Without Solillaquists of Sound and the holistic hip-hop hamlet that its members cultivate within Orlando, their city would be home to little more than methadone retreats and plastic rodent ears. Still, the group's substantial distance from all noteworthy rap scenes has hardly stalled their ascent into the ranks of boom bap's enlightened aristocracy; DiViNCi, Tonya, Swamburger, and Alexandrah were discovered by Providence alt-rap vet Sage Francis, and they've toured with nearly every major urban act that abstains from recklessly perpetuating ignorance.
EARTH PEOPLE: "I don't want anyone to ever think that we're spacy, or not down to earth, dealing with human issues," says DiViNCi (top). "That's bullshit."
According to producer DiViNCi, SoS emerged from Central Florida on the strength of their knack for captivating crowds. The first time Slug of Atmosphere saw the group rock, he told the crowd he hadn't felt so gooey since he was a wee b-boy sweating to the oldies. "A lot of the time our initial foot in the door is when people see us perform," says DiViNCi over the phone from Denver. "But, more important, we have a genuine way of connecting because of the way we are with one another."
The Solillaquists (who come to Harpers Ferry this Saturday) are pros at making heads feel comfortable, and at advancing the change they want to see in their world. Orlando had a scattered urban-arts scene, so nearly 10 years ago Swamburger opened his downtown CultureMart gallery for regular creative think-tank meetings. In time, the artist/MC married his rhymes to DiViNCi's sound, Tonya's poetry, and Alexandrah's cherubic vocals, and Orlando's flagship eclectic collective was born.
"Orlando has a lot of talent," says DiViNCi, who's not referring to the future strippers who play Mary Poppins. (He's never been to Disney World.) "I can throw a rock and hit genius — whether it's a video-game designer or a visual artist. But because of the city's transient nature, the roots don't get to go deep, so we're building with the culture to keep people interested in Orlando and show them that they're really what make it great."
When SoS finish touring their recently released gem, No More Heroes (Anti-), they'll begin planning a nomadic trek for 2010, when they'll be doing month-long residencies in various to-be-determined US cities. In each locale, Swam hopes to teach art, rhyme, and skateboarding; Tonya and DiViNCi plan to educate with rhythm; Alex will connect through song and yoga.
"We're not rooted in politics," says DiViNCi. "What we want are stronger communities and stronger people. Our music isn't separate from our lives; we like getting personal with people, and when we go to these cities, we'll be doing everything from bowling trips to concerts. With Solillaquists, we chose our family, which has taught me more than anything else in life — it's taught us how to communicate with the rest of the world."
There's no doubt that the SoS comrades are remarkably positive; their first disc, As If We Existed, reeked like hip-hop patchouli. (On No MoreHeroes, the group seem to have honed the art of subtlety.) They're vegan, too; while on the phone, DiViNCi orders take-out BBQ tofu and mashed potatoes. But that doesn't mean they live in an alterna-world.