Music, photography and fashion, and therefore, art itself, reflect the tales of people and times. It’s ever-evolving. Follow any path, no matter how un-trodden it appears, and you’ll find hidden pockets, with hundreds of creatives methodically reconstructing what the ones preceded them left.
With the constant blast of genre-blurring, bending, and warping across headlines these days, it might be hard to perceive just how much music has changed over the past two decades. Or even how we got here.
“If you look back at Jay Z and Rockafella, Pharrell and the Neptunes. They had a crazy sound in the 90s.” – André Power proceeds – “All these sounds are still around, they just evolved.”
Scenes might come in and out of relevance, but the 90’s era, inspired us to deviate from the blueprint, planting the seeds that would induct fundamental shifts in the decades that followed. The dot.com era allowed music experimentation to reach newly, unprecedented heights that could be easily shared, for the first time, with the ease of a click. Digital music streaming platforms – such as Bandcamp, and Soundcloud – or nearly defunct social media platforms such as Myspace, made the impossible, possible, continuously stimulating our curiosity to dig deep into this vast treasure chest that the Internet was.
Philadelphia-raised, André Power, a visual artist, painter, and photographer relocated to California in 2008, establishing his first contact, with [now business partner], Joe Kay through one these platforms. “I was curating Art in the Park, and was looking for different D.J.’s and sounds.” – Power proceeds – “I heard Joe’s mix on Podomatic. It was exactly what I wanted.”
Joe Kay, West Coast born and raised, is a DJ, radio presenter, and avid music lover. “He said that he was a big fan of the music that I was playing.” – Kay reminisces on how the two met – “I was just on my own bubble, listening to a lot of J-Dilla, Flying Lotus, and neo-soul around that time.”
Born on opposite coasts of the American country, Power and Kay found commonality in music, in particular, this otherworldly, soulful sound. As their relationship organically developed, three years after their initial encounter, Soulection was brought into existence on January 24 2011, the same date as their first release. – “At the time he trusted me enough to be part of it. January of 2011, we launched our website and compilation.”
Soulection is an unofficial musical genre, independent record label, music festival (Soulection Experience), clothing line, weekly radio show, and a collective of creatives, D.J.’s, and producers that recently celebrated their 8th anniversary. Fusing the love for arts of both of its co-founders, Soulection’s designs and branding are a marvel of minimalism. Simple gradients, organic colours that are striking, yes, but never overpowering, and carefully complement their musical output.
There are no predetermined guidelines for being on the label, yet, almost paradoxically; all its artists occupy a similar creative space. They all share the same, intangible, incomparable quality to it. Which, is perhaps, what made them unique. The infinite, all-encompassing ‘Sounds of Tomorrow’ fuses longstanding preceding musical movements such as soul, hip-hop, funk, and R&B, with expressively nourishing electronic sounds that switch up and down the tempo, and also lingo.
Starting with retro-futuristic compilations, as both the roster and their team grew, in the years that followed Soulection began to work closely with artists, developing, releasing them under the label, and using their own platforms, such as their radio show to promote them. Over the years, they have worked with acts such as Sam Gellatry, Ta-ku, Esta, Sango, Dpat, and Atu – and even – notoriously, now Grammy-nominated rapper GoldLink, who before signing to Sony’s RCA, released his “After that, we didn’t talk” via Soulection.
Harnessing the support of tourists, purists and tastemakers, such as Gilles Peterson and Zane Lower alike, this imprecisely-delineated genre of music started to have a following of their own, both in URL and IRL. Jumping out of Los Angeles, Soulection had its first official SXSW showcase in Austin in 2015. Since then, its members have travelled around the world, frequently playing to sell-out crowds. Their radio programming, after short residencies at London’s Rinse FM and Redbull Studios, Soulection Radio found a new home, at Apple Music’s Beat’s 1 on July 4, 2015 –where they remain to date.
“For us to travel around the world, and see people with our logo tattoed on them is insane.”- Power shares. Their collective efforts etched their mark on our collective consciousness, and I’m confident that a fair share of surreal moments marked the past decade. At the time we met, both of its co-founders are celebrating the new level they aspired to in their professional careers. From Latin Trap to K-pop, to Afrobeats, this year’s Coachella Festival celebrated the truest plurality of cultures reflected on one’s musical taste, and, perhaps, the most inclusive and diverse edition to date.
“I was really nervous. [Performing at] Coachella is a testimony of the work that you’ve done so far, and a staple of validation as an artist. – Kay reminisces on this year’s Coachella performance – “That was a very memorable experience that connected us with a lot of people.”
Starting at the festival camping grounds in 2013, six years later, here they were, solidifying they place as the first independent collective ever invited to perform at Coachella. Sharing the stage with other artists – such as Anderson Paak, Smino, S.I.R., U.K.’s Little Simz – who have started their artistic journey alongside them, both of its co-founders delivered a breathtaking performance at the festival’s Mojave tent, bringing close collaborators –such as Buddy, Snoh Allegra – to celebrate with them.
Culture moves fast, and whether you’re aware of it, or not, dear reader, we are moving with it.
You can either become the status quo or dispute it. Soulection successfully proves that you can flourish by putting your passion and the interests of your community in the first place. The collective’s love of music is the fuelling force for everything that they do, and their unswerving support to the cause has allowed them not only to build a community around them, as it has inspired others to build their own. “I hope and feel that people can utilize Soulection as a template on how to do it and be able to use it just as effectively as we are using it right now.” – Kay comments. A feeling is only amplified by Power’s parting advice – “Do what you love. Be original; create your own formula. Stay consistent. Never compromise.”