Soundset celebrated its 10th anniversary Sunday, May 28, in grand style — over 35,000 people helped ring in the occasion. With a full line up of established, new, local and national hip hop acts, this year’s festival offered something for everyone. The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (MSR) caught up with Black Liquid (BL) a multifaceted artist featured at this year’s festival. Below is an excerpt from the conversation:
CJ: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
BL: I’m from Richmond Virginia. I’ve been into music my whole life, because music has been part of figuring out who I am. When I was a kid, me and my brother got into hip hop. That was his way of being cool. But for me, when I found music and I found out that you could express yourself through lyrics, I found that even though I don’t consider myself to be musically talented, the music became more and more of an outlet for me. [Music became a way] for me to communicate…what my life was like and have them relate to it.
Freestyle sessions, that’s what I came up in. I was raised to always be inclusive — whether I was cool with the popular kids or the nerds — to bring everybody together because the one thing that we all have in common is that we’re all different.
My life was difficult. When I had all these things happen to me like when I had my father being incarcerated, my friends dying, shows going one way or another, and I end up getting another opportunity. Everything I’ve been through has been worth it…not only to capture my story through my music. [But] to inspire others [to see] that…in life what happens to you for a reason beyond your understanding right now — you have to see it as a gift because when life throws something at you, then you can rise above it.
CJ: What was the hardest part about making your dream come true?
BL: The hardest part is… is stopping because I’ve tried to work 24 hours a day. When I get done with a gig, I work on music some more. I work on building a real relationship because so much of hip hop has become transactional. I try to create real relationships through real interviews out of real discussions to create real opportunities on real platforms for people in my city.
[Then] they can see, at the end of the day, that this rapper is in Minnesota from Richmond, Virginia is playing Soundset because he stayed consistent with his integrity, and put that in the front of his product instead of trying to make his product something that people can interpret in a certain way. I’ve been myself and I am myself and I will continue to be myself.
CJ: Is there a certain message you have in your music?
BL: The main message is that, I’m just like you. I am you and you are me. To take seriously the fact that the things that I’ve overcome in life, whether its greater or lesser than what you may face in your life, is living proof that you can overcome whatever comes your way. Every single person has a seed of greatness from within them.
CJ: What kind of struggles did you have growing up and how did you overcome them?
BL: One of my friends that was the first people to believe in me, he overdosed on heroin. My other partner, he had a DUI accident and died. My father, he got incarcerated and was charged and convicted of first degree murder. He still to this day says he was innocent. I sat in a courtroom and watched them sentence him to life.
In all these situations, no matter what I’ve said, I’m not going to stop working. Last summer my mom almost died. She was a day away from dying, is what the surgeons said when we took her to the hospital. I took her to the hospital and I didn’t stop working.
CJ: What do you think of Soundset, and what do you think of Minnesota?
BL: I started coming to Soundset when I was invited by Slug to come see it. I came and saw it and then the next year I got with RVA magazine who I write for; I’m a contributor and got a press pass and came back. Now I’m back here as an artist. Rhymesayers is full of some of the most humble and understanding people I’ve ever met. I haven’t met a single person who’s a jerk in Rhymesayers, and I haven’t met a single angry person in Minnesota.
CJ: What’s next and where do you want to go with music?
BL: Now that I released my album ANTi, I want to continue working in music and in education. I’m doing several workshops teaching kids, as well as teaching teachers on how to educate in a different way. There’s also more shows and battles and showcases in my city.
Chris Juhn welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Chris Juhn is a contributing photographer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.