Bigger And Better, The Soulection Experience Bumps To Its Own Beats The Annual Day-Long Festival Packs The Shrine And Draws Top-Tier Talent
LOS ANGELES, CA- Soulection, the collaborative music collective formed by Joe Kay and Andre Power in 2011, has grown rapidly within the last few years. Originally started as a radio station on California State University Long Beach’s radio station KBeach, Joe and Andre began to build Soulection into a global brand. Showcasing a broad range of music heard around the world, they grew a large fan base via Soundcloud, Facebook, and Bandcamp. Power and Kay eventually started to help release projects for artists like Ta-Ku, Mr. Carmack, Sango, and Esta. In mid 2013, Soulection starting hosting events at the Crosby in Santa Ana, eventually moving to the much larger capacity venue Regent in Downtown Los Angeles. They then went on to build their roster with DJs and producers like StarRo, SoSuperSam and artists like Goldlink. They’ve successfully toured in Asia, Africa, and are regulars in the festival circuit. In July of 2015, Soulection radio station officially moved over to Beats 1 radio and they began to garner even more fans. Now in it’s 2nd year, the Soulection Experience has become the much-anticipated annual event for fans.
The day festival consists of 2 stages, featured artists, delicious food trucks, merchandise, and the chance to interact with your favorite Soulection affiliate while they walk around the venue. It’s truly any die-hard Soulection fan’s wet dream. Due to the ill-timed rainy weather, the TSOT stage was moved inside last minute but certainly was much appreciated by all the patrons. The main stage (dubbed Timeless), was inside the Shrine’s main auditorium which features two levels, allowing everyone who bought tickets to catch the headliners. The TSOT kicked off the day with tunes from Sabeerah, Sahar Habibi, and Andres. Although their sets weren’t drastically different from one another, they all had their own unique mixing style. Sahar seemed to blend electronic tracks with subtle R&B undertones from producers like Kaytranada and transition into more heavy-hitting club hits. Andres immediately started his set with African and Latin jams, slowly introducing popular trap anthems into the mix (i.e. Future & Ty Dolla $ign’s “Blasé”). He even commented: “Goes to South Africa once”, referencing their recent trip as a collective to South Africa to host their own stage at the Rocking the Daisies festival.
Leven Kali and Andre Power opened up the Timeless stage a few hours later, greeted by a growing crowd. Leven Kali has already been featured on Playboi Carti’s mixtape and penned music for artists like Drake. The young artist has only began to make a name for himself but his songs are bright and full of life, just like the neon color scheme displayed behind him for his entire performance. Kali’s stand out single of his set was the infectious tune “Joy”. As one of the newest Soulection affiliates, Kali can hold his own against the other more seasoned performers and managed to leave a lasting impression with his stimulating visual color scheme. Andre Power, one of Soulection’s co-founders, is know for his hip hop riddled sets with the occasional baile funk song. He played everything from Outkast to Drake and even one of fellow Soulection producer Sango’s tracks.
Back on the TSOT stage, Jared Jackson, Sasha Marie, and Noodles were igniting a large dance circle with their sets. Jared Jackson (who’s also a full-time 7th grade science teacher) had a set that particularly stuck out amongst the rest. He used turntables to play house and UK garage heavy hits that boomed throughout the auditorium. He dialed back the modern hits and focused on the sounds that got many people nodding their heads to the pounding rhythm. San Diego based Sasha Marie transitioned the sounds back to hip hop and even threw in the occasional electronic single in the mix. During the entirety of her set, fellow DJ Kronika was off to the side vigorously dancing and acting as her hype man. This kind of camaraderie is common at a Soulection event, even amongst the crowd. As the various dance circles formed, strangers were cheering each other on and even nudging people into the circle who seemed a bit shy to show off their moves. Having been a frequent patron at Soulection events for the past 3 years, I’ve very rarely come across rude or disrespectful person at their events.
Last to appear on the TSOT stage was Noodles, who’s most often recognized for being Kehlani’s long time DJ. And man did she go out with a bang. Noodles played all the top 40 hip hop/rap hits, early 2000s club bangers that got people on the dance floor, and the R&B hits that every one on the face of the planet knows the lyrics to. So many people were head banging vigorously while holding onto the barrier that it began to unhook itself and I was immensely afraid of a stampede occurring.
To everyone’s surprise, Bay Area rapper P-Lo hopped on stage to perform a few songs and proved that Noodles always has tricks up her sleeves. At the very end, she threw plastic goggles into the crowd as an ode to the time SoSuperSam and her got Lasik and they took a never-ending stream of pictures with their protective gear. I’ve never seen so many people clamor for a pair of what are essentially swim goggles.
On the Timeless stage, sultry R&B singer Snoh Aalegra was greeted on stage with cheers from the crowd. Snoh is no stranger to large crowds nor the Soulection crowd either, having previously opened for Daniel Caesar on his tour this past year. E
ver since her debut album Feels dropped in 2017, Aalegra’s music immediately gained traction; one of her songs sampled by Drake and another was used in an Apple commercial. The Swedish singer has noted that she’s very influenced by legendary singers like Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder. It’s extremely apparent in songs like “Time” and “Nothing Burns Like the Cold”.
Soon after Snoh, Soulection’s man of the hour, Joe Kay, took the stage to essentially do a live version of what he does best on Soulection radio every week. In a neon yellow beanie, Kay began to spin hip hop hits to get the crowd dancing again. Blending everything from Brazilian funk music to old school west coast rap tracks, Joe Kay understands what an audience wants.
Throughout his set, the most viscerally psychedelic images displayed on the screen behind him, transfixing the audience’s gaze. Here and there throughout the day, Kay’s pre-recorded voice could even be heard in between sets. Joe Kay’s voice is soothing to the ears and is like an audible Xanax, in the best way possible. His voice combined with the vast blend of electronic, rap, and otherworldly sounds that can be heard on Soulection radio each week can instantly make a bad day seem good.
After Joe’s set, Mr. Carmack came to the stage to change the pace. Mr. Carmack has long been affiliated with Soulection and the producer has a vastly different sound to add to their collective of artists. Carmack blurs hip-hop and dance music in such a way that most DJs are unable to replicate it.
Deep bass, trap music, and experimental sounds are a common theme in his sets. The constant grin on his face and heavy drops were a definite highlight of his set, providing the more EDM geared fans with something to head bang to.
Switching up the genre once again, Ella Mai followed Carmack on the Timeless stage. The newest R&B singer on the scene took over clubs and the radio with her single “Boo’d Up”. Now with her debut album released, including features from Chris Brown, John Legend, and H.E.R., Ella Mai has become a staple on the charts stateside. Her debut tour has sold out every date so far and it goes to show she is in high demand.
Earlier in the day, I got to talking to two women who bought tickets and drove from several hours away just to see Ella Mai. They had no idea what or who Soulection was, nor who any other people on the lineup were. It was mind-boggling to hear about their dedication and love for her music.
Towards the end of the night, I made my way up to the front of the photo pit, only to spot their friendly faces smiling at me. They staked out the barrier all day just for this moment. The British songstress took the stage wearing an incredibly comfy looking two piece sweat suit that was made of colorfully dyed wool. She gave the crowd a sampler of her work, singing everything from newer singles like “Trip” to songs from her first two EPs like “10,000 Hours”. It was apparent that Mai was very popular amongst the Soulection crowd as the auditorium became instantly packed with patrons singing all her lyrics. Ella Mai may be a fresh face but it feels like she’s been around ages due to the dedication of her fans.
With only one act left, Goldlink was scheduled to close out the day of festivities. In the past year, Goldlink has been notorious for cancelling festival appearances and shows (Outsidelands, Capitol Hill Block Party, This That, and the entire Australian leg of his tour just to name a few). However, I was nearly certain he wouldn’t cancel on his Soulection family, specifically due to the support they’ve given him over the years.
Awhile back, he performed at one of Soulection’s monthly events at the Regent in Downtown Los Angeles to a mostly drunk crowd (I’ll even admit that I’m surprised I remember the performance myself). Since then, he’s moved from underground rapper to having a chart topping hit with “Crew”. His stage set up included a massive LED screen with a platform on top, ensuring that everyone in the Shrine could witness his performance. Goldlink performed a collection of his best songs so far: “Spectrum”, “Meditation”, “Herside Story”, etc. His discography is pretty impressive for only having released three albums. 2017’s At What Cost has features from everyone from Jazmine Sullivan to Wale to Steve Lacy.
Although he only dropped two songs last year there’s potential that he’s gearing up to release an album this year. The DC native’s unique flow and honest lyricism has helped to inspire some rappers to imitate him and is making the others sweat. After seeing Goldlink’s meteoric rise first-hand, it’s only fitting that he headlined the festival created by his friends.
Soulection has always been extremely ambitious, but yet cautious enough to know not to rush the process. After hinting for a few years at a full-blown festival and delaying it an additional year due to circumstances they never disclosed, Soulection avoided a potential Fyre festival disaster. The day went fairly flawlessly, even with the weather throwing a wrench in their plans for an outdoor stage. I can only imagine that soon the festival will be in a bigger venue and have two full days of celebration, maybe even three.
Soulection is more than just a collective, it’s a movement that showcases the sounds of tomorrow. Fans are treated like family and have created strong bonds with the people they meet at these curated events. Meeting someone who likes Soulection feels like making an immediate lifelong friend. Just seeing the years of Soulection merchandise made it so apparent that many of the people in attendance have been avid fans for years. There were windbreakers, hats, bags, and collaborative tees with artists like Aaron Kai. Seeing the iconic Soulection logo emblazoned everywhere you turned made the venue feel like home. We’re only 2 months into 2019 and big things are on the horizon for Soulection. They announced they’re playing at Coachella and have many more yet-to-be-announced events planned. Their world domination has been in the works for a while now but in the coming years it’ll come to fruition with their ever-growing international fanbase.