Originally the birth town of Motown, Detroit has been spitting out rappers for years now. It’s a real struggle to get recognized amidst all that noise, but Clear Soul Forces is determined to try. The group consists of four rappers: Wimpy, J-Roc, E-Fav, and producer/emcee Ilajade whose combination of talent and luck brought them together and into the studio. A chance meeting with Royce Da 5’9″ set their lives down a certain path and things have been crazy for them ever since.
In 2010, CSF released its first mixtape: Clear Soul Radio, quickly followed by the Departure EP. Obviously, they’ve been busy.
Curious yet? Honestly, it was very difficult to convert this interview from spoken word to just words on a computer screen. Excitement like theirs is hard to translate, so do me a favor and use your imagination to do them justice.
How did you guys come together?
E-Fav: We were individual artists, and we were kind of pooling together for a recording session. We had all our songs and stuff together so we could just go in there real quick, pay for one session and knock out a bunch of songs. And you know, Ilajade is my cousin and Wimpy was in the frat with me and J-Roc was there. Royce happened to be working on Street Hop in the studio next to us. He just came out of his studio and walked over and started talking to us. It was real random, but ended up being just a blessing.
What has shaped your music?
E-Fav: We’re from Detroit, so obviously J Dilla is a huge influence.
Ilajade: Shit, sometimes it’s not even hip-hop. Stereolab, Radiohead, fuckin’ Fantasia, man. The whole motown thing. There’d be no influences if it wasn’t for that shit. I’m influenced by everything, man. We was outside one day smoking, and we saw a little painting on the wall and we all got inspired. And we came in and started writing. So, I find inspiration in everything. Life, man, life. Actually, that painting inspired the next project that we’re now working on.
Wimpy: Pusha T, Big Boy from OutKast, Big E, Scarface and Busta Rhymes are my 5 favorite rappers ever. I smoke weed and listen to Slum Village and watch the A Tribe Called Quest documentary. I’m definitely influenced by that, and you know, more and more the Detroit sound. I’m falling in love with it. So, you know, anyone that has had anything to do with the Detroit hip-hop scene. I’m loving that shit right now.
Do you guys normally write together?
J-Roc: That depends. We actually have writing sessions, but we all write on our own too. On this one, you gonna see it — we write together a lot more often now ’cause, you know, we’re growing, as artists, and we also grow as a group, and one day, we all just sat down and just needed to be a lot more open with one another. So writing together happens a lot more naturally now. We have a better dynamic now. We put together things we did on our own and stuff we wrote as a group.
E-Fav: The name of our studio is The Complex. I think that’s cool. You know where that is?
E-Fav: Ilajade’s bedroom. No homo. It’s in the closet. It’s just a booth in the closet. We put a sign on the door though.
You said you’ve been writing a lot more together for The Forces With You?
J-Roc: Hmm.. Wait let’s think of a name for this. ‘Cause it isn’t The Forces With You anymore.
Ilajade: The Forces With You is a name we came up with initially, but now the sound that we’ve been going with is something very different. It doesn’t fit the name anymore.
E-Fav: Detroit Revolution, man. That’s what it is. That’s what we should call it.
What’s the feel of that project?
Wimpy: It’s music that people will have to listen to and they will enjoy listening to. The lyrics, the beat, everything about it will be good music, and it will force you to think. The idea of it is the theory of revolution… for the mind.
People don’t make music like that anymore. Now with our skills, we’re some of the few. We want to make something that you’re going to listen to for the next 5, 7, 8 years.
Ilajade: We’re trying to revolutionize hip-hop, in a summed up version. And it took us a while cause everybody was on separate pages. But when you get on the same page about the feeling, that’s when everything just start rolling.
How did that happen? How did you guys start to get on the same wavelength? Did that just come with time?
Wimpy: It just takes time to gel as a group. We’ve always been talented but talent is not enough to be successful. You have to really come together as artists. And I think we just really hit that stride in our friendship where all the doors are open now, and we’re just ready to explore everything. It just takes time until you’re comfortable, but then and you have your brother next to you and you don’t have to hold back your opinion no more.
Can you think of any defining moments when it was finally starting to work?
J-Roc: We have this song, and it’s most likely going to be on our project. It’s fuckin’ amazing. Amazing ass song. It’s basically one of the first songs we all sat down and wrote together, and it’s awesome. No critical song structure. Just I’m gonna rap a little bit, then you rap a little bit, then you rap some, you know? The beat is fuckin’ crazy and the lyrics are crazy. That song is called “You Know Better,” and the moment we made that song, it was just… right. That was when everybody was like We’re here now. Fo’ real, fo’ real. We sat there and listened to that song like 3 million times after it was produced.
Ilajade: I think it was, for me, the Show n’ Prove Superbowl. Even though I was throwing up and even though we lost, man, I’ve been kind of in the shadow when it comes to my production, but now is that time, when I’m breaking out and we’ve been using more of my stuff. We’ve been putting it out. And when we performed “Strangers In The Night,” it was the first time I heard my sound on a system that professional, and we had the whole thing rocking, and when the kick came in, you felt it in your chest. You didn’t even hear that shit! You felt it, and everybody was just rocking. It’s like they didn’t have any control over it, and that’s exactly how I feel when I’m home. And I said Yup, yup. We got it.
What’s it like when you guys get in the studio together? Was there any tension in the beginning?
Wimpy: Nah, there’s never no tension. ‘Cause we record at home! It makes it so much easier to just record in a home environment. We usually play fuckin’ Mortal Kombat or NBA Jam and then start playing the beats and get started.
What would you say are your goals as artists?
E-Fav: I wanna be your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. I wanna be the guy in the front. I want my own label. I wanna be my own master.
Wimpy: There’s this thing that people have in them, where they think that talent only comes from major cities. I thank God that I ended up in Detroit because otherwise I would’ve just been another nigga in Colorado Springs, and it’s not even about talent, it’s about the fact that I’m in a small ass town. So I just wanna open up the door for people like me. That’s my goal – to let people know you don’t have to be from some huge city to make shit happen. Just gotta be smart about your moves.
Ilajade: I got dreams of the big shit. Everybody does. I just feel in my heart that I wanna make music with Clear Soul Forces, and be able to spread that shit, because I know people will like it. And people have already told them that our music has touched them, so I’m gonna keep doing it.
What are some obstacles you’ve had to overcome so far?
E-Fav: Just getting to Brooklyn Bodega to Show n’ Prove was an obstacle.
Wimpy: And then we lost and just turned right around with no sleep and started driving back to Detroit. It was just, a bad experience, and that was a big obstacle. When we got back, I mean, I didn’t really communicate with everyone for a few days. Everyone was sort of in a bad spirit, in a bad mood.
J-Roc: But we do shit other people wouldn’t even think of doing. We’re literally trying to be the best hip-hop group of all time. When we don’t have money and somebody is in an event we don’t have access to, we’ll sneak in that bitch. We’ll cut a deal with the fuckin’ bouncer and we’ll try to get in there.
One time, a girl that Ilajade was with, we had to let the bouncer give her a hug so we could get in that bitch. That dude was a pervert, yo. We just have to put up with a lot of bull shit. We’re immune to taking losses from early in our career so now a loss doesn’t mean shit. We performed in front of shit tons of people before, but we’ve also performed for ourselves, for a bartender.
Ilajade: Not even the bartender, chairs and tables and shit.
J-Roc: Yeah, we’ve rapped for chairs and tables.
E-Fav: When the lights are on, we always do our best. At South By Southwest, that was the biggest show we’d done up until then, and we did our best performance. And now, the Show N’ Prove Superbowl was the biggest show we had, and now that was our best performance. We always step our game up.
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