Soul Genesis hopes to reengergize hip-hop by lending it a life-affirming purpose.
And that's where the music of SoulGen becomes a movement, promoting socially conscious and responsible living to a broader audience. Through collaborations, Ewell says, Soul Genesis will raise awareness of social, environmental and political issues, while uniting SoulGenners into constructive social action.
The idea is: Change the music; change mindsets; change reality.
In the focus group, one SoulGen member, Sadat, talks about how noted MC Rakim saved his life, rhyming about knowledge of self and a nation of gods.
"He was saying shit to me my mom couldn't relate to," testifies the married father of one toddler girl. "I'd still be banging on dudes if it wasn't for him. That's the one thing that kept me balanced."
After the introductions, Ewell plays a cut from Little Brother's "Boondocks Saints" for the focus group, which he says explains what Soul Genesis is about:
Black folks saying that I'm too intelligent/
And white folks saying I'm a little too niggerish/
It got me in a strange predicament/
I wish BET and MTV would judge more wisely/
But I don't know what's worse/
The fact that they ain't playing our shit/
Or the fact that it don't even surprise me/
Because I ain't shuckin'/
And 'cause I ain't jivin'/
Some of these crackers won't stand beside me/
And 'cause I ain't killin'/
And don't support pimpin'/
Some of these niggas wanna call me a Cosby/
Well, I'll be that dude/
I'll scratch that itch/
I'll play that role/
Call me Heathcliff bitch/
If this ain't what you want, then fine/
But somehow, someway we gotta draw that line
The SoulGen logo is a butterfly, representing the transformation process, the slow movement of social change for which music has always been the backdrop.
Ewell and his partners see SoulGen--like hip-hop--evolving into a global phenomenon: SoulGen recording artists. Acts like the Roots dropping their next album to millions of SoulGen members.
SoulGen radio. SoulGen film, like Al Gore's Current TV. SoulGen buying BET, which reportedly refused to air Little Brother's "Lovin' It" video because it's, as BET's program director allegedly said,"too intelligent for the BET audience." SoulGen clothes. SoulGen news reports. A SoulGenner reporting live from North Philadelphia, Iraq and Jena, La. The SoulGen-designed Shawn Carter School of Technology. SoulGen-endorsed green products.
They see the group filing a class action suit against the music industry for the growing number of people murdered in Philadelphia due to gun violence, and against radio stations that promote peace on the streets yet keep violent lyrics in heavy rotation.
"It's a fight for minds," Green says.
"For lives," Ewell chimes in. "We believe we can truly help move the needle and make some serious shifts. If our goals are met, they'll impact the psyche of young people and also the things happening in our communities. We believe that a different type of music is gonna impact the people listening to it. With Soul Genesis, we definitely have a way to change the game."
Kia Gregory (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes the 'Round About column.
PW's Music Issue 2014