Savage Souls' studio is a no-frills room in an unassuming house amid the backwoods of Summerville. Inside, there are beat-making machines everywhere, records stashed in corners, and even a turntable in the fireplace. And a Neil Young Harvest CD sitting on a MIDI controller tells us these guys study up on all genres of music, not just hip-hop.
The group comprises Kae G The Original Seed, Fortune the Mic Mangler, and DJ Icirus, and they've been pretty busy this year with the release of two EPs, Illnastastic and Sword Gang, the latter of which reminds us of Space Jam. In the 1996 movie, Bugs Bunny whips out a bottle of "Michael's Secret Stuff" to give the Tune Squad a boost of confidence. We're convinced that since last year's CPMAs, Savage Souls have gotten their hands on a bottle of No. 23's secret stuff, because the lyrics off Sword Gang are full of boastful rhymes like, "We've invaded the continent/ Mission statement is dominance/ Couldn't remain anonymous/ Fill your brain with astonishment/ I'm too blatantly confident/ You shouldn't pay me compliments/ When I step on the stage every hater will face the consequence."
We asked Savage Souls why their last few releases have been so damn cocky as opposed to their earlier collection that were more about the struggle and their personal lives. "It's all pro wrestling. It's a spectacle," says Kae G. "Nobody gives a shit about us. Life is hard for everybody, and nobody wants to hear that. It's entertainment. Do a fucking backflip or get the fuck out of my face. Do something special. That's what we're doing now."
What the band is also doing is giving us a case of nostalgia. The harpsichords on Sword Gang tracks bring back memories of old Nintendo sounds, while they also give us a history lesson in hip-hop sampling. "All but one of those tracks are old French library records from the '60s and '70s," says Kae G. "They made these records because TV companies didn't want to pay licensing fees to use contemporary music. Studios would hire session musicians to put together instrumental tracks of funk, jazz and so on. It's gorgeous."
The chemistry of lyricists Kae G and Fortune is undeniable. Listening to the two rap together is like hearing old friends one-up each other, and you've gotta be quick if you want to catch all of their quick-witted knowledge bombs. "We try to use a bunch of obscure references so people who read a lot will notice. I say something about Hercules on the new Sword Gang joint to grab people's attention," says Fortune. "If you write regular, then you're just a regular dude."
"He goes smart and mentions Hercules and I'll go stupid and mention Thundarr the Barbarian," Kae G says. "[Thundarr] is a shitty '80s cartoon. It's like He-Man meets Star Wars."
All cartoons aside, Savage Souls are dedicated musicians, and they attribute their work ethic to the hip-hop lifestyle. There's no room for bogus personality. "I refuse to do anything that is not hip-hop," says Kae G. "My view of hip-hop is a tiny world, though. That's the beauty of it. I've lived this forever, so what I say is hip-hop — the end. Everybody else can go to hell.
"But I'll say that with a caveat," Kae G continues. "I do think that everyone should have that mindset about what they do. Punk, rock 'n' roll — everything."