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"New Musical Genre Takes Root in Colorado"

New Musical Genre Takes Root in Colorado
by Don Bain

On Sept. 20, a very unusual style of music was released online under the title of Sacred Paths. A live performance in support of the CD release was staged Sept. 24, at the D-Note in Arvada. The performance and CD are the culmination of the collaborative magic of a Denver jazz quartet with that of a fresh young hiphop duo. When the two combine, the result is an aesthetically pleasing fusion of nu jazz with compelling and imaginative spoken word.
The jazz component of the players is known independently as Asia Jazz Project, named for sax player and composer Asia Fajardo, who seems to have drawn great inspiration from this project – it represents some of her best work to date.
“When a musician goes to work with other musicians, different energies help you bring out different things in yourself,” Fajardo said. “So whoever I play with I take some of their energy and some of mine too. Since all of this instrumentally is improvisation – we don’t have any chords or any scales picked out – we just listen to each other. So you have to work harder but you have more freedom. That just brings out a different kind of energy.”
The quartet is completed by drummer Antwon Owens, percussionist Luis Chavez and pianist Lewis Mitchell Neeff. For the show Sept. 24, guitarist Jim Disner filled in admirably for Neeff, who couldn’t make the gig.
The hiphop component of the project consists of the established duo Molina Soleil and Aju. Molina has recorded two solo EPs, one solo CD, compiled and appeared on a CD to promote the film Papers and published a book of poetry titled The Age of Revision. Together they have recorded one EP and have another CD due to drop this November.
One might say the manner in which the music was recorded is as fresh and dynamic as the music itself.
“We started collaborating and rehearsing together in April ’09 for a string of subsequent performances we did in Denver that month,” Aju said. “From the get go there was chemistry and a sense of fusion and flow with the mixing of our sounds, words and energy. For certain pieces, Molina Soleil and I shared our words with the musicians first, and then they improvised on the vibe of the spoken word. For other pieces, the order of the creative process was reversed, as Molina Soleil and I would write to the sounds of Asia Jazz Project’s flow (Asia’s sax in particular).
“It was total fusion,“ Molina added. “There was really no order. All tracks were recorded in one stream, everyone mic’d up and worked together improvisationally. It was pure magic. It is all about re-connecting with what we already know. It’s contemporary in the sense we are packaging the music and the message in a modern format. But we’re dealing with ancient wisdom, ancient knowledge and understanding.”
In Sacred Paths and Rise Mantra the sax and Aju's solo parts are close together because they represent the female energy,” Fajardo interjected. “On City Night Speaks, I wrote the melody and Aju wrote the words. For Molina's Poems Letters to the Moon, I improvised according to what Molina's words were. This whole CD is very improvisational music.”
Some tracks, like Sacred Paths, seek to awaken intrinsic or ancestral knowledge and bind it to a modern awareness and/or responsibility.
“In the high-speed world of now, the voices and ways of our antepasados oftentimes seem to be diminished and forgotten; the connection between one and one’s environment torn; the alliance between fellow living creatures dishonored,” Aju explained. “In many ways Sacred Paths is a journey that explores and reconnects many of our lost relations – especially the ancient wisdom which lives on in our intuition, our veins, and our solar system.”
The collective musicians seem to be tapping into the very tides of change that brought Barach Obama to the White House.
“Again, it’s a new call for a return to old ways, flipped into a new context,” Molina said. “The collaboration is passionate and driven; it is new and old at once,” Aju stated. “Change is prevalent; all life is sing-sang-sung… I think that Sacred Paths definitely reflects the motivation and spirit of changing times we feel pulsing heavily through global veins at this time.”
Whatever the origins of their magic, the group has succeeded in creating music much greater than the sum of their parts. They use the elements of air, earth, wind and water to sculpt sound into urban canyons, soaring peaks, whispering breezes, morphing clouds and island-dotted oceans.

“This project is very elemental – it’s very green,” Molina explained. “It’s all about the earth and the cosmos and our connection to all that is unseen, unheard, ‘cause we are related and interconnected with all living things. It is definitely about connecting urban people with the sky, helping rural folks to see their connection to urban inner-city landscapes, and asking all people to recognize we need to take better care of our skies, our oceans and our soil.
“I recently read in a the NY Times that there have been well over 500,000 violations of clean water laws in recent times. That’s ludicrous. People are starting to feel the effects. We need to challenge big money and demand that our politicians look out for the health and well-being of their constituents.”
“We have all come from very different musical backgrounds, which I believe has created something none of us have seen before,” Fajardo added. “I think we share a common bond in our links to Mother Earth. I believe this common bond is what allowed us to put together this project.”
“We definitely bring each of our characteristic elements to the table, combine them and birth fusion,” Aju concluded. “I think that through our combined forces we touch upon the fifth element – the center, the state of possibility, reflection and creation…”
The CD is thoroughly impressive on many levels – the live performance evokes something larger than life – a tangible energy you can feel and virtually grasp in the ambient air.
We are convinced they are creating well-intentioned musical magic. See if you’ll fall under their spell by visiting MySpace and searching for asiajazz or soulaju. You will also find information on Molina Soleil and Aju on the SonicBids and ReverbNation websites.
Molina Soleil and Aju will perform Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. and Oct. 15 at noon on the campus of Lewis College in Durango.
Perhaps the Lakota Sioux put it most succinctly saying, “Mitakuye Oyasin” or simply, “We are all related.”

- North Denver News

"Spoken Words of Activism"

Hip-hop just doesn’t seem to fit what Adrian Molina
does – there’s too much heart and intellect involved
for such a mundane designation. After all, this is a
young man who turned his back on a career in law to make a
difference in the world at large. He gives his activism legs
through his efforts as an emcee, poet, playwright and per-
Molina grew up in Rawlins, Wyoming, the county seat of
Carbon County. It was a world away from Denver and in
many ways resembled the conditions in Greeley, Colorado
during the days of the bracero, some 66 years ago.
“It’s a very conservative community there and it’s still
very divided,” Molina said. “The south side, when I was
growing up, was almost all Mexicano and Chicano. That’s
changed a little, but it was definitely a dividing line and I fig-
ured out real quick – by junior high – what it meant to live on
the south side. Also, there’s a division between the
Mexicanos and the Chicanos who have been here longer on
the south side.”
He is the son of a Mexican immigrant and a Chicana
from the San Luis Valley. Rawlins is a small working-class
prison town so many of the residents work in the prison or
area oil fields and nearby mines. As a small town it goes
through the regular cycles of boom and bust.
Adrian saw the disrespect heaped upon his father as a
darker-skinned Mexicano with a heavy Spanish accent. The
anger he felt from witnessing this has been channeled into
his poetry and performance. “This first project (Representin’
4 Life) was a very political project – very revolutionary – I
wrote it at the height of the Bush administration,” he said.
“It was pretty raw and taking a very critical look at certain
elements of our society.This next project I’m working on (Up
before the Sunrise) is a little lighter, more fun, a little bit
more celebratory of the new leadership in this country.
“On the first album I thought, if I get to record just one
CD this is what needs to be said on a social justice level and
the underlying issues in terms of poverty, discrimination,
race and class plus issues of gender and violence in our soci-
ety and globally. If I had one chance to come up with some-
thing real what would it be? So I just poured my heart into
this thing.”
He has taken the stage name of Molina Soleil, combining
his surname with the French word for sun. His book of
poetry titled Molina Soleil: The Age of Revision reveals a
strong yet passionate and caring young man coming of age,
becoming aware and finding enlightenment long before
youth fades away.
“No more clapping at textbook speeches written for rich
men / with sparkling white teeth who have been groomed
since birth / to manipulate our thirst for heroes.” So reads
one verse of No More Heroes, one of the many poems in the
In Letters to the Moon, in five parts, Molina discovers
love, beauty and the divine in the every day world. In The
Becoming he waxes spiritual, even metaphysical – echoing
the wisdom of some of the greatest sages of all ages.
The music he heard around the house was a mix of
Chicano oldies and canciones de Chihuahua. His own taste
ran to the early rappers of note – Kid Frost, Lighter Shade of
Brown, Snoop Dog, Dr. Dré and Tupac.
His interest in education and activism did not really
materialize until college. “There was a man by the name of
Dominic Martinez who came from our community in
Rawlins who went to the University of Wyoming,
becoming the first Chicano student body vice
president. He came back to teach at Rawlins High and
took a huge interest in me. He showed me the power of
education. He introduced me to a lot of new ideas and con-
cepts. He started showing me the history embedded in the
music I was listening to – the Chicano movement and the
civil rights years.”
At the age of 24 he taught his first college class and
began designing courses on Chicano and Hip-hop history as
well as media justice issues. He is currently teaching cours-
es online for UW. “I feel likeI’ll always be a teacher and a stu-
dent, formally or informally. This summer I’ll be teaching
some kids using media art and popular culture to explore
social justice themes in Wyoming.”
He has written several plays and directed and performed
in one titled Phantom Discourse. His music and videos are
available at and free downloads
of his tracks can be found at He will
be performing here in Denver during April and we will be
sure to let you know when and where.
Adrian’s writing ends our story with the last few lines of
his book, which read:

How indescribably beautiful to seemingly at once
come to thisRecognition –
that We are Becoming
that we have always been


- La Voz (Colorado)

""Soulaju Raises Awareness and the Roof"

Denver Post
Balance is a tricky thing to achieve, in music and...
Balance is a tricky thing to achieve, in music and in life. As humans, we want to find both meaning and fun in our lives. As lovers of music, we want songs to make us think and dance. All too often, we’re disappointed on one side of the equation or the other.

But Denver’s Soulaju — who will perform on June 19 at the 2010 Juneteenth celebration — aims to change all that. Making socially relevant music that you can dance to, while also working hard in urban and rural communities to empower youth and raise awareness of social justice issues, the male/female neo-soul and hip-hop duo strike a funky balance indeed.

Molina Soleil and Aju released their first full-length album earlier this year. Produced in collaboration with Oakland-based DJ Icewater, the self-titled, 15-track collection bursts with head-bobbing beats, rhymes that flow like melted butter and melodic hooks that stick like maple syrup.

Its soulful jams and socially conscious lyrics recall Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott-Heron as much as the Roots and the Fugees. Strikingly professional and just plain good, “Soulaju” would be a highlight for more mature artists, but is all the more remarkable as the duo’s debut album. In a way, though, it’s been years in the making.

Molina’s path to a hip-hop career began on the spoken word circuit. In 2003, he began performing a piece about racism, stereotypes and identity called “Young Brown Poet.” But it was a fateful gig three years later that opened the young artist’s eyes to the musical possibilities, when Molina had the opportunity to open for noted spoken word performer and rapper Saul Williams at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, about two hours away from his home town of Rawlins. The sound engineer captured his performance and passed it to Dustin Neal of CHiTT Productions and Mannequin Rituals. Just 24 hours later, Neal had produced music to accompany Molina’s performance.

In collaboration with Neal, Molina — who got his law degree from the University of Wyoming in 2006 — released his debut EP, “Representin’ for Life” and his first album, “Up Before the Sunrise.” It was in 2008, while touring for the latter, that Molina met Iwasaki.

“I was touring coast to coast,” recalls the wordsmith, “and I was in Durango, doing work with youth at El Centro de Muchos Colores. Amy was the interim director of the student resource center. We met, and three months later, we were in Oakland, recording with DJ Icewater.”

Iwasaki — who uses her education in sociolinguistics to write and sing in five different languages — remembers her first impressions of Molina vividly. “He was doing a one-man show,” she says. “It was deep and riveting and an awesome experience.” Iwasaki had grown up in Kawasaki, Japan, and moved to the tiny town of Crestone, Colorado, in 1995, while Molina matured in small-town Wyoming.

Despite their different backgrounds, the pair immediately felt a kinship over their shared concerns for social justice and love of music. Through hip-hop historian Jeff Chang, author of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop,” they connected with DJ Icewater — a prolific producer and hip-hop lover who has served as the Pharcyde’s tour DJ — and began working on an album together.

Around that same time, Molina bumped into a film crew at a Democratic National Convention event in La Alma Park. The crew was working on “Papers,” a film the explores the possibilities for immigration reform by highlighting the experiences of undocumented youth in the U.S. “They asked me for an interview, and I spit a flow for them,” the rapper laughs. Soon after, found himself emceeing a benefit show for the project and becoming its music supervisor.

“It’s an issue that’s really close to my heart,” he explains. “I’d like to see immigration reform that’s fair and realistic and respectful of people as human beings.”

Throughout the creation of “Soulaju,” DJ Icewater created beats and sent them to Molina, who then worked with Iwasaki to craft the lyrical and melodic content. At the same time, Molina and Iwasaki began traveling to promote screenings of “Papers” and perform various outreach and educational programs throughout the country.

“It all relates back to art and education,” explains Molina of Soulaju’s mission. “We use our art to entertain, but also to inspire, motivate, educate and contribute to social movements.”

Iwasaki can hardly contain her passion when she speaks of what they do. “We focus on identity and helping youth feel empowered,” she continues. “We like to call ourselves bridges, whether inter-generationally or inter-culturally. We work from inner cities to super rural places — both places where there’s a lot of despair or boredom or apathy.”

For the 26-year-old vocalist, issues of gender and sexuality are as important as immigration, criminal justice and others. “In a lot of mainstream hip-hop, you see disrespect of women,” she observes. “We like to broaden those issues, deconstruct mainstream videos and lyrics, and help kids see what it means to be in a healthy, respectful relationship.”

Though their work as social activists consumes a great deal of Molina and Iwasaki’s time, energy and money, they are still equally focused on music, especially as they promote “Soulaju.”

“We grinded so hard over the last two years,” enthuses Molina. “We’ve created a wealth of music. Now it’s about getting it out there and making sure it gets heard and enjoyed.”

“In the next few years, we’ll be doing a lot of collaborations independently,” Iwasaki says. “I really want to learn how to play guitar and work on acoustic stuff. I think we’re both in the process of determining what that’s going to look like for us individually and in collaboration with various artists throughout the area.”

While Molina and Iwasaki work hard to maintain the balance between collective and independent work, between activism and art, Soulaju will continue to exist. “A few years down the road, people will want another album,” says Molina with a beatific smile. Iwasaki agrees.

“It’s going to be a very beautiful road ahead.”

Catch Soulaju on Saturday, June 19, at the 2010 Juneteenth celebration. Visit their website to download a six-song sampler. Click below to hear “Without Papers,” a song Soulaju created for the movie “Papers.” - Denver Post Reverb

"New ground: Rawlinsite puts out new CD"

Former Rawlins resident Adrian Molina's debut album, "Up Before the
Sunrise," is a daring move for a musician entering the scene.

It has every bit of potential to offend, but honesty is what the artist
was going for. He expects it'll create a stir.

Musically, the album feels simple, but it's a nice blend of skill, style
and ingenuity from Dustin Neal and Will Ross, makers of the Mannequin
Rituals project.

Meanwhile, Molina's lyrics are complex, with dark and challenging undertones.

Together, they form a compact disc that's easy to listen to despite its
bold confrontation of issues most people try to avoid staring in the face.
It's hip-hop and industrial and rap and experimental all tied together in
a style that's tough to identify.

Tune out the message and there's a nice backdrop of beats and melody, with
the beautiful contrast of Molina's spoken word against Helen
Chanthongthip's song.

But, hone in on the lyrics, and the album feels like a renewal of the
musical politico that once flooded the teenage angst music scene — and has
dotted the landscape ever since.

It calls to mind Rage Against the Machine's style and themes, an influence
Molina doesn't deny.

But, he's offering different fury in a different style than the 1990s

Rather than clog the sound mixer with the mess of instruments that made
Rage Against the Machine fit a small niche, the backdrop to Molina's
message is composed mostly of neat drum beats and a repetitive piano or
keyboard line.

But the repetition and relative simplicity of the music isn't a bad thing.
It opens the door for lyrics to stand out. The two components intertwine
nicely, to the point where one couldn't exist without the other.

Molina talks about the machine, or the political and social systems in
place that keep humans from thinking beyond mere survival and moving
toward change. Like his raging predecessors, his lyrics pinpoint those
stymies and call for any able person to step out and question authority.

"Stand up and demand a different reality," he declares. "Join the
slaughter or rebel against it."

However, his movement began in a different locale, with different influences.

It began in Rawlins, and those roots appear in several places as the album
progresses in a logical pattern and closes in a pristine, though somewhat
blatant, circle.

In the first two tracks, "Skydreamer" and "Representin' (4 Life)," the
album announces its goal to cut a new path into the current musical
landscape, both in terms of message and inventive musical style. Molina
declares a challenge to join his movement in a dare to any listener who'll
accept it.

The next four songs describe the musician's history, paint his and his
family's portrait and issue a statement to his son, who's about to start
experiencing the still-existing prejudices that Molina outlines in the
other songs. In some cases, the song's character is Molina himself, and
other times, it's a literary element by which the artist can tell stories.

Next up is a set of songs that are designed to be somewhat mystifying.

"Sea of Glass" and "October Myst" are not only more experimental
musically, they are cryptic combinations of words and phrases that Molina
said he hopes will inspire play after play. Molina credits Neal for the
chaotic sound, saying the songs wouldn't exist without his friend's

"They're abstract and metaphoric so people can get what they want from
it," he said of the two tracks. "I want them to break it down in their
cars late at night or in their high school or college classrooms."

Lastly, the messages of "Beyond Sundown" and "Kite Runner" bring the album
back to the beginning with a statement that seems to say, "Don't cut me
down because I'm soaring, and this is my message. Now join me."

There have already been labels slapped onto the music, the foremost being
that of Chicano rights. But, Molina said the overall message, if there is
one, is more about human rights in general.

"The broad range of people I've worked with on this proves that it's about
the human experience," Molina said.

The featured artists are varied and include Asian-American Chanthongthip,
African-American Day Acoli, and Mexican-Americans Zeke Rios and Gaby
Muñoz. Neal and Ross are white and middle-class, Molina said.

"There are definitely a handful of tracks that address Latino or Chicano
rights issues," he said, "but everyone will make sense of it within the
lens of their own particular world view.

"This is as much for the white, middle-class male as it is for the single,
Third-World female."

— Contact Janice Kurbjun at 324-3411 or


CD available at Carbon Merc

The Carbon Mercantile began selling Adrian Molina's debut album on Tuesday.

It's the sole store in the county that carries the album, and they're
selling it for $11. Molina gets all the proceeds.

It'll also be available in stores in Casper, Cheyenne, Laramie, Rapid
City, S.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D.

Molina is a musician who grew up in Rawlins and graduated from Rawlins
High School in 1999. He attended the University of Wyoming to get an
undergraduate degree in sociology and criminal justice with a minor in
Chicano studies. He went on to finish a graduate degree in UW's law school
and has been a lecturer at UW in Chicano studies, hip-hop history and
media justice for two years.

"It's a community-run store," Assistant Manager Jamie Mack said. "So it
makes sense to support him ... It's nice to support someone who grew up
here, graduated here and went to UW."

Mack graduated from high school one year behind Molina, and when he called
to ask for her store's support, she said yes.

She describes his album as "hip-hop with a message." His songs have many
lyrics she thinks the Rawlins population can relate to.

"It's really good," she said.

The album should be available in a display at the cash register, near the
front of the store. - Janice Kurbjun for Rawlins Daily Times

"Molina's Music Grows"

Adrian Molina — artist name Molina Soleil — hit the road last summer with his bags and a few CDs.

He wound his way through the roads of the Midwest to the east coast, the Rocky Mountain West into the Pacific Northwest and into the San Francisco Bay Area, Southwest and Texas — sleeping in hostels, cheap hotels and on couches to foster connections in the music industry.

He even skipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe, with performances in London.

All along his route, he’s enriched his heightened sense of culture and broadened his musical experimentation.

Molina, who grew up in Rawlins, graduated from Rawlins High School and attended the University of Wyoming for undergraduate and graduate school, has released more new music on his “Shine Flow” EP which becomes available at the Carbon Mercantile on Saturday.

Two people Molina met along the way worked with him on this newest production. Countless other musicians, educators and activists continue to influence Molina’s lyrics and tunes.

“Aju (full name Amy J. Iwasaki) is an incredible poet and vocalist, speaks five languages with a style all her own,” Molina said. “(DJ) Icewater is a first-class mix tape DJ whose work is known and respected all over the world.”

“In Aju, I found not only an artistic partner but my life partner,” Molina added.

Molina has a hip-hop style.

The newest tunes show the same audacity and passion that was characteristic of Molina’s 2008 release, “Up Before the Sunrise.” However, the new music seems more mature, tackling the same cultural questions with less anger and more frank tenacity.

Other recordings in Molina’s repertoire include his original EP, “Representin’ 4 Life,” which was released in 2007. He’s working on a jazz and spoken word fusion project title “Sacred Rituals,” as well as a full-length album with DJ Icewater. Both are collaborative with Aju and should be released before the end of the year.

While Molina appears to always have variety in his work, “Shine Flow” reveals a growing spectrum of beats and melodies.

From Aju’s irresistible, relaxed vocals in multiple languages in “Wrong Ways” to the staccato rapidity of Molina’s words in “People,” the EP spans a range of experimentation.

Molina’s voice is in experimentation, he said.

“Working with different styles through a fusion of genres, with various artists — this is definitely part of my voice,” he said.

“I come from a complex background, with family members on both sides of the United States-Mexico border,” he added. “I’ve formed personal relationships and worked with many different groups of people, across race, gender, and social class lines. And I’ve been through a lot in my short life. I’ve seen a lot of things from different lenses, so it makes sense for me to make art that is diverse and challenging, always shifting.”

His music and lyrics embody Molina as much as they are reflections of what he sees. Sometimes, he said, he’s stepping into other people’s shoes or into alternative realities, such as in “Sin Papeles.”

It’s a “song about the experiences of undocumented youth (youth without papers). It’s a multi-layered process,” he said.

Molina strives to stay true to his roots. He mentions “south side” and “Raw-town” in his songs, hearkening back to his Wyoming heritage. Many of the life experiences and questions raised while growing up find their way into his songs, addressed through beat and lyric to create a memorable message.

“I just want to tell the youth of Rawlins to believe in themselves and to follow their dreams, especially all the youth from the south side,” Molina said. “There will be people who push you down, who disrespect you and do not support you, and unfortunately this may include some teachers, coaches, and adults in your own community.

“Trust those adults who are willing to reach out to you and help you, and above all believe in yourself, your talent, and your vision.”

— Contact Janice Kurbjun at 324-3411 or

Molina’s take

Adrian Molina’s new EP release, “Shine Flow,” is near and dear to his heart, as is all of his music.

He said the words on the album’s back cover sum up it’s meaning.

“Shine your passion like the light of suns and moons and rise like trees,” it reads. “Stay true to your roots, stand strong in your truth. Spread your leaves, your wings, your seeds. Draw strength from sacred soils and flow like water. See the signs, free divine. Shine flow.”

To DJ Icewater, the newest production follows his theory that music is autobiographical.

“Basically, it reflects what each of us were feeling and going through at the time, expressed through music. The music I provided on this CD originally started off as remix beats I did for random hip-hop a capella (groups). When Adrian asked me for beat, I gave him those instrumentals and he ran with them.”

“Adrian is a very skilled emcee who has a good work ethic and is very receptive to criticism and suggestions. He is very easy to work with,” he added.

Molina wanted to give people “something they could move to and bump at the party,” but he didn’t want to sacrifice substance or lyrical depth.

“Between my lyrics, Aju’s vocals and Icewater’s beats, I think we hit people with a good balance, solid music all the way around.”

Molina Grilled

The following are questions excerpted from the interview with Adrian Molina, aka Molina Soleil.

Q: What are your goals in producing music? How does this particular work get you closer to achieving those goals?

Molina: My greatest goal is to sustain myself as an artist, which is difficult when you’re independent. People are responding with excitement to this release, and it is already creating new opportunities for me.

My goals are not to be rich and famous. My goals are to challenge people, to give them something to smile about, and to inspire the youth to express themselves and demand the kind of world they want to live in, rather than accept what they are offered.

It’s nearly impossible to sustain yourself as an independent artist if you don’t move around and make noise in different communities. You have to hit the road, trust your music, and spread it yourself.

Q: How did you and Aju meet? And, by life partner, do you mean a partner in marriage? Have a date yet?

Molina: We met at Fort Lewis College when I did a spoken word gig on campus. She was working professionally in the multicultural student center on campus. Neither of us are concerned with the legalities of marriage. We definitely consider each other life partners.

Q: You said, “People are responding with excitement to this release, and it is already creating new opportunities for me.” What opportunities?

Molina: Opportunities to perform, to work with other DJs and producers.

Q: Would it be fair to say that your music embodies you? It’s your passion, your beliefs, and your creativity all wrapped up into several three-minute pieces that are meant to inspire the people who listen at the same time they’re enjoying the melodies, harmonics and beats. Would you agree with that, or change that statement in any way?

Molina: My music and poetry embody elements of me, but they are also reflections of what I see. Sometimes I’m stepping into other people’s shoes, or into different realities, like on “Sin Papeles” — a song about the experiences of undocumented youth (youth without papers). It’s a multi-layered process.

Q: Is there any meaning behind the song titles?

Molina: Like with “Up Before the Sunrise,” the song titles definitely pull the compositions together conceptually, but they are also abstract and open for interpretation.

Q: You mentioned not wanting to make millions, but wanting to support yourself through your art. What’s your opinion on making concessions to sell an album?

Molina: Personally, I will not compromise who I am in order to sell records, not in terms of content nor image. I want to create music that people enjoy, but I’m not going to be fake and sell myself out in order to make it.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Molina: [NOTE: This is a longer version of the condensed quote Molina provided for the regular news story.] I just want to tell the youth of Rawlins to believe in themselves and to follow their dreams, especially all the youth from the south side.

I remember kicking it with Loco Mente, particularly Lyle Ortega and Mari Medina. They were Wyoming’s first rap group. I used to do little recordings in Lyle’s bedroom as a teenager. Those cats inspired me and encouraged me to keep writing and believe in my work.

Anything is possible when you refuse to give up. I had hoop dreams as a kid, and those dreams were crushed, partly by adults who were everything BUT fair and supportive, and partly by my own actions in letting them defeat me. But I also had big dreams with music, and now I’ve made those dreams a reality through determination, hustle, and belief in myself even when people doubted me.

You never know when doors may open, so you gotta keep pushing. Ask questions, educate yourself, and believe in yourself. Work to create opportunities for yourself and trust your vision. You never know where your talent may take you.

Much love and respect to Loco Mente for encouraging me to express myself back when I was a teenager, and to all the people of Rawlins who have supported my work.

Notable quotes from the album:

“Flow by the weight of your heart / trust your vessel / your music, your essence, your rush, your art / don’t compromise your skill to another’s will / dart, just start, take heart” — Aju on Da Indies

“8-3-08, left in a blaze / fade away, that day burns in infamy / packed up, bags loaded, made history / pops took one look, he said, “you a gypsy” / my car piled high with all I owned / one pocked full of cash, the road is home” — Molina on Shine Flow

“Be the flower, be the blossom / be like bloom, be like seed / that be growing in the dirt / be like trees, be like weeds / that sprout into beautiful things that be / just be, nothing more / that’s right we be / energy, like current, got a right to be free / got a right to believe anything we conceive” — Molina on Dee-Jay

“Captivated, sanctified unity / drink my stew of human integrity / I choose home, my heart not alone / billions people sing this song / I don’t have a culture, I am many cultures / sea-body joining river-vein nature / tracing roots link every creature / look in mirror now, trace my feature” — Aju on Wrong Ways - Janice Kurbjun for Rawlins Daily Times

"Rising hip-hop legend releases EP"

By Brian Dekle

“This is for life; spit truth, kick facts when I rap. Abstract; tear up tracks, but it’s bigger than that. This is a movement. Music is a tool; sun (son), use it; wack rappers abuse it.”

They’re lines from the title track of Laramie hip-hop legend and poet Adrian Molina’s new EP, “Representin’ 4 Life,” and they encapsulate the spirit of the entire nine-track work. In a world where the commercial hip-hop climate is saturated with violence, degradation of women and “King Dollar Bill,” Molina dares to defy his big-label counterparts with hymns of inspiration and positive social change.

“What I’m representing through my music is life. Instead of contributing to a culture of death, I’m trying to represent for life, peace, freedom, justice and equality,” he said.
The “culture of death,” Molina explains, is division among people - “different schisms that divide us, the ‘isms’ that pull us apart and prevent us from focusing on our connection to the earth, our connection to humanity.”
Molina said this culture of death manifests itself in many ways, namely blind ignorance to the oppression and injustice that affects people throughout the world. This concept becomes tangible in the Iraq war and commercial rap, he added.

“War. Over what? There’s no explanation for the hundreds of thousands of people dead (in Iraq), whose lives have been affected by something only a few people can explain,” he said with a confident passion in his voice..

“What’s evident in commercial rap is misogyny, hate/disrespect toward women, this whole concept of ‘bling-bling’ – this mindless quest for material wealth without concern for the common human being. It’s just nonsense and contributes to devaluing people. We’re no longer human beings; we’re only as good as how sexy we are or how much money we make. I make a point that in my music no woman will ever be called a bitch, nobody will ever be killed on my album. My music is about life, it’s about inspiration, it’s about love, and everyday life – not just some bullshit lifestyle that most people will never be able to relate to.”

Molina opens the EP with a “memo to rap,” taking stabs and challenging the rap establishment. He asks the rap industry, “What are you representing?” “Under what context are you ‘keeping’ it real?”

“Music should be used as a tool for social justice,” Molina asserts. “Not just to make money or to contribute to the commoditization of people. This is something positive. It’s about life – that’s what my music is about. Every piece (on the album) introduces you to me as an artist and what I believe music should be about.”

The album indeed tells a powerful story. The Rawlins, Wyo. native grew up in a broken home and was exposed to a lot of racism and crime as a child. His father was an illegal immigrant, and his mother was born in Wyoming. He gained a broad perspective of cultures through the traditions in his extended family, and the music on the EP paints a moving sonic portrait of the young rapper.

“Hunger Pains” tells the story of Molina finding a fervent love for hip-hip and his choice to opt for a career in teaching rather than law. One of the first in his family to attend college, Molina has a bachelor’s in sociology and criminal justice and a graduate degree in law. He currently teaches Chicano studies at the University of Wyoming.

The song - track five - has a beautiful chorus, catchy hooks and features the captivating, downright sexy voice of Helen Chanthongthip. The female vocalist does to this track what Merry Clayton does to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” Simply amazing.

“Young Brown Poet” is spoken word poetry over music, and tells of how Molina, while growing up a “person of color” with a blue collar background, found peace in his heart through art and expression.

The title track, “Representin’ 4 Life,” takes a strong stand on music’s value for social change. A few lines: “I watch in amusement / this for artists buildin’, pickin’ locks, breakin’ the chains / tunes, books, flicks and murals: powerful thangs / agents of change / this is for the people who stray away from Babylon system / cause it’s based on decay / this for revolutionaries, freedom fighters, and writers / visualize a new reality / fuck what they supply us / this is for what you’re feelin’ deep in your gut / clench your fist / raise it up if you’re givin’ a fuck.”

The entire EP is pure songsmith genius, with too many highlights to list here. “Every word’s gonna have meaning,” Molina said, adding much of it is inspired by “his passion,” his 3-year-old son Izriah Hulberto Molina.

But more than top tier songwriting, the overall sound is mind-blowing. The mixes are perfect; the instrumentation is tasteful; the vocals flow like tupelo honey from a mason jar. And most shocking is the entire work was recorded in Molina’s bedroom, with blankets tacked to the walls replacing pro studio foam, and other homespun innovations.

Though Molina provided the ideas and lyrics, Rawlins producer Dustin Neal and studio engineer Will Ross put Molina’s vibrant colors on the canvas.

“It was prety much Dustin’s brainchild. People may laugh at this, but I wouldn’t be happier if Kanye West was producing my album. I would rather have Dustin. The sound he’s coming up with is such a new and fresh sound. He’s an amazing artist,” Molina said.

The EP is only a dress rehearsal for a full-length album Molina plans to release in the fall. For now, the EP is available for sale March 26 and 27 in the Wyoming Union Breezeway, and at several upcoming events Molina is organizing. It will soon go on sale online and at some local stores. People may also contact Molina at to nab a copy.

For only $5-$8 (whatever you want to pay, Molina says), do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. Even if you’re not a hip-hop fan (and I’m not) this work of art will astound you. It’s unlike anything you’ll hear today.

For sound clips or more information, visit

“Representin’ 4 Life” is on the independent labels Up Before the Sunrise and Chitt Productions. Visit for more information.

- Branding Iron, University of Wyoming Student Newspaper

"UW professor spreads positive message through original hip-hop"

By Whitney Wise

Although Laramie, with its vibrant cowboy culture and many country music fans, may not seem to be a hip-hop Mecca, a University of Wyoming Chicano Studies professor has endeavored to help create a more recognized and highlighted hip-hop culture here.
Adrian Molina, through his writing, rapping, spoken word and art, spreads his message, and it’s starting to show, as more and more Laramie residents are embracing Molina’s positive, “off-the-beaten-path” form of hip hop at parties, on campus, coffee shops and bars.
Molina performs “spoken word” poetry, which is usually “spit” right off the tongue. The message of his art is not violence and sexual aggression, common in mainstream hip-hop. Instead, Molina said he focuses on humanity.
“Hip-hop can serve a lot of functions. It’s social justice-oriented,” he said. “Music and art allow us to touch our humanity. It’s about raw, human emotion.”
Since 9/11, patriotism has been everywhere, Molina said. But he contends his patriotism is not about dead and destroyed countries, and he opts to embrace his sense of respect, decency, kindness, compassion for human beings in general, as demonstrated in his art.
He said he tries to work toward what he views as a solution: drawing closer to peace than to death and destruction. “I try to work toward freedom, peace, justice, and equality,” he said. “I’m only one person. I just want to do my part in getting back to respecting human life and earth, and I don’t see much of that in terms of the direction we’re headed globally.”
Molina said that he sees a lot of good people working toward respect for earth and humanity, and he wants to be a part of that through his music.
“Music from the heart, regardless of genre, is what inspires me,” Molina said. “I can’t live without music, it’s something I need, and I’m widening my interests.” He said he loves writing of all forms, and anything from the heart – from student writing to celebrity writing - inspires him. He added he has respect for those who care more about others than themselves—who live for something beyond status or power.
Hip-hop, Molina said, goes beyond mere music and expression, and lends itself to the fundamentals of democracy by creating dialogue between listeners and artists alike.
“Hip-hop can offer a unique perspective for a lot of people who aren’t associated with it,” Molina said. “It’s a way to share ideas and concepts. I would love to have people just listen and talk about it—share it and discuss it.”
Molina is from Rawlins, Wyo., and was exposed to a lot of racism. “There were enough Mexicans in the south side of Rawlins to make them stand out, and there was a lot of racial violence,” he said.
Molina’s father was an illegal immigrant, and his mother was born in Wyoming. He said there was more racism directed toward his father than toward those Chicanos whose families had been in Wyoming for generations.
Molina is an only child, his parents split up, and he grew up in a “broken home.” “There’s no doubt about that,” Molina said. But as a child he said he was exposed to many realms of culture and tradition in his extended family, which gave him a broad perspective of cultures.
Molina is one of the first in his family to go to college, and said he wasn’t even sure he would get the opportunity. Many of his friends from school dropped out, some ended up in prison, and some fell into cycles of drug abuse. He said racism and inequality had a lot to do with where many of his friends ended up, and he writes some of his music for them. “I don’t know what made my outcome different,” Molina said, “but I’m grateful for it.”
Molina has a bachelor’s in sociology and criminal justice and a graduate degree in law. He chose law because of his interests in social justice, and because “it seemed like the way to go,” he said. While he said he wouldn’t discourage anyone from going into law, he personally found other ways of spreading his message of social justice. “Music is where I felt I could do the most good,” he said.
Molina said he chose to teach Chicano studies because it was originally his minor. When he got to college he gained a broader perspective about Chicanos than he ever got in primary and high school education, he said. He also teaches classes through the English and American Studies departments, and said he plans to pursue a doctorate in sociology.
Over the last three years, Molina has written a book and said he is trying to get agents to publish it within the next six months. He has also been recording an album, which he said will hopefully be released in the next six months as well.
The album will be released independently, without the marketing aids of major labels. “I’ll sell the album on the street corner if I have to,” he said. Molina has also written a play, which he said he hopes will debut here in Laramie.
“My overall goal is to continue to grow as a human being,” he said. His advice to students is to “talk to strangers.” “You never know who you’ll meet,” he said. He added he hopes people will seek as broad a perspective of the world as possible, and that they will always keep an open mind.
“Define your own happiness,” Molina said. “Don’t let the knowledge bearers tell you what success or happiness is. Seek it out yourself.”
Molina often performs spoken word poetry on campus and at Laramie venues. For more information about Molina or his performance schedule, visit
- Branding Iron, UW Student Newspaper


Soulaju, Molina Soleil & Aju w/ DJ Icewater (03/10)

Sacred Paths, Asia Jazz Project w/ Molina Soleil & Aju, CHiTT Productions (09/09)

My America: A Benefit CD for Papers the Movie, Various Artists, Compiled by Molina Soleil for CHiTT Productions (07/09)

Shine Flow EP, Molina Soleil & Aju w/ DJ Icewater (06/09)

Up Before the Sunrise, Molina Soleil w/ Mannequin Rituals, CHiTT Productions (08/08)

Representin’ 4 Life EP, Adrian H. Molina aka Mo Brown w/ Mannequin Rituals, CHiTT Productions (03/07)



“Creative, conscious, energetic, sexy, intellectual, and overall: bad ass,” says Denver photographer Ric Urrutia of SOULAJU. Molina & Aju make up the influential male/female music duo, whose music Denver Post journalist Eryc Eyl has compared to the likes of Marvin Gaye, Gil Scott Heron, the Roots and the Fugees.

Molina and Aju crossed paths during the fall of 2008 when Molina was on a solo tour with his first full-length album “Up Before the Sunrise” – an experimental, progressive Hip-Hop collaboration with Mannequin Rituals, produced by DIY aficionado Will Ross of CHiTT Productions. Molina met Bay Area producer DJ Icewater around the same time, and Molina and Aju were soon recording music with the veteran DJ in December of 2008.

In 2009 the duo released “Shine Flow EP” with DJ Icewater, as well as an experimental jazz/spoken word project “Sacred Paths” w/ Asia Jazz Project, both releases under the pseudonyms Molina Soleil & Aju.

The duo released their debut full-length album in March 2010, titling the album “SOULAJU”. The smooth and eclectic multilingual album signaled the duo’s official transition to the group name SOULAJU, pronounced (soul-ah-joo) which translates to “Soul flows like water”.

With individual bios as impressive as the work they have completed together, Molina and Aju are now focusing on individual projects as the sound and reverberation of SOULAJU spreads.