Arts & Culture

Haitian-American Rapper Sol on his Upcoming Haitian Relief Show at Neumos

By Jonathan Cunningham February 3, 2010

As we enter the third full week since an earthquake devastated Haiti, relief efforts here in the U.S. that initially surged at an amazing pace have slowed down a bit as life returns back to normal. It was encouraging to see Seattle musicians throw benefit shows galore during the first week and a half, and nobody was more excited to see that than Haitian-American rapper Sol. The local MC also knew that he wanted to put together an event to benefit the country where his mother was born and raised (although she now lives in the U.S.), but wanted to make sure everything was done properly.

On Thursday, February 4th, artists from the Seattle hip-hop community are coming together to create an all-ages night of music and fundraising at Neumos for the non-profit Doctors Without Borders efforts in Haiti. Common Market, the Physics, Sol, and Dyno Jamz are all performing and fellow local Haitian rapper Khingz is hosting the event. Even though Sol has been working around the clock lately, he took a few minutes earlier this morning to chat about how the event came together and what this process has been like for him.

First off. Just to check in, what part of Haiti is your family in and did you suffer any losses in your family due to the earthquake?

Thank you for you concern. I have family in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Jérémie, and in the village of Abricot. A very large family, all over. As far as my immediate family goes everyone is safe, but both my cousin and my mother's cousin lost their homes to the earthquake. However, as is true for many folks we are still getting word of family friends and distant family who did not survive.

Were you concerned about how fast some of the benefit shows got put together right after the earthquake and where the money ended up?

I try not to get caught up thinking about what other people are doing. Any money that actually gets to Haiti I hope does more good than harm. But their is a great importance in making sure things are done the right way. I worked carefully and closely both with Neumos and the other performers to make sure that this show will be a great night for live music and raising money. I have also done my research on the best place to put the money.

You've decided to donate your money to Doctor's Without Borders. Why not the Red Cross or Yele (Wyclef's organization) like so many other people are doing?

I chose to go through Doctors Without Borders because of what they are doing, not what the other NGOs and governmental orgs are not doing. After talking with family on the ground in Haiti, Doctors Without Borders was undoubtedly the best choice. They have been in Haiti for 19 years, not three weeks. This means a lot because it shows  they will still be there long after the press and public eye goes away.

Their experience in Haiti also shows that they have already built a relationship with the Haitian people and have a greater understanding of Haitian culture than others. Wyclef is my dude, but Yele simply hasn't proved their infrastructural stability to me, and they have never dealt with so much money before.

And Red Cross fucked up with Katrina so.

To be honest, Doctors Without Borders has my greatest support, but I have donated to all three organizations, and there are dozens all doing a great job in Haiti. This is not a struggle that can be fought alone, and all help is welcome. I just pray that people can work together, and with the good people of Haiti instead of for Haiti.

You mentioned that you've been to Haiti before. So much of the coverage, even before the earthquake, showed Haiti in utter poverty but are there positive aspects of Haiti that more people need to know about?

In light of Black History Month, the history of the Haitian people and Haitian Independence is one of the most important to modern times. The Haitian Slave Revolt ending in 1804 resulted in the world's first Black Republic, and what is today still the only successful independence gained through slave revolt. It was with an Haitian army that Simon Bolivar freed the Dominican Republic and much of Latin America. The prophets of our time, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, and even Obama all cite the Haitian Revolution as inspiration for their journey.

Do you feel like you're able to put your craft of music to a better cause with this event?

Everything that has happened these last three weeks since the earthquake and leading up to the show have reminded me that this is so much bigger than Hip-Hop. Fuck your iTunes sales, your Twitter followers, your Myspace plays. What are you doing to make a difference? I haven't slept right since the 12th, I've lost weight, and I am stressed. But my life is beautiful. It is my people in Haiti that need love right now. This show is just the best way I can give it. And its bigger than Haiti, I hope people re-think their place in the world and start caring about each other more. Because life is hard around the world everyday.

How did the line up come together?

Man. I can't stress how blessed I am to be able to be working with the people who are involved in this show. Common Market, The Physics, and Dyno Jamz are all amazing groups, and Khingz is the perfect host. When putting this show together I simply reached out to my favorite musicians to work with and expressed the importance of the show. Everyone was excited to help. I give Neumos credit for being down from the jump. Not only that but their entire staff volunteered to work the night for free, and they are donating 25 percent of the bar. All the performers are also performing for free. This is a 100 percent benefit show.

If you could hit readers with three Haitian musicians that they should check out/Google after reading this, who would you recommend?

Three dope Haitian musicians to check out besides Wyclef would be my dude Khingz, this cat Belo who I actually met when I was down in Brazil—and thirdly, I may actually cheat and say Raoul Peck who is a Haitian director who makes really good films.

Haiti Relief Benefit Show, Common Market, The Physics, Dyno Jamz, SOL, Hosted by Khingz, Flying Sneakers Break Crew :: Doors at 7 pm, $10. Ticket sales are already near capacity so get there early or buy tix in advance.
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