ONE HEART, MANY LOVE; TIME WAITS
There is a generation surfacing that is relentlessly loving Jesus while expressing it all through spoken word poetry and song. We were fortunate to interact with this pioneering vessel of God. The one of one emcee Solachi Voz, to put it simply, is bringing hip hop back to the basics. Her flow is on beat. Her mind is on point, and more than anything else she's wrapped in the Arms of Jesus. Check it out!
Where are you from?
Right now, I’m in Indiana, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Columbus, OH. So, I kind of claim both of those cities as mine.
Tell me about your name. Is there any special meaning?
Yeah, the name Solachi is kinda one of those names where I was searching for what God wanted me to do with my craft. And the name Solachi means “blessed voice of the sun.”
How’d you find such a unique name?
Well, I’m kinda weird, and I spend a lot of time on Google. So, it was around the time when they introduced the ability to translate, and I was just putting random words in and I was searching through because I was like, I wonder what sounds cool in all these languages. So, I went through and happened upon the Galician language; I was trying to find something that had to do with the glory of God. At the time, I was really interested in the planets and the solar system, and I was like, man, we really do revolve around the sun and I started to wonder if there were any phrases in there that had to do with that. So, I happened upon the prefix Sol for sun, and the ending part, the Chi, in Chinese culture that has to do with energy. So, I was praying about it, and God just told be to put those two together, Solachi, you know, because I put all my energy toward everything for Him. And then, La is just another way of saying voice in Latin American languages. So, my interest in linguistics, I guess, and languages of the world put together my name for me.
How did you come to know Jesus?
As with most people, it’s been a journey. I was actually introduced to Him at a very, very early age. I can’t remember a time that I haven’t known of Him at least, but knowing Him is definitely a process that I’m happening upon at this stage of my life. Early on, we were always at church. My parents, they immigrated from Nigeria and they have always had a strong faith in God. So I was taught, even as a toddler, how to pray and how to seek God first in everything that I do. I formerly accepted Christ in my heart when I was six years old. And growing up, as a family unit, there are only four people in my immediate family, and that’s the only family that I have in America, so when I was little, my parents asked another couple at our church if they would want to be our godparents, and when I was six, leading up to seven, my dad got really sick and he almost passed away. During that time, my godparents really took care of me. They taught me how to pray and they really stuck with me.
I’m grateful my dad is still alive today, but unfortunately, my godfather passed away this July. Having them be part of my faith walk from a young age all the way up to now, that was a process. And even now, I’m looking to find Jesus myself. I was one of those kids that would think that God had grandchildren and that faith was hereditary. So, I didn’t bother to find Him for myself until I left to go to college. And then, just being in a different state where I knew nobody, I had to kind of start over, getting to learn who God is and spending time with Him on my own. So, it’s kinda like I have two beginnings: knowing who He was and then knowing Him for myself.
Where do find yourself most drawn to in the Bible--especially now as you’re seeking Him for yourself?
I would say Hebrews because it talks about how to please God and about how faith operates. Also, it tells you, especially Ch 11, it tells you what faith is. It doesn’t really tell you what it’s not. But in a list of all these people who have faith, it teaches you how to have it and how to walk in it and how that really pleases God and how your motives should be to follow Him no matter what you do and He will bless that because He knows you’re doing it for him.
And also, I would say Esther, umm… because of the way she was humbled but still obedient. Even though she was elevated (and that’s not what I’m after), God was using her to save her people, and that’s what I want to do through my music, and also through my clothing line.
So I’d say, those two books are really where it’s at for me right now.
How long have you been rapping?
It’s weird because I never really got into hip hop until like high school age, as far as the genre itself. I started writing music but I didn’t know it was rap. I was really into the contemporary Christian music first. So, then I was writing these verses but I didn’t really know what they were. When I was introduced to hip hop culture as a whole, I was approached with an opportunity to get behind a mic. So I just went with it. And it took me like nine hours to record my first song because I was so awkward with it, but it was cool, and umm… I just, I just fell in love with it. I started studying it.
The first thing I wanted to make sure was that I could hold a conversation, and not be ignorant, before I started creating the music. So even at that age, that was my focus. I wanted to be sure my love for the genre was real before I started trying to claim it. You know, I think, just the five pillars of hip hop, those and the Golden Era, and the pioneers who went before us… I’ve never really been satisfied with what hip hop is becoming, but I was drawn to it because of the influence behind it, and how it’s gripped not only American culture but global society. It’s the most listened-to genre that exists right now, and if that’s true, then my dream is to see it be used positively and for what is holy.
How exactly were you studying? What was your process? Was it coupled with your understanding and studying of the Bible or independent of this?
When I was 13, it was studying more so I could form an identity of who I was and who I wasn’t… and then it turned into studying the past greats… Sugar Hill Gang and DJ Marley Marl and those icons that made hip hop what it is now. But when I was about 15, I signed my first contract with a label and that’s when I started to learn the basics of performance, engaging a crowd. You know, and putting what I learned.. you know, for me, I’m kinda a nerd, so I thought I could learn hip-hop from the books at the library, but I started having to put those things into practice and started living the lifestyle (not from a negative point, but so far as the fashion, the way I spoke and what I understood of it). You know I didn’t adopt every little thing I heard, but being able to communicate with the people in the hip-hop community was important. You know, because no matter where someone comes from, it was important for me to be familiar with everything. And from that, I was able to cultivate my own identity within what artistically captured what I was trying to accomplish. So for instance, I’m a lover of the Golden Era so my favorite djs are like DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, the Pete Rock style; so even though I can appreciate a dirty south joint or something from the Memphis area, I had to explore and sample everything to make sure that wasn’t my style. You know, just because I’m from the east doesn’t mean east coast is my style but because that is actually what I love... because I actually chose it.
Who’s inspiring your style the most today?
I would say… that’s a good question… because for me, I’m really impressionable so I try not to listen to too much, but I would say as far as women in hip hop, definitely Jackie Hill-Perry--her story is one that I can definitely relate to and then also just the way she delivers her art. You know I have a spoken word side to myself too, but it’s the way that she users her lyrics… I feel that lyricism is a lost art…. Also, MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill, those classic artists, and even Eve to a certain degree-- not everything, but I would say those four on the women’s side. And on the guy’s side, it’s kind of a case-by-case basis. People will say, oh there’s so many great artists out there and I’ll just nod, you know, on the Christian side, and of course there’s some underground names… but I’m really not a fan of mainstream. I can appreciate it but I’m not really drawn to it. For one, there’s too much of it. But you know, I don’t know those guys. There’s the business and the money and everything that seems to distance them from people like me. I don’t have a huge honorarium, I’m not at the Dove Awards every year, you won’t hear me on a bunch of radio stations (at least not for right now, maybe in the future). But I think the motives make mainstream music very hard to discern (I don’t want to sound like anyone who’s into division or anything like that… but it’s hard, you know). Like I said, I’m very impressionable and I have to guard my heart.
How does the Bible inspire your creative process?
It’s interesting because most people, their process is to read something and then give you a hip-hop version of that verse, and that’s not really what I do. My song “Brainwaves and Goodbyes” originates from 2 Chronicles 7:14, which is talking about if you turn from your ways I will restore your land. And the song is talking about saying goodbye to the way you used to think about things. Ummm… So I think, with me, it’s not that I’m just gonna give you a rap version of what’s already in the Bible, but I’m going to give you something from an intellectual point of view that’s also fused with personal experience and a global perspective… like this is what’s happening around us. I think that’s how I usually… or how God usually inspires me to write. There are a lot of things that happen in my heart, and He’s really the only reason I’ve been able to make it through and passed some of these things. A lot of times, my own music ministers to me. When I’m reading the Bible, I’ll see something that perfectly fits a song I've already written, and it will be something that I hadn’t even come across yet, and God will say look, that song, this verse, this is for you too.
Is there a place in the church for “holy hip hop”?
I’ve been extremely blessed. My home church has completely embraced hip hop. Even when I was a teenager, they were hosting concerts and they’ve since built a separate wing of the church so we could have our own venue, and they even sponsor a radio station we can have that’s just straight Christian hip hop all day long, and that ministry is going strong. I know that my church is… unorthodox when it comes to that because a lot of American churches are either extremely for it or against it. But I do believe that there is a place in the church for this music, but that’s only if it’s handled as a ministry and not a business opportunity. What I’m seeing a lot of times is the church wanting to take advantage of hip hop or hip hop wanting to take advantage of the church… Churches that are wanting to use certain artists to build their population and get popularity in their communities, and the artists will say yeah, but this is what I charge; then the church will say but if you’re doing this for God, you shouldn’t want anything. Then there’s the flip side of the artist wanting to use large churches as platforms because they want the notoriety: a thousand people at their shows, music sales… Both sides should really bring it back to the motive. Why are you doing this? Both motives, if purified, can be a powerful unity. Like I said earlier, hip hop is a very influential genre, and a lot of cats out there are drawn to it, and if they’re drawn to it where Christ is evident, then it can be a salvation tool. It should have it’s place as a tool to save souls, but only if it’s cultivated for the right reasons.
Stylistically speaking, is there anything you would change of the current state of Christian hip hop?
I think everybody has their style, but the one thing I would say needs to change is the trend of feeling like we have to look like the world in order to save it. A lot of people have used worldly means of rap, and creativity aside, I feel like we should be influencing more instead of trying to turn the music and make it holy. We need to support our brothers and sisters who are producing original music. There’s a lot of talented cats out here. I was talking to Tone Jonez about this the other day (and he’s produced several records for prominent artists), but I was talking to him about some records I want to work with him on, and he was like, you know, there’s a lot of people out there who have the opportunity to create something entirely different and be just as successful, but everyone's so focused on jumping on what’s hot on the secular side. Even with this “Hotline Bling,” you start seeing videos of churches remixing it for worship purposes. But we can do better than that. And we would if we supported each other as a collective ministry. We just gotta stop getting on this bandwagon, worrying about what’s going on on the other side, and instead promote ourselves.
What’s one word that describes your music?
I would say thought-provoking. Yeah, you know I think a lot of times, my music is music that if you listen to it, let’s say five times in a row, you may have five different mental experiences (at least I know I do), and I think just gift God has given me to flip certain meanings and use double entendres is definitely thought-provoking.
Another word I would use, if I’m allowed to, is relevant. You know, it’s not about me. It’s never about just me. A lot of Christian rappers make that mistake, having all of their music be just about what they’ve been through. But for me, it’s not just my testimony; it’s about things that are happening in the world, things that other people can relate to.
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you have for yourself?
“Don’t be afraid to be independent.” Too many people, including myself, always want to be part of a team or be affiliated with something, having the opportunity to hang on to someone else’s coattail instead of stepping out of faith and doing what’s necessary to follow God on their own. I think a lot of times being part of a team can be good and progressive, but God can also call us out on our own because He has something for us, something to teach us, and I think sometimes there may just not be anybody that’s ready to go on that journey with you… so… Oh, you know, I remember in high school, my bus stop was basically my driveway but still I almost always missed the bus in the morning. I am just not a morning person. And my bus driver, she would wait as long as she possibly could, but eventually she’d be like, I can’t wait for you for like 10 minutes, come on now, that's crazy… You know, so… for me, I just had to learn that you can wait as long as you can, but sometimes, you just have to move on. Maybe you can come back later to the same people and maybe you can’t... Like I left a label situation this August, and one I probably should have left earlier than I did, but when it did happen, it was definitely God’s timing… and so many things have happened since then that now I’m looking at it and God’s like, “And you were scared because why???” So yeah, that’s one of the things I would say: Be confident in yourself; don’t get too proud, but be confident in what He gave you because you wouldn’t have it if He didn’t know it was worth it.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as somebody who never quit. Even right now, earlier this year, I was in a car accident and having a bunch of bones in my neck and back out of place, my spinal cord is all inflamed, but still, I stay motivated enough to go to the studio and practice, and still manage my clothing line and still reach out and do the activism for ending human trafficking because that’s another thing I’m passionate about… And this is in between going to the hospital for pain management and I have to see an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow… It’s just getting out of bed everyday and not letting my situation dictate… This year, I’ve been through so much… even just a couple months ago, I had surgery on my hand and I was told that I would lose it, but by the grace of God, there’s not even a scar and I kept all my fingers. So just things like that that could have pulled me down and forced me to quit. Being homeless earlier this year and now I’m not. I never quit.
Where will Solachi be 10 years from now?
Ultimately, I would be in a position to where Kneady Lids, which is my brand, will be blessing those survivors of human trafficking--whether it’s with scholarships or housing or sponsoring rehab. I want to be in a position where my brand generates enough revenue to help people. And also, I want to be in place with my music where I can provide for my family and to help those who want to start on their own journey with music.. just be a mentor for those who want to start into the hip hop industry in any way. I want to be in a position to travel and speak and share my experiences, and also my music. I don’t care the size of the platform; I just want to affect as many people as possible.
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