GRINDAHOLIC #1 – SO !LLA
Words & Photos by Cheats
What does it take to be a Grindaholic? Well, the simple is answer is that you have to be addicted to the grind. A Grindaholic wakes up every day determined to make moves and goes to bed wondering what’s the next move to make. Grindaholics don’t sleep very much – it’s a waste of their time. Grindaholics set goals, and by the time they reach them, they have set 10 more. Broad Street Elites’ So !lla is a Grindaholic. Matter of fact, he is the first Grindaholic that I’m featuring in this new series. Over the last year, So !lla has gone from homeless to the one of the driving forces in the RVA Hip Hop community. And he has done it by sheer determination. With the help of his BSE family and a new self awareness – there is no limit in 2013 for the man I call !lla. WE SEE IT.
Cheats: If a man walked up to you on the street and asked you what you did for a living you would say?
So !lla: I work at Kingdom night club. I do all the bookings and promotions there. And I’m a rapper, that is what I do.
Cheats: But that’s not all you do – go ahead and tell me all the hats you wear.
So !lla: I’m heading up a clothing line that will be dropping sometime this year. I work on music video with the team at Aura HD. We do graphics and designs. When it comes down to music Broad Street Elite does it all.
Cheats: Tell me about Broad Street Elite?
So !lla: Everything starts with Broad Street Elite (BSE). That’s the team – that’s the family. That’s what I have tattooed in my skin. They are my brothers who have the same goals as me, the same visions as me, and the same work ethic as me. We are all just a bunch of hooligans. A group of people that were misjudged and outcast – we raise hell and have fun.
Cheats: When did BSE start?
So !lla: I was in 11th grade – 2006 or so.
Cheats: So if I’m on the outside looking at BSE, I’m I just looking at rappers?
So !lla: No. You’re looking a family – for real. There are a few rappers – a few fashion gurus – and there are dudes like Avery (sitting beside So !lla) who just kick it with the team.
So for people that don’t know exactly what happened, did BSE merge with So Proper Ent.?
So !lla: So Proper Ent. is still their own independent company. Not to take anything away from them – that’s my family – Ms. Proper is my sister. Actually, Ms. Proper and Concise rock with BSE. Coming up I had my own supporting cast – my own circle – and we want to do our own thing and take that vision to the next level.
Cheats: So I think I was under the wrong impression – I was under the impression that there was a bit of a merger.
So !lla: Well I still co-manage Ms. Proper and I help Concise but So Proper Ent, that is her own label. Let me just be clear, she had been on the scene – she took me in and under her wing – ya know. And now I’m starting to follow through with my own visions. She never holds me back with any of that.
Cheats: So you enjoy the business aspect of hip hop – the cutting deals – the moving and shaking?
So !lla: I love it. I’m the a**hole in the group too. So I’m the one that puts my foot down and says the stuff that no one wants to say.
Cheats; So do you feel like you have turned the corner in 2012?
So !lla: Oh yeah. Last year, I was homeless. In 2011, I was homeless – nobody really knows that. I was struggling and I would say I turned a huge corner. I just got my head together and really go on my grind.
Cheats: What would you say was the biggest shift for you?
So !lla: My team. Absolutely. Dudes like Avery telling me to get my s**t together. They kept pointing me in the right direction and supporting me. They let me know when I wasn’t on my game and they pushed me to be better. The really helped me get through a lot of tough times.
Cheats: Avery, what have you seen?
Avery: I’m not sure if he has, “changed,” every time I’ve seen him, even when he was homeless - he was always working hard. He was always grinding.
Cheats: Let me ask a different way. What was the break that changed everything for you?
So !lla: Working at Kingdom. My boss there – kind of manages me too – but just his belief in me. We were doing shows and we were selling tickets all the time and he was like, “Why are you doing it this way when you should be doing it that way. You could stop being a pawn and start making moves.” Then he told me that he would teach me. He took me under his wing and helped me book a few shows. And after that, I ran with it.
Cheats: What have you learned about booking shows in the last few months that you would tell others?
So !lla: Don’t just book your friends – that never works. Keep it 100% professional, don’t slide on your paperwork. If you want a good show, you have to put in the work yourself, you cannot rely on the artist. You need to get a fan base of your own – people that pay attention to what you do and will support you.
Cheats: What are your grind goals for 2013?
So !lla: Well everything is Broad Street Elite from me right now – to me there is nothing else. We want to do the shows twice as big. We are going to push the Mixtape that just dropped. We got a new album coming out with some secret features – I’m really excited about it. The goal is to make good music and host big shows.
Cheats: Who do you think is going to have a break out year in 2013?
So !lla: I say this every year but Chance Fischer is possibly the next Kanye (West). He’s on a different level. Of course, Ms. Proper, BSE, shout out to Octavion (Xcellence) he just dropped, what I think, is his best project to date – The Vigilante Mixtape, HaBits is going to have a great project, and Rich P.
Cheats: So who is signed to BSE?
So !lla: No one. No one is signed. We pay each other with loyalty.
!lla considers the new mixtape #FortheF***ofit a redefinition of himself. “In the past, I was making music but it really wasn’t everything I wanted to do. Ms. Proper once asked me, ‘What type of artist are you,’ and I didn’t really have an answer for her.” !lla considers this time period a new level of discovery for him and plans to continue that grind in 2013.