Soul Genesis hopes to reengergize hip-hop by lending it a life-affirming purpose.
Isaac Ewell, a former record label owner and self-proclaimed music snob, is crouched on the floor. His more sedate partner Jason Green leans back in his chair with his eyes closed. They nod their heads in unison. They're at Mantua's Beat Factory, listening to and being inspired by TuPhace, a West Philly native who describes his sound as hip-hop with a punk/funk/reggae twist.
For them Phace is the truth, a symbol of how they plan to change the game and shift hip-hop's mainstream from the formulaic dumbed-down packaging of guns, drugs, bitches and hos to what they call real conscious music--socially responsible, life-affirming lyrics over bangin' beats.
The songs being played are laced with a direct challenge to the culture they all love: "You call it art, but your lyrics don't paint no canvas/ Blatant desecration of radio stations/ This song is hip-hop 'cause I said it was/ When you need something real, call me."
Phace describes his motivation as: "I do what I feel, and I feel what I do," a testament to hip-hop's roots in realness. He plays the drums, the keys and the guitar. He sings and more so he rhymes complex, thoughtful lyrics.
|Family style: SoulGen plans to promote hip-hop anyone can listen to.|
"Yeah, the dude is different," Green says. "He's not a local artist. He's global."
When their other partner Justin Grayson first met Phace, he Simon Cowelled him, Ewell says with a laugh, unmoved by his partners' hype. But within seconds Grayson's icy glare melted.
Three head nods later, and 23-year-old Phace is one of Soul Genesis' first featured artists, part of the online community Ewell, Grayson and Green will launch at Fuzion Fridayunder the banner "a movement through music."
When Phace releases his first solo album Change the Freakwency on Soul Genesis, he'll bypass the record labels. He says he doesn't want to be a slave for the majors, which Green says wouldn't have a clue how to package and market his sound.
The tall, lanky, dread-headed former frontman of the group Subliminal Orphans has been underground for 10 years, and he's coming out to a rapidly changing industry.
Radio is stagnant. Labels are struggling. Album sales are plummeting, and hip-hop is once again under fire, being blamed for everything from former radio host Don Imus calling the Rutgers women's basketball team a bunch of nappy-headed hos to NFL quarterback Michael Vick's arrest for dog fighting to the gun violence plaguing urban America.
If hip-hop isn't dead, as rapper Nas declared, it is on life support. But some cultural critics say the recent orchestrated battle between hip-hop elites 50 Cent and Kanye West is a watershed moment. It proves hip-hop fans want substance. They want something real. They just don't know where to get it.
Last month the hosts of Black Entertainment Television's 106 & Park declared Sept. 11 a monumental day. Not because it marked the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but because 50 Cent and Kanye West released their albums on that day.
Rolling Stone featured the two heavyweights on its cover standing face to face: the former crack dealer vs. the preppy college dropout.