'Black Man Can't Show No Pain': an interview with Sole2dotz on his album 'Misfit'

Sole2dotz (courtesy the artist)

I met up with Chicago native and Twin Cities resident, Sole.. (aka Sole2dotz) back in September. We talked about his latest album, Misfit, where Sole.. looks back at his 20s. We talked about why he felt like a scumbag; contemplating suicide; mental health and the black community; and how music saved his life. Here's our conversation:

I'm Jeffrey Bissoy with The Current. I'm here chilling with the one and only Sole2dotz. How you living?

SOLE..: I'm living all right man. Eating this pack of Gushers right now, maxing, but I'm good, man.

You saying that Gushers is the nectar to your freestyle and what gives you the juice to do what you got to do on the mic?

I dunno about that man, but I got a sweet tooth. I love sweets and candy, so we had some Gushers out here, so I had to grab some.

For folks that are just now being introduced to you, how would introduce yourself?

Well, I like to refer to myself as a chill guy. I do chillwave-type music and I rap. I do a little bit of singing here and there. I'm from the Midwest — I split my time between the Illinois and Minnesota. I kinda grew up here, and then I moved to Illinois for high school and college.

I've been back in Minnesota pretty much my full artistry career, which is like the past four or five years.

It's just kind of getting comfortable with my sound, finding different producers that fit the sound and just going from there. I like to do a blend of Neo-Soul/Hip-Hop. I want to get into house music and that type of fusion.

You know what's interesting to me is you just dropped Misfit, which is a dope project. [The album is available on all the streaming sites.] It's worldwide. In comparison to your first tape, I think you really captured the Neo-Soul vibe on this project. So, I'm curious, how did you find the sound for your latest album?

I got to give credit to my producers on that one. Mike D Beats is a guy that I kind of linked with on the internet via SoundCloud. He made "Dream of Eve" and also the "Nymphosomniac" beat. And "Nymphosomniac" was like the crowd favorite.

So it was him and like J-Nice, this guy from out here, who's originally from Chicago, too … I've been kind of vibing with him for the last three or four years. When Tek [Rico Tek Burch] was mixing that "Nymphosomniac," he kinda did something with the drums on there, and I said, "Keep doing that. That sounds like some footwork in Chicago." People been rocking to it, so I love it.

What is cool about this project is that we get a little of everything from you. It's kind of like we can piece together a little bit of your identity with each song. There's the darkness, and there's that erotic, raw feeling of sex. How do you see yourself reflected in the album?

The darkness is definitely something that started off the whole project. The first song that I wrote was "Somedays.." and the second song that I wrote was "Scumbag." I was just kinda in a dark place in general. A lot of my music is introspective, so it kinda turns out dark from overthinking and having different experiences and stuff.

I had those two songs down and then I also wrote "Transitions.." [and] "Favors." All of those kind of came together sequentially, as I just wasn't feeling a great way about myself and what was going on around me. I made a conscious effort not to make it so dark, and so songs like "A1," having a little more up-tempo beat than what people would normally hear from me.

…and sex?

I'm a Capricorn, I love women — and that's part of the whole chillwave movement. It's music that you can identify with introspectively, sexually, recreationally wise, smoking and chilling. I try not to say that it's a vibe too much, but my music is a vibe.

I would say that with Minnesota falls and winters, the vibe is rather on point, as well. I want to get back to what you were saying about "Scumbag" and the situation you were in. Did you personally feel like a scumbag?

That's about me. I start by saying, "I woke up in a strange place." It probably didn't happen at the time that I wrote it, but there's been instances where I wake up and its just kind of like, "Man. What the hell? What did we do last night? What happened?" And just at that time, I just felt like a scumbag.

For me, living like a scumbag is not living up to the decency or the characteristics or morals that I should be living up to on a daily basis. But at the same time, I'm out here having fun. We're lustful in nature; we sin. If you believe in that type of stuff, we just got a duality about ourselves as people, so I kind of feel that side of my duality a little bit more than I feel happy. So, "Scumbag" and everything that I wrote is real feelings, real situations, by everybody. Everybody who worked on that song gave real emotions and real perspectives. It's a real song.

How much are you thinking about your Chicago background when you make music?

When I first moved here, I was trying to make little references constantly. For the most part, I try to make sure that the Midwest is always being represented for myself. Because Minnesota has a lot to do with my upbringing, as far is being raised, and Illinois has everything to do with my demeanor, as far as being more on the defense.

What do you mean by that?

You know how Chicago people are; you walk around mean-mugging and not really interested. It's just a lot going out there, so you have to make sure that you're around the type of people that you want to be around. I would say it's had more effect on my personal being than the music. It's hard for me to identify that I'm from Chicago and it's hard for me to identify being from the Cities, so I just chalk it up to being from the Midwest. I'm still trying to figure out where is my environmental home.

I think that makes the title of your album, Misfit, more appropriate. It's kind of like this identity struggle. Who am I? What am I doing? And having both homes and finding different sounds as well…

The whole project is really like a wrap-up chapter of my 20s; I just wanted to provide a sample of every single side to me that there is. The people in Minnesota — the people that do know — they only really know me for one thing or couple of things. They only see a certain side of me. Whereas Illinois people are used to seeing a whole bunch of different sides of me. I just really wanted to put in a capsule all the different things that I was going though during my 20s — so like from 19 all the way to 29. So just kind of experiencing love, experiencing anger and frustration, suicidal thoughts, all that type of stuff.

I have major respect for you being vulnerable about suicide, particularly sharing those painful thoughts on your album. There are so many people that aren't ready to open up about those intimate feelings. I can only imagine the number of folks listening to Misfit who are feeling heard in your lyrics.

That's kind of been a surprising thing, is people being able to identify. The catalyst to the album, the precursor, is "Somedays.." I like to think of it as kind of my suicide note. Obviously, music is something that I love to do, but it's also really therapeutic for me. I started doing it at a rough time. To get out some days and write all that and being totally honest about that, it's crazy that people are identifying with it.

What does it mean to you when fans reach out to you and say thank you for sharing your vulnerability?

I like that people have been enjoying it because it means so much to me. But you know, at the same time, it says a lot about where we at in terms of society and people are not happy. I struggle with my depression and my mom is clinically depressed, and that's hard to deal with sometimes. "Somedays.." and "Scumbags," it's crazy that people liked those songs, because I was embarrassed … I wasn't sure that I wanted people to hear this … I don't really like being too vulnerable.

As a man, I personally feel that most men have to work on opening up about their fears and anxieties, because you can't go every day pretending to be strong all the time. It's just not realistic.

Yeah, but you got to be strategic with it, too. There's people out here that don't got your best interest at heart, so you don't want to get burnt too many times to where you flip completely. You just got to find balance and all of that.

On the album, you raise such an important issue in mental health, especially in the black community. Mental health is a real thing, but we need to continue to hold dialogues about it. I loved that your album is legitimately helping to push those conversations.

That means a lot to me, for real. Like I said, music is getting me by, so if it's helping other people by, then that really means something.

What is your favorite track on the album? The only song you can listen to forever.

I've had my week of overplaying each song, but my absolute favorite song on there is "Somedays..", but I don't know if I would want to hear that every day because of the whole vibe of it. The song that I'm really messing with right now is "Rattle" with Nyanga and Tek; I love that song. And probably "Nymphosomniac."

Now that the album is done, what's next for the project?

Visuals are always a thing that are needed. We shot visual for "A1," just waiting on that to get all finished up. I definitely want to do a visual for "Stupid Cupid" with Solo Star. If you're not familiar with Solo Star, you got to get hip to her. She made the whole track come alive. Think we might do a couples therapy in that. I would like to do video with "Scumbag," "Sith Lords," and I would like to do an animated one for "Rattle." I just want to see what Tek looks like animated.

I'm trying to put on a release show soon. I might try to do something with Pilot Jonny, who just released a new project, I'm Not Sad No More, so we might try to do something soon. Just trying to get all this negative energy off and finally move forward.

As both a local and outside rapper, what has been your experience with the local Twin Cities Hip-Hop scene?

When I first moved here, I was pleasantly surprised. There's a lot of great talent in the Hip-Hop scene that probably does not get the type of exposure that they should. I think the scene out here is tight … Every time I look, there's always someone popping up. As an outsider though, because Minnesota and the Twin Cities are so small, it can make it harder to branch out and it can be easy to be blackballed from [opportunities].

As an outsider, I wanted to make sure I was caught up on history. I wanted to know who was who and who's doing what. Music is competition, so you want to know what everyone is kind of up to and try to stay ahead of them.

Jeffrey Bissoy is an assistant producer at MPR News. Born in Yaounde, Cameroon, and raised in The Twin Cities, Jeffrey has grown a passion for representation and identity, Hip-Hop, and the impact of sports on society. He's also the host of two podcasts — Maintainin' and The Come-Up — the former examines the nuances of the young adult experience, and the latter stays current with the weekly drama of the NBA.

External Link

Sole2dotz - SoundCloud

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2 Photos

  • Sole2dotz
    Sole2dotz (courtesy the artist)
  • Sole2dotz, 'Misfit'
    Sole2dotz, 'Misfit' (courtesy the artist)

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