Qwest spoke to Detroit hip-hop quartet Clear Soul Forces about paying respect to A Tribe Called Quest, Donald Trump’s hair, and the influence of video games on their music.
Clear Soul Forces’s latest album, Still, is a potent slice of upbeat underground hip-hop. Across eleven soul and jazz-sampling tracks, the group’s four MCs — Emile Vincent, Ilajide, Noveliss, and L.A.Z. — effortlessly trade bars, dropping smart and cocky punchlines. Catching up with L.A.Z. off the back of the album’s release, here’s the inside scoop on the project.
How would you say the new album, Still, is different from your other projects?
This album is the first one we made after all releasing solo material, so I feel like our level of understanding as artists was different to previous projects. It’s an energetic record that’s also insightful and thoughtful. There’s a lot of good energy and it’s a unified album at a time when people don’t even give a fuck.
Is the song “Kick It” a homage to A Tribe Called Quest?
I mean, in a way: We weren’t sitting there saying we have to do something sounding like A Tribe Called Quest, but they have impact just being who they are and the level of familiarity they have. Tribe is always an influence in some sense.
What’s your favorite Tribe album?
Midnight Marauders. I know everyone likes The Low End Theory, but for me Midnight Marauders is a little darker in the production. It’s one of the first albums that I remember seeing, like in the CD book and shit. I remember looking through my mom and step-dad’s CD book and seeing the Outkast album with the naked girls on it [Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik] and feeling like I’d get in trouble if I looked at them! So Midnight Marauders is just more iconic to me.
You guys sound like you have good chemistry when you’re recording together. What’s your studio dynamic like?
Yeah, we’re always talking shit, playing video games, freestyling and making jokes, watching funny YouTube videos and laughing at memes. The same energy and vibes you hear on the record is the same sort of way we’re like when we’re together.
What’s the last funny YouTube video you saw?
It’s this shit where Donald Trump took his hat off and he accidentally took his hair off. He was like, “Oh, shit!” then he put his hat back on. Somebody said about his hair and he was like, “I brushed it the opposite way this morning.” Nigga, you ain’t have no hair on your head, you forgot your toupee! It was funny when he took the hat off.
There are lots of video game references on the album. Do you play a lot?
Yeah, we play a lot of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, we might hop in on Super Smash Brothers, Street Fighter Alpha … I ain’t a big time Street Fighter player but I feel like I’m the best at Marvel Vs. Capcom 2. That’s the game where I feel like I’m elite.
What would a Clear Soul Forces video game be like?
Stylistically it would be like Streets Of Rage, like an old school 2D fighter game where you walk around the stage and throw your couple of punches and you’ve got your moves and shit. But it would have a way funkier soundtrack and cooler outfits on the characters.
Who would you be battling against?
Probably wack rappers, record executives, you know, Tekashi 6ix9ine! Probably something like that, like we’re waging war on the wack.
Clear Soul Forces, Still (Fat Beats Records)