Live concert photography of Ibeyi with Sudan Archives at Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival at Prospect Park Bandshell earlier this month.
The Detroit, MI-based hip-hop quartet Clear Soul Forces, comprised of E-Fav, L.A.Z., Noveliss, and producer/emcee Ilajide, quickly developed a rotation for lyrically and sonically drawing from 70s street poets and boom-bap era hip-hop, adding their name to a list to exceptionally dope artists from the Motor City. The quartet can trace their origins to a 2009 all-nighter at a Detroit recording studio. The four emcees scraped up the money to record material individually. Coincidentally, Royce Da 5’9″ was finishing work on his album Street Hop in the room next door, and the four emcees jumped at the chance to spit a few rhymes for him. As the story goes, the four young emcees then spent the next nine hours in an epic cypher in which each individual emcee traded bars while an impressed Royce Da 5’9″ intensely listened. Once they finished, the renowned, elder Detroit-based emcee suggested that the young quartet should become a group.
By the following year, the members of Clear Soul Forces began making a name for themselves in Detroit’s underground hip-hop scene with the release of their debut mixtape Clear Soul Radio. The ended 2010 with the completion of their home studio The Complex, where they recorded The Departure EP. Adding to a growing national profile, the act played sets at A3C Festival, the 35 Denton Festival and SXSW, where they played the the Rappers I Know Showcase with Tanya Morgan, H.I.S.D., Just Blaze, The Alchemist, Talib Kweli and Freeway, and followed it up with videos for “The Greatest” and “Strangers In The Night.”
2012 saw the release of the Detroit-based quartet’s full-length debut Detroit Revolution(s), which was reportedly influenced by a large mural on the side of a local apartment building — and by the end of the year, they were selected by Red Bull as a featured artist in the beverage company’s Sound Select program. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve personally written about the act, but if you’re a true hip-hop head, you’d know that the members spent some time working on individual creative pursuits; in fact, you may recall that I wrote about a single off L.A.Z’s solo effort No Paperwork, “Celestial Vibes.” But interestingly enough, the act announced two things — their return and that they’d be releasing a new album, Still slated for a February 22, 2019 release. “They Shootin,'” the first single manages to be a bit of a return to form for the act as its centered around a warm 90s inspired hip hop production featuring a smooth and jazzy organ line and thumping beats that’s roomy enough for each individual emcee to trade bars. And while each emcee has a different flow and vocal range, they all manage to self-assuredly display incredibly dexterous wordplay and rhyme schemes.
Directed by Xerox Vision, the recently released video for “They Shootin'” serves as a visual re-introduction to the group while effortlessly blending real-life violence with actual consequences with video game mayhem. As the act’s Ilajide explains in press notes, “The inspiration came from the stigma that when it gets hot the murder rate goes up,” he says. “Couple that with the fact that they always shootin’ in Detroit, it was perfect to spin it like a respawn in an online match on multiplayer video games.” His ba ndmates share the sentiment while noting that for all of them, it was natural reference video games and gaming. As children of the 90s, they all owned various consoles, played a ton of games — and were aware of the fact that crime was high and rampant, making the video and track an organic result of their shared experiences.