My day-job has had me back and forth between here and Tennessee since August. One of the benefits of visiting there was busting out of my ignorant rap shell and getting reacquainted with soul music. Before Memphis housed the early, devil-worshipping music of Three 6 Mafia, it was the home of Stax Records, one of the most influential soul music labels ever, boasting artists such as Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes (aka Chef from South Park, for you young'ns). If you've ever heard Wu-Tang music, you've heard Stax music sampled. Visiting the Stax Museum was like a religious experience in itself.
By some small stroke of luck, shortly after my visit, a member of San Diego's Sure Fire Soul Ensemble hit me up. They just released their latest 7-inch single, "Layin' Low" b/w "IB Struttin'." The 8-piece band describes their music as "the kind of soul for folks who dig Isaac Hayes." How's that for timing?
Their music definitely has that heavy, Southern-fried soul sound that characterizes Stax music. On "Layin' Low", a hard, funky rhythm section lays the foundation while a bevy of horns, organ, and guitar add drama and a psychedelic feel to the proceedings. But the B-side, "IB Struttin'," wins me over with its heavy use of organ, the most soulful instrument known to mankind (there's a bad pun somewhere around here about music with organ having more heart; I hope you applaud how I'm not using that pun). "IB Struttin'" has a more mellow vibe, giving off the feeling of a stroll down the boulevard on a sunny Sunday afternoon, confidence emanating from you like Soul Glo. It's a good feeling.
The 7-inch single is available at Access Hip-Hop, FeeLit Records, and Cow Records for those of you still keeping vinyl alive. It's also available digitally via Bandcamp or iTunes for those of you who don't keep it real. You can catch the Sure Fire Soul Ensemble live every second Friday at the Riviera Supper Club in La Mesa.
Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog sdRAPS.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by becoming BFF's on Facebook or e-mailing him directly.