Performing in collaboration with Sofar Sounds, Mr Sols delivers an impactful stance on poverty, race, and class—echoing through the pews of the gilded church we have gathered in. Surrounded by picnic blankets and candles, one voice dominates the silence in a mix of spoken word, poetry, and rap. Mr Sols has clearly mastered the art of collaboration. Bringing together different styles, communities, and genres to spread his message;one that needs to be heard. He defines himself as both poet and actor, but music is also at the heart of his work and performance is his chosen medium.
How is performing with Sofar Sounds?
It’s really nice to do the sets that I do with Sofar Sounds because the crowds are quite different from the ones I grew up with. These shows really allow you to bridge that difference. I try to use my work to share my reality in a way that other people can take in. We all speak differently, we have different slang but we can all still communicate and share with each other.
What are your most important poetic themes?
Most things I do are based on my race and class. These are two things that when not communicated the right way can become a barrier, race especially. If you look at the history of human connection these are the two things that I think always prove to be a barrier. When barriers are broken down beautiful things happen, you can create new art and stories.
Would you say that inter-community connection is an important aspect of your spoken word?
Yeah, I think most art is that. Most art is people letting others know about their realities and translating them in a way that they hope other people can connect with. That’s what I try to do: find a common ground where we can understand each other. Heroes and Villains is probably my most obvious piece about that. I talk about the villainy of how we can see other people and the villainy of corporations and companies. I try to point out how we all see things differently and hope we can find a middle ground.
What got you into spoken word?
Truthfully, I was in a local Barking and Dagenham youth group called Big Deal, they’re actually still going. I moved to England when I was about eight, and it took me a while to get to grips with the language, so I joined when I was fourteen. I was not good at rap, but the leader of the group noticed I had a knack for writing and she introduced me to this other method where I didn't need to stress about trying to fit a particular signature, I could just let my words be free. But I suppose that’s where it started—not being great at rap. I still love music though and anything that lets me incorporate it.
Who are your musical inspirations?
It’s quite a mix, I would say Beat Poets like Jill Scott really inspired me to mix the different elements of poetry and music. At the moment, I think Kojey Radical’s rap is really great but I love everything he has done, especially his poetic work at the beginning. I am also the biggest Kanye fan, he is practically my God. Really anyone who is able to tap into both elements of music and words. I even grew up listening to Meat Loaf and Bryan Adams. Good songwriting is the key for me.
How important is songwriting to you?
I’m quite serious about poetry, but music is all about having fun. With a lot of my work, I try to make the first verse more fun and the second one more serious. Even having the urge to write means you have something to say, and if you have something to say, someone could benefit from that. In my own poetry, I try not to end up being corny, I almost run away from the profound and pretentious stuff. I try to remove myself from the narrative and speak for other people. I do youth work and one thing you find a lot is that people need people to tell their message to a crowd they don’t feel like they can approach. Hopefully, that’s what I do with my words.
What is your songwriting process?
I always start with the message first. The rhymes come, sometimes I even try to run away from them but they always come. It’s easier to write if I know what my approach is and what I am writing about. The process always ends up being different though. I write a lot more when I'm on the go for some reason, whenever I'm on a train or a bus. Something about movement helps.
Does this idea of movement impact your performances?
Sometimes when I run through a poem again it will affect the pace. I'll notice I'm going faster because my movement is getting more intense. Movement is the biggest difference between page and stage, I am a performance artist, there is a difference between what I do and poets who just publish. I think it is a natural progression of the 21st century, as people go to more shows and are more connected, they can travel more. We can make a spectacle for people. There is definitely space for both mediums though, it’s all about what works for you.
What do you see in the future for your work?
I want to publish more. I’m working on a play with another actor and going forwards I’m definitely looking at getting published and putting a collection of stuff together. I’ve got my band too and stuff on Spotify, which I’m trying to focus on more.
Edited by Josh Aberman, Music Editor