By Daniel Paiz
Your first album covers all of your life up until the project is finished. That rings true here as a lifetime of work goes into Sol Messiah’s “God CLMPX” album. September 30th is when the masses can hear this 17-track collection of beats and rhymes; the artists featured on this project are perfectly handpicked.
What makes Sol Messiah stand out as far as production is concerned is how each track sounds handcrafted for the particular artists on the track. Chemistry is something that takes time and effort, and Messiah has that across the project. Cypher Sessions spoke with the Atlanta-based artist to get further insight into his Rhymesayers debut album.
[Editor’s Note: italicized portions are questions and responses from the author of this article to help differentiate between Sol Messiah and Daniel Paiz. All photos courtesy of Rhymesayers Entertainment].
A lifetime of work
What did you learn about yourself after working on this project that you didn’t know when you started?
“I’ve been working on this since 1988. I said in 1993 I was going to make a producer album with rappers on it. 1995 I had a family, a whole unit, two children and a wife. I always put it off. I’m an empty nester now, so now I was able to finish the project. I ended up last year knocking it out. I put it off for 30 years and finished it in six months. Sa-Roc I think was a big help with that, working with her and doing so many albums with her, it helped me to focus.”
How do your earlier days as a bboy impact your production today, is it in the back of your mind as you produce, or…?
“It’s funny, when I was bboying I was heavy into production. Bboying revived itself in ’88 or ’89. I never really stopped, but ’88, ’89 is when I met Rock Steady Crew. At that same time, that’s when I was working on TLC, that’s when I was working on Boyz II Men, that’s when I was working on Illegal. I’m still really tight with Crazy Legs. I was one of those kids looking at Rock Steady, and wanting to be like them, and I ended up being with them. It’s like a little dream come true. Like I always tell my children, all my dreams came true because I wanted them to, so whatchu all doing? (Laughs)”
Something else that stands out from multiple songs here would have to be how timeless they feel. That aligns with what Messiah has reminisced on so far. The experiences sound like they happened last week, but that’s due to the impact of those experiences on the person speaking with us. Learning from what you go through is vital.
Tracks like “Jah City” featuring Baba Zumbi of Zion I, or “Sun-Dey-Skool” featuring Planet Asia have a feel that they could’ve been recorded in the past year, or a few decades ago. That balance always mentioned in Cypher Sessions articles of having equal parts timeliness and timelessness is very present here. Rhymes and sounds that are this fluid are harder to find these days.
Showing and Proving
Sometimes, you have people that, while well-intentioned, put you in awkward bind. For Messiah, his brother made a bold claim to Rock Steady crew that Sol would “destroy them all” on the dancefloor. As the Atlanta artist would go on to do so many times across different medium, he showed and proved his mettle to some of the best in the game.
That’s an important reminder that seems to be trickling across this interview and bouncing along each track on this album. There are always going to be expectations, and pressure (either from the outside or internally); how you handle that will likely determine where you go from each experience. There are a few tracks that stand out for this lesson as well.
The Sa-Roc and Sol Messiah team-ups on this project are a solid example of experience and chemistry shining through. There’s no pressure with these two on a track, whether it’s “Computer Roc”, “Roc Steady”, or “The Light”. While these two again show and prove they’re ready to go, it’s the tracks not featuring Sa that prove Sol’s longevity. Tracks like “Grand” featuring Da Backwudz or “Freedom” featuring Locksmith and Stic.Man of Dead Prez articulate the seamless merging of producer and emcee. When the track sounds like you could transfer it over to that artist’s catalog and it blends in with other tracks, that’s an impressive feat.
Going from Supreme Beats, to The Reconstruction, to God CMPLX, what have you noticed about your journey amongst these albums?
“Supreme Beats is when I met Sa-Roc. Reconstruction is when we were dating. And God CLMPX, she’s now my fiancé. All of that coincides with Sa-Roc, I was just thinking about that when you said that.”
“You’ll hear live bass on every song. Preston Crump, he’s the same bass player who played on “Forgot About Dre”, did some OutKast, some TLC. I keep him on all my records, he’s a big part of what I do. Even if I’m doing a boom bap track, I’m still putting bass on it. I grew up in the era that everyone had an instrument in hand and played in the marching band. I played trumpet, I played clarinet, the drums, a little bit of trombone-but mainly trumpet and drums.”
This album has me wondering a few things…
Any chance of the “Rhymeslayers” track becoming a series kind of thing, similar to Trae Tha Truth’s “I’m On” series?
“I mean that would be dope. I’m cool with all of them of course, to me that’s the standout. That would be dope though. That track should have been the title track (laughs), because it’s just a lot of dope emcees on a driving beat.”
Wakeel Allah had the skits/tracks “Wisdom”, “Understanding”, and “Knowledge”. Do you kind of see those as checkpoints throughout the album?
“Wakeel, I’ve known him for 37 years. He’s one of the first dudes I met after high school. Nas is a big fan of his and got his books, and so is Jay-Z. All these people look to Wakeel for thought. But yeah, it’s kind of broken down in that way. My goal is to keep him going on all of these projects. As long as my fingers work on this drum machine and I can keep going, I’ll keep utilizing his wisdom.”
Each time I heard him it kind of felt like a centering, like bringing me back from each track and okay this is where we are right now.
“Right, right indeed. I’ll let him know you said that, it’ll make him happy.”
I also definitely appreciated the number of tracks on this album, I’ve been getting tired of “oh, here’s an eight-track album.”
“I’m like, by the time we get to eight songs, we haven’t even gotten back from the store yet. You know you ride the store, thinking “I’m gonna listen to the album”. Before you’re even walking out of the grocery store, it’s over and you’re like “maaaan…”, nah we doing some RAPS. I mean there’s three skits, but there’s still 17 joints; I like albums myself. I wanna be able to vibe. We are bringing back three-verse joints. I wanna hear a full thought, three verses. We’ve been doing two verses, following radio; but radio’s not a thing anymore so you might as well go back to rap.”
“I think it worked it out, I hope people receive it well. I am doing music that I feel, I believe in that. I believe in not just doing what people want. I wanna do what I feel.”
If you are looking for undeniable chemistry between two artists very familar with each other, a la Sol Messiah and Sa-Roc, you’ll want to check this out. If you are a fan of when a producer makes each track sound like it was carefully crafted for each artist on the project, this is for you. If you enjoy the return of three verses on a rap song, tune in.
There are so many things to check out and revisit here. Sure, you’ll be able to find something you dig on an artist you’re pretty familiar with. But when checking out someone new (to you) that’s as experienced and purposeful with his decisions as Sol Messiah is, this project has plenty to explore. The replay value on this project is pretty high, due in part to Sol’s thoughtful planning.
The last takeaway from this project for this listener is patience. One’s journey doesn’t take a predetermined, set amount of time. As long as you are working on your skills and craft, you can manifest that into reaching your dreams. Sol Messiah has done that with this musical effort.