For three Detroit-based artists, the Motor City brings a promising musical future backed by a powerful legacy.
Clear Soul Forces, John Jammin Collins and Rah the Son will represent some of the city’s best musical talent and lead the inaugural Detroit LIVE at The Heidelberg Project Saturday.
Together, they’ll showcase emerging and established hip-hop, techno and other music during the free block party hosted by POWER Entertainment and The Heidelberg Project.
From noon to 8 p.m. Saturday at 3600 Heidelberg St. in Detroit’s McDougall-Hunt community, attendees will hear seven other rising musical acts as part of the Detroit LIVE. There also will be an open mic session for other performers interested in demonstrating their talents.
“We want to build a sense of community while featuring Detroit talent and celebrating The Heidelberg Project’s 30th anniversary,” said Donna Kassab, a POWER Entertainment owner and Detroit LIVE creator.
Kassab is hosting the event in conjunction with Jenenne Whitfield, CEO of The Heidelberg Project, near the city’s iconic outdoor art installation. Detroit LIVE is part of Thirty Months of Heidelberg, a series of special programming in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of The Heidelberg Project.
The Stratton Setlist recently spoke with Clear Soul Forces, John Jammin Collins and Rah the Son to learn more about their music and upcoming performances at Detroit LIVE.
Clear Soul Forces Rock Detroit’s Hip-hop Scene and Beyond
A hip-hop quartet comprised of Emile Manette (E-Fav), Jarrel Lowman (L.A.Z.), Jarred Douglas (Noveliss) and Kortez Marion (Ilajide), Clear Soul Forces promises to fire up the Detroit LIVE crowd with catchy rhymes, thunderous beats and onstage antics.
“The live show is nothing like what you hear recorded,” Marion said. “We do things that are live that we haven’t done in the studio like certain ad-libs, certain background sh*t that’s just not even there.”
As Clear Soul Forces’ emcee and producer, Marion started making beats in 2008 and joined up with his cousin, Manette, and Lowman and Douglas to form the band a year later. Thanks to a suggestion from Detroit emcee Royce Da 5’9, the four members decided to combine their talents to form a new hip-hop powerhouse.
In 2009, Douglas said the group played a series of “hood a** open mics” around the city to cut their teeth and build a local fan base. By 2010, they had released their first mixtape, “Clear Soul Radio,” and followed up that initial success with a series of critically acclaimed EPs and albums, including 2015’s “Fab Five.”
As the band’s latest release, “Fab Five” pays tribute to the infamous University of Michigan men’s basketball recruiting class and showcases the group’s evolution from a burgeoning hip-hop act to one of the most respected groups on the scene.
“I feel like that sh*t was fittin’, man,” Lowman said. “Fab Five, they really changed stuff. They really changed the outlook on basketball. They brought an edge to it. It’s an attitude. I feel like that album got a lot of attitude, you know, that sh*t’s hard. I feel like it kind of encapsulated that.”
Today, the four members are releasing their own solo projects, including Lowman’s new “No Paperwork” EP as L.A.Z. and Douglas’ “Dilla Instinct” EP as Noveliss. Manette and Marion also are currently working on their own projects.
“And, they get my full support, and I think that’s symbiotic, it goes hand in hand,” Manette said.
Besides supporting each other’s solo projects, the members of Clear Soul Forces also continue to work together on new material as a group. Douglas promises there’s new material in the pipeline.
“There’s no timeline, but we are going to put something out,” he said.
John Jammin Collins Celebrates Detroit’s Techno Music Legacy
The legendary DJ and producer from Underground Resistance will play a mix of electronic Detroit techno and house music for the Detroit LIVE crowd using Technics 1200 turntables and Pioneer CJD2000s.
“I always feel the crowd, I go by the energy of the crowd,” said John Jammin Collins. “My firm belief is you give people what they want as a DJ. You can take them where you want them to go, and that’s a journey, a musical journey.”
Collins’ musical journey has spanned more than 30 years from techno’s infancy to its ascension as a global music genre.
Coincidentally, he started his musical journey one night during a student event at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
As an activities coordinator for student government, one of Collins’ responsibilities was to play records on a mobile system if a hired live band didn’t show up for a school dance. He didn’t have any aspirations of becoming a DJ.
“I wasn’t a DJ, I was playing records,” he said. “It was two turntables, it wasn’t my job.”
After finishing college and moving back home to Detroit, Collins attended a club one night, saw a woman DJing and decided to take it up as a part-time job. It was only supposed to last five years, but it didn’t.
“That was the plan, but apparently, I got pretty good at it,” he said. “I only worked three nights a week not making a whole lot of money.”
Collins started getting more gigs and eventually received residencies in some of Detroit’s most popular clubs. He had mix shows on WJLB FM 98 and WDRQ FM 93.1. His career continued to evolve as he started doing music production, releasing product and DJing in Detroit, across the U.S. and overseas.
Collins also was a booking agent whose roster included Detroit EDJs/producers such as Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Eddie Fowlkes, Underground Resistance, DJ Assault, Terrence Parker and many more.
“That’s how it happened,” he said. “One thing just happened after another, and doors continued to open.”
Collins also started a Detroit Regional Music Conference, served as a Billboard Magazine reporter for five years and was appointed to the Detroit Entertainment Commission, which advocates for local business and cultural activities in the city.
Today, Collins serves as a board member of the Detroit-Berlin Connection, which collectively promotes the growth of techno music in Detroit and Berlin, hosts “The Soul of Detroit” show on redbullradio.com and continues to DJ and produce through Underground Resistance.
“Underground Resistance is a political, educational and socially relevant label,” he said. “Our music speaks to many issues that affect Detroit and the world.”
Rah the Son Tells Detroit’s Sunny, Musical Stories
As one of Detroit’s rising hip-hop storytellers, Rahbi Hammond, or Rah the Son, enjoys sharing his personal Motor City experience through his latest album, “Sunny Detroit: The Story of + and -.”
“It’s a story about being part of something that’s bigger than you,” he said. “The + and – is relative. It’s really my perspective. The + and – is me in the Sunny Detroit, the story of Sunny Detroit. Sunny Detroit is what I hope for and what I look for in a city because I’m optimistic.”
Along with friend and producer, Sam Morykwas, Hammond captured that feeling while working on Rah the Son’s latest album, which includes several Detroit-based artists, Tart and Tim Schumack, and seeks inspiration from Midwest rap, think Eminem and Kanye West, and even Prince.
“Growing up, we both loved the same type of music,” Hammond said. “We were urban heads out in the suburban world.”
Hammond and Morykwas (also a bassist and musical director) plan to bring that hip-hop introspection and energy to their Detroit LIVE performance with Adam Laurie (guitarist), Troi Sharp (trombonist), John Denyer (trumpeter and performance artist), Erik Washington (drummer) and Scotty Meldrum (drummer).
“We try to blow the roof off tents, maybe some shoes off, cut some rugs,” Hammond said. “We really like to dance…we just want people to have fun. It’s a great celebration that we’re doing with the Heidelberg, and Tyree Guyton, and the people who he’s touched, and the neighborhoods and the community.”
Hammond has felt a strong sense of community in Detroit since he was a kid. Even though he grew up in Troy, Mich., he spent his summers in downtown Detroit on his dad’s boat and developed a strong sense of cultural awareness.
“It’s got a rhythm between being in the suburbs with my parents in Troy to staying and living in the downtown in the summer,” he said. “There was a different vibrancy downtown.”
That vibrancy inspired Hammond’s love of hip-hop music, encouraged him to write rap and poetry and ultimately led him to study theater at Wayne State University.
“I’ve been doing theater since I can remember,” he said. “That’s really where I get my practice and my tenure to know how to tell stories. That communicates with music because it’s such an emotional, visceral experience.”
Detroit LIVE Details
When: Saturday, Aug. 26 from noon to 8 p.m.
Where: The Heidelberg Project in Detroit’s McDougall-Hunt community at 3600 Heidelberg St.
Cost: FREE – RSVP here
The Detroit Live music lineup includes:
12 p.m. DJ Stacye J
12:30 p.m. Detroit Youth Volume
1:15 p.m. Anna Burch
2 p.m. Stevie Soul + Omar Aragones
2:45 p.m. Drummer B
3:30 p.m. Sheefy McFly
4:15 p.m. Belve
4:30 p.m. Open mic
5 p.m. Rah the Son
6 p.m. John Jammin Collins
7 p.m. Clear Soul Forces
Other Detroit LIVE events:
Free community workout
12 p.m. Detroit Body Garage with Terra Castro
12:45 p.m. Yoga with Yoga Dan Gottlieb
12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Michigan Science Center
House of Soul: Remix collage activity
Grassroots Detroit Bubble workshop and team building activities
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Breakdance workshop/demonstration with Maurice Archer of Geechi Crew
Local food vendors also will be available.
To learn more, visit the event’s website and Facebook page or the Heidelberg Project website.