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Nestled near the western edge of Schenectady County, Duanesburg might as well as be worlds away from the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle of New York City. However, the upstate town of 6,122 residents bears no shortage of inspiration with its elevated snowy vistas of both the Adirondack and the Catskill Mountains. “Growing up on top of a freakin’ mountain” amidst this rustic serenity, Souly Had constructs alternative hip-hop punctuated by off-kilter organic production and post-modern R&B drip.
Emerging from a decidedly “unlikely” setting, his future-facing style remains a quiet phenomenon bolstered by over 20 million total streams and a deal with Island Records in 2019.
“I was sitting in my friend’s attic in the middle of nowhere watching all of these artists blow up on the internet, and I said to myself, ‘I could do this’,” he recalls. “Duanesburg is a total hick town: boots, flannels, and parties in the woods. It’s definitely a weird place to try to rap. So, I put in my 10,000 hours over the past five years and hopefully I can inspire someone else now.”
At ten-years-old, rock initially called to Souly. On the radio, he discovered AC/DC, Metallica, and Nirvana. Grabbing a guitar, he learned how to play “Smoke on the Water” in addition to studying a Nevermind songbook. After hearing Mac Miller’s “Nikes on My Feet” online, he became an avowed fan and immersed himself hip-hop. During freshmen year of high school, he dove into producing and recording on Garage Band. Snowed in at home for two days, he cooked up his first EP, the aptly titled Snow Day, and went on to distribute it at school.
Around the same time, he borrowed $200 from a friend and landed a feature from Pro Era’s Dirty Sanchez on “idk.” Along the way, he joined Rotterdam-based crew entrèband [mac moon, mostlyeverything, tomcbumpz, JVOTI, dahmn], sharing a house with “10 other kids” a stone’s throw from Union College and recording music all day and night in between “crazy parties.”
Developing his chops, Souly turned heads with “Painful Pride” on Soundcloud followed by the 2016 7 EP and “S K Y C H A N G E.” On the latter, he started flexing his voice as a singer too. However, “Déjà vu” changed everything. Featuring his piano, drums, and bass, it racked up 10,000 plays on Soundcloud in less than 24 hours and crossed half-a-million after a few months. On its heels, he maintained a steady stream of releases before breaking through to Spotify in 2018. “Speaking Of” found its way to the popular low-key playlist, surpassing 2.7 million plays on the platform. “All The Time” inched near the 4-million-mark as he earned a bona fide hit in the form of 2019’s “Crush”—which clocked 8.9 million streams in three months. Signed to Island, he ramped up his output yet again on the single “Hills.”
Finger-snaps, dreamy plucks, and a glitchy beat underscore his dynamic delivery on the track. He relays the woes of cell tower service in the Hollywood Hills, trying to get a text through to a potential hook-up. After rapping the verses, his soulful intonation takes hold on an honest and hummable hook, “Ain’t no service in the hills, how ‘bout you? Tried to hit you back; it won’t go through. What the fuck am I supposed to do? I like it nice and quiet. I should move. So, what’s the move?”
“I got out of this party in Beverly Hills, and this girl texted me,” he recalls. “I couldn’t text her back, because there was literally no service, so I wrote the chorus down in my notes. A few days later, I heard the beat, and I wrote that shit in an hour-and-a-half at an Airbnb living room. It’s a true experience captured in the moment. A lot of my stuff is like that.”
Readying an EP and full-length debut on the horizon, Souly’s music makes you feel like you’re in the moment alongside him.
“I want people to put my shit on and forget about shit that’s happening,” he leaves off. “A lot of it is based in emotion. You can listen to it when you’re feeling emotional about something or someone. For three-and-a-half minutes, you don’t have to think about anything. You can just be here with me”
U Street Music Hall
1115 U Street NW
Washington, DC, 20009