The Vibe is enabling creativity in the Twin Cities Hip-Hop scene

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Why Khaliq performs at The Vibe on Jan. 26, 2019.
Why Khaliq performs at The Vibe on Jan. 26, 2019. Founded by local artist Sole2dotz, The Vibe creates an intimate space that fosters creativity in hip hop. (Monte Newbill/iLL Studios)

I had the honor of attending the inaugural event of local artist Sole2dotz's "The Vibe," featuring St. Paul's Why Khaliq, on Saturday, Jan. 26. The Vibe was an idea formulated by the Chicago native to create an intimate listening experience for artists and fans alike. Folks had to RSVP to attend this V.I.P. session, which felt in many ways like a private studio session.

The event was hosted at Sole2dotz's South Saint Paul studio, Ill Studios. It was a cold Saturday evening, but the smooth melodies of the house band, later named "The Pros" by rapper and host Tek, warmed up the room.

I interviewed Sole at Ill Studios several months prior, but the space was very different from the last time I was there. Gone were the sofas and flat-screen TVs; in were a few chairs and candlelit tables for guests to settle in and enjoy the music. There was even a bar in the back, where guests could purchase drinks for the evening. In center stage, cool colors of pink, purple and blue lights shined throughout the room, as The Pros played smooth jazz tunes.

I sat down with Why Khaliq ahead of his performance and asked him about linking up with Sole. "[Sole] was explaining to me that it was their first show and they were trying to do an intimate show...something real exclusive for people," Why Khaliq explained. "He just asked if I wanted to be the first person to start it off at the Ill Studio. Sure, there will be other artists to come here and do they thing, but to be the first person to start it off is pretty dope."

Why Khaliq also spoke about how The Vibe could be a unique setting for artists and fans to share a common space — something that is often limited in live performances. "Sometimes you're at a show and there's hundreds of people, it's kinda hard to be like, 'Yo, what song is that?' or, 'What inspired you to do this song?' This provides a space for folks to get to know the artist and the background about the music."

When it was time to hit the stage, Why Khaliq was introduced by Tek, who reiterated the St. Paul artist's message on creating a new scene for Hip-Hop in the Twin Cities. "I'm just hoping that this will turn into something really, really big and something for the city to show up and do something different for the artists in the city," Tek said.

Once Why Khaliq took stage, he invited guests to the center stage to vibe out with him. While there were many fans in the building, there were also several local celebrities in attendance: Big Whiz, Destiny Roberts, J Plaza, Juice Lord, amongst others, were all present for this rare chill session.

Why Khaliq performs at The Vibe
Why Khaliq performs at The Vibe on Jan. 26, 2019. Founded by local artist Sole2dotz, The Vibe creates an intimate space that fosters creativity in hip hop. (Monte Newbill | iLL Studios)

Why Khaliq performed a few songs from his previous album, The Mustard Seed, and his most recent project, Clearwater. Between each song, he shared some notes about the piece he was about to perform. He shared a fragile moment with the audience about what inspired The Mustard Seed song, "Anita."

On Feb. 14, 2017, Why Khaliq's mother was stabbed while he was out on a Valentine's Day date with his girlfriend. Khaliq's mother was trying to reach him throughout the evening, and when she finally got hold of him, he learned she had just been stabbed multiple times. Why Khaliq choked up a bit, before preaching to the crowd about the importance of valuing the lives we have, because it could all change in a moment. He added that the pain he felt after the incident propelled him to write "Anita."

Before the show, I also talked to Sole about Why Khaliq, The Vibe's opening act, and Sole's plans for the event moving forward. "We performed in couple different shows together," Sole2dotz explained. "I just figured with our music kinda being in the same lane, I felt this would be a perfect and good fit for him and this event and trying to push it forward," adding that he would like to collaborate with Why Khaliq on future projects.

The goal for The Vibe is to reach out to local artists and create a unique performing experience for themselves and fans. Sole added, "We want to help the artist provide a show that you don't always get to create yourself. A lot of the times, if you're not Jay-Z or Beyoncé, you don't get a chance to create your set or have time to work on the venue and be creative with the people promoting."

With Prince's Rolling Stone magazine cover, various paintings and graffiti art of the Twin Cities alongside album covers of legendary artists like Bob Marley, 2pac and Biggie in the background of Why Khaliq's performance, The Vibe was genuinely a place for hip-hop savants and listeners looking to warm their hearts with soulful lyricism and the soothing comfort of jazz, blues, R&B and hip-hop.

Video: Why Khaliq performs "Eavesdrop" from his 2018 album, "Clearwater" live at The Vibe at Ill Studios in South Saint Paul on Jan. 26, 2019.

Sole says that he would love to have artists like Greg Grease, Destiny Roberts, Solo Star, Nazeem & Spencer, Dizzy Fae, and Radio Ahlee perform at The Vibe sometime in the near future. As for when Sole himself will perform, that's still up in the air. "Eventually I will hope so. But that's a different concern," he said. "I wanna make sure that my music is on the level to be supportive for people like [Why Khaliq]. This is for people that are already established and you see their support and you see their consistent work. This is more to highlight them. I'm a fan. The people that I'm bringing forth are people that I'm listening to as well."

Jeffrey Bissoy is an assistant producer at MPR News. Born in Yaoundé, 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 Links

Sole2dotz - SoundCloud

Why Khaliq - official site

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    Sole2dotz (courtesy the artist)

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