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Asaan “Swamburger” Brooks

Solillaquists of Sound’s saga comes to its natural conclusion

‘The 4th Wall’ completes the group’s epic listener’s trilogy

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Although DiVinci himself was already experimenting beyond the hip-hop fence at the outset, Solillaquists’ early work was more orthodox.

“The stuff we put out first was more in line,” he says. “And there’s a reason for that. I always wanted to show people a process … I wanted to show people, ‘Look, I want to show you that you can do this in this genre. I didn’t just want to jump to experimental and [have] people detach it. I wanted it to be connected. I wanted people to see, ‘Oh, here’s an evolution of hip-hop,’ as opposed to ‘Oh, that’s just electronic,’ or ‘That’s just EDM’ or whatever you wanna call it.”

This widening spectrum finally arrived in grand, exciting fashion with the trilogy’s middle chapter, the groundbreaking No More Heroes. And it continues with the even more liberated new album. While noting that Solillaquists honor the roots of hip-hop, DiVinci cites acts like Afrika Bambaataa and Mantronix and emphasizes, “It can be more.”

And “more” has always been the Solillaquist operating rule. Their music and identity are a group-based juggernaut that, rather than color within the lines of traditional hip-hop, expands it into another dimension, one wholly of their original design. But more than just sound, they’ve crafted their modern realm as a highly layered, multimedia (audio, visual, video), interactive storytelling experience, something much more kindred to the complete inner realities of video games and comic books than standard albums. The albums themselves are packaged with not just lyrics and notes but detailed, narrative and symbolic illustration from Swamburger, who’s also one of the city’s most distinctive and accomplished visual artists. It’s a full-sensory campaign designed to immerse and engage.

As suggested by the title, engaging the listener is the primary focus of The Listener’s Trilogy and, by all outward measure, the raison d’être for Solillaquists of Sound. The listener is such a core element of their work that one of the group members, Combs (aka “the Listener”), is designated to embody it.

The aim of Solillaquists’ engagement isn’t just about attention – what they preach is action and actualization. And reflective of their tenor and their politics, they do it with a directness and earnestness that’s exceptionally rare. Unlike the insular, unilateral mode of expression of many artists, the connection and exchange with the listener is, for Solillaquists, what defines the experience of their art.

“I just wanna fuckin’ dialogue with people,” says DiVinci. “The biggest part that sucked about being on a label was that there was a middleman between us and them, whereas before it was always just us and them. When it comes down to it, yo, I don’t fuckin’ sit in front of my computer and kill myself for nothing, to throw out our album and have people go like ‘eh.’ If this ‘eh’ means something, have a fucking conversation with me. At least that gives me something palpable to attach to my experience with it. You can’t make something and put it out there, and someone just doesn’t react. You get into a bubble as a musician, especially nowadays.

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