Best known as a member of legendary hip-hop group Jurassic 5, Soup (who also goes by the name Zaakir) has returned with a new album recorded under the name Fullee Love. We recently spoke to him about Free, White & 21, positivity in music, and the obligatory question around the current status of J5.
[This interview has been lightly edited for clarity].
Let’s talk about the new album; Free, White & 21. The title alludes to a phrase used in the 1940s, which you are subverting to relate to now. Can you tell me more about the concept?
The concept (for me) was just being able to go in a different direction without second-guessing the move. The phrase was just that “I’m free, I’m white and I can do anything.” I wanted to have that type of freedom when it came to this. So instead of following what you think I should be doing, I’m doing me and I’ma make u follow and get on board.
The album is also incredibly upbeat and positive, both in the lyrics and music. I found this inspiring, especially considering what you’ve been through in the year’s since J5 stopped making music (near-homelessness, returning to a regular job).
I’m working a regular job right now, and I’m dead ass! I’m waiting on my Geoffrey Owens moment as we speak. I wasn’t intentionally going for an upbeat/positive project, it just wrote itself, to be honest. But if it makes folks feel that way, that’s dope! Just cause my shit ain’t sharp (right now), doesn’t mean I’ma burn the house down (after hardship comes ease) shit just taking long [laughs].
Most Hip-Hop heads know you as Zaakir or Soup, but you’ve released the new album under the name Fullee Love. Does using a different name allow you to explore a different side of your creativity, and a new persona?
Most definitely! Many have done it before. It takes the focus off of expectations, even tho I still hear “It ain’t what I expected,” and I’m like “Good cause your ass shouldn’t be expecting.” People are something else, they get pissed when you wanna grow and go a different route, but want you to understand when they’ve moved on from you to something new.
I read in a previous interview where you said you prefer being in a group, but how being solo also allows you more freedom with no one to answer to. How do you feel now that you’ve cut a full album completely away from J5?
I love it! I wasn’t willing to take the shots back then cause my confidence sucked, so a group made it easier to hide when all hell broke loose [laughs]. Now…I want it all, the praise, the bullshit, the ladies, the wack comments (you name it). And it’s beautiful to not have to compromise on certain things.
I know its a well-worn subject, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about J5. There’s been tours in recent years, and even an unreleased track that surfaced (2016’s Customer Service). What’s the status of the crew today, and will we ever get new music?
We’ve spoke, but we’ve spoke before, so for now…nah it ain’t looking like it [laughs].
Free, White & 21 sees you working with a sole producer; Nicholas Eaholtz, who is known for his work with The Internet. Your partnership and sound also reminds me of The Foreign Exchange (Phonte and Nicolay). Who inspires you among modern artists working today?
No one and I’m not hating, but I’m older than most, and a lot of the music isn’t for me, so it’s easy for me to continue with what I’ve already been rocking to…the classics. Foreign Exchange is dope, I always dug Phonte.
There’s also an obvious nod to Prince, ‘70s and ‘80s Funk and Soul, including a track titled Nile Rodgers. It must be quite a challenge to make a record that sounds timeless, both old and modern?
Yea, cause you really don’t know what will be considered timeless or not, you just make what feels right and let the chips fall where they may. That’s the stuff that shaped me during my youth (Prince, ‘70s/’80s Funk) so its only natural that’s what I’d wanna bring back.
What’s next for you as a solo artist? More music as Fullee Love, or Soup…?
I told you I’m waiting on that Geoffrey Owens moment [laughs]. More music for sure…I’ma make it first, then see which persona will headline it.
Finally, going back to the positivity on Free, White & 21, it sounds like you’re in a good place right now. Is that fair to say?
Musically I am for sure. I’m no longer worried about the reactions I’m subject to receive. I wish I woulda had this thought process a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t be moonlighting as somebody’s employee [laughs]. But hey…could be worse. Thank you for this moment, I appreciate your time and the questions…Free, White & 21 is out now…peep it!