If you’ve got a SoundCloud account, chances are a Soulection artist is in your feed. For those who have been following this crew’s success, it’s hard to believe this modest assemblage of forward-thinking beatmakers, DJs and artists has already been infiltrating our soundwaves for just over five years now. For some of us, it feels like only yesterday when we’d stumbled upon them, like we’d joined a secret club with special access to nostalgic beats laced with the hip-hop and r&b samples of our adolescence — all fine-tuned by modern ears less shy to electronic production.
Featured Thumbnail Image by German Vizacarra / All others by Dominic Macias unless otherwise indicated.
Soulection’s roots first took hold in Long Beach with co-founder Joe Kay’s IllVibes radio show, started out of his grandmother’s basement. It was here that Joe Kay’s skill as a selector manifested, collecting music from unsung musicians and producers from all over the globe for his podcast. Through it all a common thread reigned supreme, a love for beat-driven music, where the producer was propelled as an artist and not just a name on the credits. It was through IllVibes that Joe Kay connected with Guillaume Bonte, a visual artist he hit up on MySpace after seeing album artwork he’d made for an artist named Stevo. From there the duo kept collaborating, exchanging music and artwork, and thus Soulection was born in 2011. Bonte would later leave to more fully pursue his artwork, and Andre Power came on board as Creative Director. The rest is history. Today the collective boasts a worldwide audience of over 320k followers on SoundCloud, features on i-D, Red Bull, Forbes and the Guardian, and a radio show on Beats 1 broadcasting to over 100 countries.
They recently celebrated their fifth anniversary in LA at The Regent, where even A-Trak came out to give props to the crew and introduce Mr Carmack before his set. Reflecting on their ascent, we speak to Jacqueline Schneider, Soulection’s director of strategic communication & partnerships, and dig into how LA has shaped the Soulection family’s growth, their modest roots, and what’s soon to come.
Image by German Vizacarra
Soulection counts producers/DJs from all over the globe as part of the collective. How has the LA landscape in particular shaped Soulection’s movement?
The LA landscape has been home to movements like Low End Theory, and musically, LA has always been pretty diverse. So where there is this deep community, people do come together, even if everything is really spread out. It’s interesting for us — Soulection started in Long Beach with a radio show, Joe is from El Monte, and our first monthly was at the Crosby in Santa Ana, and we moved offices to Highland Park. We have the support of every location in LA. LA has been this hub of creativity and innovation, even though people know LA for entertainment and movies, LA is actually one of the biggest music innovators in the world. People kind of sleep on it but you have to pick and find stuff.
Soulection undoubtedly has a very homegrown feel to its success, and it seems like that’s part of why the label feels very connected with its fans, especially to a blue-collar audience. Would you agree and is any of that intentional?
It comes off like that, because it’s very much accessible. Soulection has never been exclusive, we’ve always been very inclusive and accepting of everyone, wherever you’re from. That doesn’t really factor into music — music is for everyone, that’s something that connected all of us. We all have such different backgrounds, it’s so weird, but it just makes sense: music brought us all together. It wasn’t intentional, it’s just kind of who we are. Before Soulection, everyone was kind of DIY.
With roots so ingrained in the internet and especially Soundcloud, was the transition into events and running a label and more rocky at all?
When you’re building anything there are going to be rough patches. It was very natural, we didn’t plan for any of this to happen. We’re still figuring things out, but it was a natural transition to connect what we were doing online to what we’re doing in real life. If you start something in a very honest and transparent way — we did that back in day on socials, took people on the ride with us, we’ve been super honest and as forthcoming as we can be — everything has its way of rolling out. Nothing is easy, but if you’re transparent and honest along the way, it definitely makes things more seamless.
What’s the A&R process like for the label – has it changed much from earlier times?
Joe Kay has been head of A&R by default, this was his brainchild, the podcast, IllVibes — he’s like the OG. But as the team grew, we’ve all become A&R’s. For example, Kronika put Joe on to Sango, Sango put us on to Dpat, and so on. It’s more of a digital dig.
Now that you’ve reached your 5th anniversary, what is the team most proud of?
We are very pleased with the fact that there is a resource for people. An honest, musical resource for people to be inspired. It’s something we wanted growing up, and we’re really pleased to provide that for other people.