&B, and soul.
Though the band has been leveling audiences all over NC with their live-band-meets-mic-smoking-MCs, the members of the Solos Unit wanted to make absolutely certain that their live energy translated into tracks that would not only make heads bob, but also would leap out of speakers and demand the attention of the listener.
“We worked long and hard getting the tracking done,” said Solos keyboardist and mastermind Bill Stevens, a.k.a. $ Bill. “We didn’t go the route of highly produced computer music and the outcome is something that is much more organic and natural.”
With the majority of the disc tracked live at Ovation Sound Studios by engineer and co-producer Evan Richey, “Electric City” teems with funky and original melodic textures of jazz, hip-hop, and neo soul. The solid musical package is rounded out by the intelligent, informed and optimistic lyrics by MCs Renaissance and Mr. Mo’Halyn.
“It’s been a long time coming and it feels good to have a product with this group,” said Renaissance. “This album is the missing piece that we’ve been waiting for to present ourselves to the next level.”
In addition to Stevens, Renaissance and Mo’Halyn, the core of the Solos Unit includes guitarist Joey C-Note, a.k.a. Joe Hundertmark and bassist X-Ray, a.k.a. John Ray.
Though the Solos Unit has always employed a variety of more than capable drummers to keep a steady groove, several guests figured prominently in the recording of “Electric City.” In addition to drummers Shirazette Tennin, Iajhi and Ivan Hampden, the band also welcomed famed bassist Oteil Burbidge and the Brotherhood of Groove’s Jeff Vidal on saxophone.
Perhaps what aided the band most during their three years together has been their weekly Monday night gig at Winston-Salem venue Rubber Soul. Much more than just a source of income, Rubber Soul has served as a musical boot camp for the members of the Solos Unit to polish their lively show and sound to a fine sheen.
“It’s really like a breeding ground for new materials,” said Renaissance. “The interaction between us has become an instrument.”
Perhaps the greatest asset of “Electric City” is the discs ability to challenge the listener on different levels. The musical compositions certainly echo the North Carolina School of the Arts training of several members, while the lyrical content never strays into senseless or shallow commercial territory. And though the lyrics are never far from the picture, the bands instrumental chops are given more than a small share of the spotlight.
“Its all about the unit and the groove, not the individual members,” said Stevens. “You can have a dynamic hip-hop tune. It doesn’t have to sound repetitive.”
Now that the disc has been released, the members of the Solos Unit are ready to do what they do best in front of as many fans as possible.
“We want to get on the road and play for people so they can hear the music,” said Stevens. “We’re willing to make whatever sacrifices it takes to make this work. We’re going to take full advantage of the fact that we’re in a band that we love.”
---by David Brewer
---High Country Press, Feb. 22, 2007
- High Country Press

"Solos Unit (CD Review)"

The Solos Unit (formerly Solos) has in the space of a few years transformed from a local improvisational-experament-as-live-event into a formidable and focused force to be respected.
The band's first album, "Electric City," perfectly exemplafies the growth of the group as songwriters and arrangers and the honing of a vision brodening by the song. Whereas the bands songs once sounded like what they were - songs born in the moment - "Electric City" crackles with newfound clarity. The bouncing "Call Me" and "Firewater," with its monster hook of a chorus, perfectly displays the mix of intellect instinct and chill groove that is this band at its best. The two MCs - Mr. Mo'Halyn (Also a strongR&B singer) and rapper Renaissance - fire off socially aware rhymes with with an impressive blend of urgency and passion.
--by Ed Bumgardener
--Feb. 22, 2007 - Relish

"A Winning Combination"

...the Solos Unit [is] a hip-hop-funk-jazz outfit comprised of two vocalists/MCs
Renaissance and Mr. Mo' Halyn - along with Stevens on Rhodes and synthesizers;
John Ray, a longtime musician friend of Stevens, on bass; and Ryan Ramirez, a
New addition to the band from charlotte, on drums.
An overriding accomplishment of this four-year-old outfit is that they prove
that hip-hop can be done - with style, grace and record quality changes - live in
front of an audience, even on a small stage. The band's connection with the
audience also is dramatic. Fans chanting lyrics to their favorite songs while
interacting with the band on stage is often an integral part of the show...
...No strangers to the Murphy's stage, the legacy of the SoloS Unit in Boone is
that of raging nights of melodic, almost rhythm and blues based, tunes that
captivate and make the body move. Coming off playing one of the closing shows
at Ziggy's in Winston-Salem, the band has big plans for 2008, including stops in
New York City, Massachusetts, Virginia and Chicago...
- by Sam Calhoun
Dec. 27, 2007 High Country Press
- High Country Press


2004 "Deep Speed" (EP)
2005 "Live from the Rubber Soul"
2007 "Electric City" (available on iTunes and CDbaby)
- featuring guest bassist Oteil Burbridge of the Allman
Brothers, drummer Ivan Hampden of Luther Vandross'
touring band, vocalist Becca Stevens of the Bjorkestra,
and Saxophonist Jeff Vidal of Brotherhood of Groove.
2008 "Live @ Ziggy's" DVD

free live recordings available @

***High Quality live video is available at***



The SoloS Unit is an energetic live music experience that fuses elements of Hip Hop and Soul to create a vibrant landscape upon which rides a positive, empowering message. The group has been knocking out crowds up and down the east coast with the one-two combo of “raw-dog emceeism” and “take flight” vocals backed by a blazing live band.

"…we break beats for communion…"

SoloS has performed with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelik, The Roots, Perpetual Groove, Wu Tang Clan, Common, Camp Lo, Capadonna, The Gap Band, Ghostface Killah, Guru's Jazzmatazz and many other highly esteemed artists. Their latest album Electric City was mixed by Stan Wallace (Nas, Luther Vandross, Beyonce) and features bassist Oteil Burbridge of the Allman Brothers and Aquarium Rescue Unit and Luther Vandross drummer Ivan Hampden along with many other special guests. The Unit has received many accolades for their incredible live performances.

"…certified bounce technicians…"

The SoloS Unit was born from a Monday night jam session at a popular night club in downtown Winston-Salem. The once informal jam session grew to become the hottest weekly show in town, running over three years. The group has since released three records and a live DVD. SoloS has toured extensively in North Carolina and the southeast and has most recently begun to venture north spreading its unique flavor up and down the east coast.

Ed Bumgardner from Relish Magazine recently wrote:

“…spontaneous-sounding music that builds a sturdy bridge between various musical styles and ideas. It is music that leaps forward. The MCs are witty, gifted and smart, each offering a distinct approach that shifts between high-quality R&B singing to psychedelicized street-smart rhymes. The playing is understated but dazzlingly executed as it bumps from cool-riff funk to textural jazz and then to pure hip-hop groove.”

"…on a mission to bring light to the third eye…"

With musical influences that run the gamut from Bach to Pete Rock, the SoloS unit leaves no musical stone unturned. Break-beats, funked-out disco, silky smooth soul, and heavy hip-hop beats are combined with the versatile emceeing of Renaissance and Mr. Mo'Halyn. Renaissance brings a prizewinning slam-poetry emcee style, having proven himself at a national level recently receiving a world slam poetry ranking. Mo'Halyn brings seasoned soul vocals paired with an incredible flow that leave challengers gasping.