Artist Spotlight: T.Solo

Photo Credit:  Mollana Burke

Photo Credit: Mollana Burke

The talented R&B vocalist T.Solo from North West London flexes his rap game in the new single, ‘Not Like This’. The track opens with a bold statement, ‘We ain’t here to play no games’ and then closes with a slowed-down version of the track’s trippy hook. With constant drums, producer Chris Xylo creates an energetic and bouncy rhythm. The intermittent piano keys keep the track mellow, which is perfect for T.Solo’s flow.

T.Solo slips a nod to the new label and suggests something else is on the horizon, ‘You say your team makes moves, and you grind all day, but not like this’. This latest track comes together to produce a backdrop for late-night drives in the city, evoking a lavish sunset of purple skies streaked with radiant hues. ‘Not Like This’ leaves curiosity hanging in the air for what’s to come tomorrow.

Breaking down the ‘2 Summers’ short film released on Link Up TV last year and the EP ‘Gone With The Wind, Vol. 1’ produced with Chris Xylo, T.Solo reflects on his musical influences and creative process. 

Kaeshelle: ‘Not Like This’ is the first single where we see your rap flow take centre stage over your R&B vocals, what inspired this move?
T.Solo: With music in our country, we like what we like and we gravitate towards what we know. We don’t always go for the most exotic or melody-driven artists. I’m in music because I love it, but it’s a cut-throat business. I want to tour the world and help others to do music too, so I need to be in front of the people. Once you get to the playing field, you can branch out and experiment a bit more. As a new artist on the scene, I’m really studying the business and working on my craft.

Rapping has come to a point where people listen carefully. People say, “Your voice is amazing T.Solo. Oh my gosh, you can really sing.” But when I rap, the audience listens more. I feel like it’s a catalyst for other stuff and the stats have improved! Rapping has always been something I was drawn into but I’m starting to do more of it because it grabs a bigger audience over here. You’re still going to hear me singing hooks for a lot of UK rappers. With ‘Not Like This’, I said, “Let me just do something and throw it out there.”

At the beginning of ‘Not Like This’ you say, ‘we ain’t here to play no games.’ Who is this warning directed at?
Do you know what’s so funny? My older brother called me last week and said, “Who are you angry at?” I said “No one, no one in particular”. But as a musician, you are expected to try and tick the boxes. I don’t look like a singer, I’m 6 ft 4 and I was born in North West London. I grew up on grime, rap, hip-hop and I have a voice. At a young age, my mum put me into singing lessons and it just developed my sound. But I’ve still got a very deep speaking voice.

I’ve had so many meetings, so many independent labels. They said, “Oh, we love this kid. We want to develop him.” But the artists who have done it their own way didn’t meet their criteria before. So, they’re pressurising young kids, younger than me. In the music industry you need to impress, and it seems like there’s one individual who is apparently the guy to make or break you but that’s not the case. 

So ‘Not Like This’ is a message for all people, not only myself. Whether that’s music artists, writers, bloggers, influencers, accountants, teachers or whoever, people will always try and tell you what you can do. But you know yourself better than anyone else so keep persevering. They can tell you, “you need to look a certain way”, “you need to sound a certain way.” I’m going to do it my way and show you when I reach the pinnacle. That’s not cocky, it’s humility with a pinch of salt.

Which artists from the older generation have inspired your sound and approach to making music?
Growing up in London, some of the artists who have inspired me sound wise are BBK. Their sound is very British and just provokes nostalgia. I would also say Gnarls Barkley, I’m a massive fan of Cee Lo Green, his expression and tone. He sings about things from a political standpoint, which a lot of artists don’t do because it’s hard to do that! I know what the current affairs are, but I also like to see people smile. So, I’m a bit lighter-hearted with my messages. Of course, there’s MJ, and I’m a fan of Chris Brown’s music too, the way he experiments. Think about the duration of these artists. If you’re in the music industry for longer than ten years, hats off to you.

Jazmine Sullivan is an incredible singer, she’s someone that I look up to tone-wise. If we’re going a touch left, The Script produced one of the first albums I was able to physically buy. I remember going to HMV and taking it off the shelf and just studying it. Craig David is also a massive inspiration, he actually paved the way for many people. But Craig David and Lemar don’t get the credit they deserve. Let’s be real, the singing in that rapping speed or singing rap, where did it really come from? I feel like he’s inspired a lot of Americans and Canadians, I think Drake even said he was inspired by Artful Dodger and Craig David.

Of course, America has a great influence, but I feel like the British flag is very powerful and I’m going to rep it hard. People like music because it’s a way for us to relate to each other. With BBK, maybe it’s JME and Skepta’s brotherhood, the African culture or the idea that we weren’t meant to succeed, but we did. We weren’t meant to be successful in music because it was unheard of and, of course, they make dope music! I respect where they come from, what they do and what they represent. Their message is positive, and music is a powerful thing. 

Despite the global pandemic, you’ve been very busy in 2020. What was the creative process like under lockdown?
I was speaking to a publisher one day and they said on Spotify alone, “50,000+ songs are released a day.” So, how and why are you going to remember me? If I’m always in your face, the first month you may not like it and scroll past, the second month, you might still scroll down, but maybe you’ll listen by the third month and then I’ve won you. Consistency is very important in this day and age. Previously, I never really understood the market. Social media is very powerful but obviously, you’ve got to release great music, which means quality over quantity. But that’s ticked off, so now it’s time to just be in your face. 

It was very hard to shoot over quarantine, but we were able to shoot ‘Not Like This’. It premiered on Sky and so the proof is in the pudding. My love of music is what keeps me going. At the end of the day, you get what you put in. YouTube is another thing, so I’ve learned the software and now edit a lot of my stuff alongside Chris Xylo. You have to ask, “How bad do you really want it?” If you want to get there, you will find a way by any means.

Photo Credit:  Mollana Burke

Photo Credit: Mollana Burke

Photo Credit:  Mollana Burke

Photo Credit: Mollana Burke

What did you want to explore in the EP ‘Gone With The Wind, Vol. 1’ that you dropped earlier this year?
I truly wanted to get my emotions out. I was going through a lot of anxiety. It was a weird period for Chris too. I had just come out of a previous music group, which I had gotten into for the wrong reasons. Music’s always been my passion and I knew that God gave me this talent, this energy and work rate for a reason. So with ‘Gone With The Wind, Vol. 1’, was the birth of a new T.Solo and Chris Xylo. This EP is for the music lovers, it wasn’t really made for anyone but us. That’s why we didn’t really push it as much as we could have. But we received a lot of love for it in Sweden and L.A.

The EP was very personal, but it wasn’t going to be my standpoint because I knew ‘Not Like This’ was coming and all these other sounds where I really am gonna grab my home turf and then amplify it for the world. If you’re a writer, you can write down thoughts. If you’re an illustrator, you can draw a picture. I wanted to create a trippy sound to express myself. The beautiful thing is people will go back to it and say, “This doesn’t sound like the typical T.Solo we’re used to.” I’m branching out now, and people are going to get the real characteristic of me. I’m putting more of the British touch to my lingo, my style and my sound because home is where the heart is.

Last year, you co-founded a new record label that goes by the same name, Gone With The Wind Records. How did that come about?
Chris Xylo and I have known each other for years, we’re brothers. After we both came out of groups, we thought, “why don’t we just do ourselves?”. We’ve got our own studio, we write and produce our own music. The main foundation of Gone With The Wind Records is to help those who can’t help themselves. I know what it’s like to be a seventeen-year-old working your ass off just to pay for studio sessions. I didn’t come from a wealthy background, so I had to go out and get it. I see that in the new generation, people sometimes do bad stuff in order to do good. I want to help a fountain of youth, artists, writers and photographers. Chris had the same mentality, let’s start our own business, get our foot through the door and then recoup.

The short film ‘2 Summers’ on Link Up TV tells a love story about a relationship that went left, what inspired you to merge the two songs for the film?
In ‘2 Summers’, the first song is ‘Lost in Your Love’, then it goes to ‘From the Jump’. The concept is about having a phenomenal relationship and then, not seeing eye to eye. Everyone can relate to that. Man went from R&B to greaze, like “Yo, I’m done, she broke my heart!” The idea came from Untitled Artist and myself. He’s an incredible video director, he said, “I really love these sounds and I’ve never done this before, but why don’t we just merge these songs?” God’s timing is the perfect timing. There was no budget, but we put our heads together and said, “If we call A, B, C, D and E, we can make a video.” A week later or so we had a video. I’m very proud of that project because if I can do this with the smallest team in the world, the sky’s the limit.

What projects do you have coming up in the latter half of 2020?
We’re working with Skrapz who’s killing it at the moment. He’s hands down one of the most respected rappers in the country. I’ve also teamed up with a North London rapper by the name of CR Blacks. His style, his packaging and the way he markets himself is incredible. We’ve created three songs already and we only met a month ago, but our energies collided.

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