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Not every rapper name-checks Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski, but Sol-T doesn't aim to be like other rappers.
Are you primarily an MC?
You know what, it goes back further than that, to back when I was 13, 14 playing the Whisky. I've been a bass player for a good 16 years now. I was originally a bass player in a funk band. I went to school over at Cal State Long Beach and majored in creative writing there—poetry and short stories, really big into Bukowski, Henry Miller, a lot of the really old American writers, and a lot of the really crass ones, also. I found hip-hop as a platform where I could express myself. Predominantly now I do MC work, but just to keep my head above water I'm doing a ton of production—everything from jingles for companies to music for websites, to doing my own production and for other artists.
How does the jingle work come?
It's all under the Buttasopht Musilk umbrella. All of the jingle stuff is all word-of-mouth. You hear every MC say, "I'm a hustler." I'm definitely a hustler, but more than that I'm a networker. You tell me you need something, and I'll find the other end of that match for you. It's just going out and making the right connections, and speaking with the right people and treating everybody with respect.
In your songs you don't seem to be afraid to rep Orange County.
I moved from LA when I was 13. I'm an LA kid through and through, but it's not the same Los Angeles. The thing a lot of people don't realize is that I could move to City of Industry or Culver City and be known as an LA rapper because I'm in LA County. I've seen a lot of people maybe ashamed to say I'm an Orange County rapper; my music is Orange County-centric. They associate Orange County with a lack of culture, which isn't true, because we've drawn so many people from different places here. To think that Los Angeles, New York, Detroit and the South are the only places where real hip-hop is coming from is a big [mistake]. The next kid that's about to break is sitting somewhere in the middle of Oklahoma, and he's a better MC than anyone's ever seen, reciting his raps in front of a mirror.
Do you think there's an Orange County hip-hop sound?
It's so young, so I can't define it. It's a mix of things. The artists that are here that I've run into don't give a fuck, and they're so eclectic. You still have your wannabe-gangster shit that's coming out of here. But there are a ton of real gangsters in Orange County, so I'm not saying that there are not real gangsters. But to me it's been done already.
You sometimes perform live with a band?
Yeah, the StreetFevers—these guys are on that Prince, James Brown tip. The sound is different. You don't see a lot of rappers with a live band behind them. That's what I want to bring back. It's a different atmosphere.
Do you think it's fair to use the phrase "old school" to describe your sound?
Yeah, it's more than fair. I try to keep it very old school. I like to call it "shit rap." It's just in-your-face. It's more about regular life that people can actually relate to as opposed to the money, the jewels, the cars. There's no soul to that. And I don't want to live a lie. A lot of these guys are rapping about it, but they're sleeping on their mom's couch. Not everybody can say something that can change somebody's day if they heard it on the way to work if they're having a bad day. I want to have fun with it more than anything, though.
Do you think your music fits with the "conscious hip-hop" category?
I have songs that are definitely very conscious, but I don't talk politics in my songs. I get enough of that every day. When I do flow, I like to keep it on a conscious level, but really a relation level—where somebody can relate to what I'm saying. I think that's more my style.
There are perceptions about who can rap, perpetuated by that reality show The (White) Rapper Show. Do you ever deal with that?
I get that stigma all the time. I'm a refugee of war from Kabul, Afghanistan. My parents moved here in 1980 from Kabul after the Russian attack in Kabul. My dad was an airline pilot, probably the last Afghani airline pilot for Ariana Airlines. I definitely get that vibe all the time, but out here I've met a ton of both sides—a ton of amazing white rappers.