Sol Messiah on His Influences, His Process, and GOD COMPLX
Beginning his career in Atlanta, Sol Messiah lived and breathed hip-hop, something that became evident to me immediately upon listening to GOD CMPLX for the first time. GOD CMPLX is a love letter to the genre, as Sol Messiah partners with some of the most talented rappers in the industry, including his long-time collaborator, Sa-Roc. The album begins with the title song, a "bombastic track" in Messiah's words, with the subsequent 18 tracks providing an up close and personal look at Messiah's skill as a producer and writer.
Sol Messiah is not shy about incorporating elements from a number of different musical genres. The soulful, 1960s inspired opening to "Freedom" gives way to fierce bars featuring socially conscious lyrics. Piano features prominently on "Sun-Dey Skool", a track in which Planet Asia's rhythmic performance does some heavy lifting. Sa-Roc is featured on several songs, but "Roc Steady" is where she really shines, showcasing her lyrical prowess over an epic beat. The culmination of the album comes in its final track, "The Light", a hauntingly beautiful song again featuring Sa-Roc. Messiah's complex beats pair perfectly with Sa-Roc's forceful delivery, creating a track that serves as a fitting finale. GOD CMPLX serves as an in-depth look into Sol Messiah's artistry, the highest point yet of a memorable career, and a glimpse into what we can expect next. GOD CMPLX is set for release on September 30th, 2022.
VICTROLA: Sol Messiah, welcome and thanks for doing this interview! The album sounds fantastic. There’s a lot to take in, a lot of vibes of old-school hip-hop, elements of jazz, funk, even classical. I’d love to know some more about your biggest musical influences.
Sol Messiah: My father was an avid collector of all genres of music. I grew up in the 70s and 80s so I was exposed to various styles of music like Janis Joplin, Pharoah Sanders, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Blue Bland, Donny Hathaway and Curtis Mayfield. I grew up in Atlanta which was considered the Deep South, and one thing about our culture is all children were advised and pushed to play musical instruments. When I was young, they put a trumpet in my hand, a clarinet in my hand, and a pair of drumsticks. That allowed me to stay in a soulful musical space playing with jazz bands and marching bands.
There’s an incredibly diverse array of sound on GOD CMPLX, but the album is definitely a cohesive package. Walk me through your creative process a little. How you create your beats, and how you structure your songs/albums.
Personally I like soulful music, even with hip-hop, so you will hear a lot of live bass, live guitar and keys mingled in with samples that will be flipped, turned backwards and upside down (lol)! And one of the most important things to me is the sound of the drums. I believe that drums are the basis of good music and not just hip-hop. In the first five seconds of a song is when you catch people, and a good hard drum and/or a fresh sample is key. Normally I study what artist I’m working with and I tailor the music to that artist. An example would be if I were to tailor you a pair of pants, then it must fit you, it can’t be too big or too tight, it must fit just right. That’s how I approach making music for different artists.
Recording this album during COVID must have presented some challenges. How did you have to adapt your process to meet the changing landscape?
That period was challenging, but luckily the internet allows us to do FaceTime, send emails and share files back-and-forth. During that time I was forced to sit still in the studio, during that period a lot of creative things happened.
Your partnership with Sa-Roc has been enduring, and there must be a ton of ideas flowing back and forth. How do you balance your creativity and what has kept you working together for so long?
Working with Sa-Roc has been a pleasure. It’s every producer’s dream to find one person that you can sit with and create from scratch. When I first met Sa-Roc, she did not do music, but soon discovered that she had a talent for wordsmithing. One thing led to another until we ended up with 13 albums. We are also life partners so we have a studio in our home. That allows us to create whenever we feel the need. Tons of really great songs are birthed in the middle of the night or early mornings.
You got your start in Atlanta, one of the epicenters of hip-hop. What advice would you give to young artists just getting started?
I would say build your skill. A lot of people think that success in the music business happens overnight. It doesn’t! One must practice and create constantly before entering the ring! 10 thousand hours is a must.
GOD CMPLX feels like the culmination of an incredible career. Which songs or albums are you most proud of?
I really love the title track “GOD CMPLX” featuring Sa-Roc and KXNG Crooked. It’s a bombastic track with amazing lyrical giants.
You mention your dedication to hip-hop culture. What does that culture mean to you?
Hip-hop culture is my way of life. The way I dress, speak, present myself and treat people. It’s truly a spiritual system for me.
What’s next? Any plans to tour in support of the album?
Yes, I plan on touring to support the album with guest appearances from artists who are featured on GOD CMPLX. For now, the GOD CMPLX album release party is set for September 28th in Atlanta. I'll also be touring with Sa-Roc for The Mother Tongue Tour in November.