?We want to be true to ourselves? 

What do you wanna be when you grow up? What are you gonna do with your life?

It’s questions like those that parents and elders often find impossible not to badger their kids and young charges with. Despite the fact that such queries likely drove them crazy in their own youth, it’s virtually impossible for those who sense talent and potential not to wonder how that potential might be capitalized on.

That’s the sort of feeling I get when asking MC Scandalous (aka Sean Fahie) about the long-range goals of his exciting hip-hop trio SOL Essential. That’s probably a result of the fact that like – many adolescents – Fahie comes off as both enthusiastic about the future of his musical group, and devil-may-care about the notion of taking their achievements to the oft-heralded “next level.”

“Uh, what are our long-term goals,” he asks Adam (Analyst) Burgess with a titter.

On my end of the phone, I can hear a few hushed moments of frenzied conversation punctuated by plenty of that same nervous chuckling from all involved.

Finally, Fahie returns from the huddle, invigorated and armed with an answer that – were I not privy to that pregnant moment of indecision – would not only satisfy my curiosity, but would easily leave me convinced that this trio (including MC Kid Syco aka Lloyd Harold) has had a solid game plan from the start.

“Honestly,” he replies with the cool air of someone who’s spent an awful lot of time thinking on his feet in front of a rapt crowd, “if we could push ourselves independently that would be lovely. But, if somebody wanted to back us, we’d certainly consider it. At this point, the industry isn’t pushing what we are, and we don’t wanna end up doin’ cheesy dance moves in shiny suits! We want to be true to ourselves and our fans.

“But, hey, if there was a label that believed in the same things we do, and wanted to market this music, then why shouldn’t we join up with them?”

That’s a good point. So what exactly is the direction that he’s speaking of?

Well, it’s not the mindless “Jeep bass” and booty music that seems to have both the club scene and modern urban (and pop) radio in a vice grip. It’s a more thoughtful, contemplative brand of hip-hop. One that draws inspiration from the positive ruminations of seminal artists like Guru of Gang Starr fame, as well as contemporary heroes like OutKast and The Roots. But SOL (pronounced “soul”) Essential’s musical influences aren’t as homogenous as one might assume.

Fahie says he and his partners listen regularly to The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, as well as “everything from punk to reggae to hip-hop.” Well, almost everything.

“We don’t do country and Western,” he says with a laugh. Almost immediately he is upbraided by Burgess.

“OK, well, alright, heh, Adam listens to Kenny Rogers, but that’s it!”

For this upcoming show, their first major Savannah gig as a group (besides numerous appearances at various spoken word events and nightclub-based freestyle MC battles), the three SCAD students will be backed by impressive local organic hip-hop combo The Breakneck Quartet.

That band’s frontman, Yancy, has just relocated to Atlanta, and until they reunite they’re attempting to keep their chops up by playing as a unit whenever they can. Friends and admirers all around, when SOL Essential was approached by the group about joining forces for this gig, they jumped at the opportunity to flex their already-impressive lyrical skills over a live groove – as opposed to their usual sequenced backing tracks.

Fahie says a great deal of work has gone into this show – even though they’ll only be featured with the band for about one-third of the 3-hour gig.

“We gave them a copy of our demo, and they’ve practically learned everything that was on there! It sounds really nice – in fact, we’re wondering now why we never played with a live band before.”

So, back to that nagging question: What does the band hope to accomplish?

“While we’re here, we hope to change the face of hip-hop back to what it was that excited us initially,” says Fahie.

“The industry is like a big ocean, and if we can wind up making even a little ripple, that’ll really be something.”

SOL Essential & The Breakneck Quartet play at 10 p.m. Friday at Locos Deli & Pub.


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Jim Reed

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