Atlanta emcee SuNI is striving to make sure her newfound voice will be heard on a platform that it deserves. Her first mixtape Back to Basics has been living on DatPiff since 2009 and consists of freestyles over "Ignorant Shit" and "I'm Goin' In," while she noticeably performs with the energy of an upstart. It's now been two years since SuNI's last project A Nigga Moment, a Boondocks-inspired mixtape that saw her taking on the woes of being from the A and, generally, just being Suni MF Solomon. Eight years and three mixtapes since her debut, the 26-year-old recognizes the value of hard work and believing in one's self. With her eyes set on the ultimate prize of success, SuNI is ready to give it all that she's got and immerse herself in the art of music.
So SuNI, what are you working on now?
That's been a question I've been asking myself every day. Sometimes I don't know what the f--k I'm working on 'til I play a beat and it spills out. As of late, I've been trying to figure this sh-t out – I call it "quarter-life crisis." I've been doing a lot of songwriting for other artists, which has pushed me to want to get out the box I feel I've placed myself in by just being a rapper when I'm much more than that. I'm an artist. I want to do more musically and use my talent as a release, musically and emotionally. I want to represent myself as an artist and a person now. I'm working on my truth and facing some of my realities so my music can help others.
I know I'm definitely dropping a project – something short, three to four records - and I know I want it to be my absolute best work so far. Short and sweet. I'm excited to see what I have in me. My main focus right now though, I'd have to say, is solidifying a placement this year so I can fund my rap career and say 'f--k this 9 to 5.' I'm working on quitting my job [laughs].
Quarter life crisis? That's interesting. How did that come about?
Man. I think just being at it for so long, breaking some ground, but [to have] nothing fall through completely how you want it, can make you question yourself, your moves, and your thoughts. It's like, if I'm as dope as I really think I am, how come I'm not where I want to be? I feel the growth in me as a person and as an artist now especially since I've started writing for other artists. I just feel like I gotta dig deeper than I've ever before. Cause you don't fail until you quit which I can never see myself doing, you know?
Rob Hansen // REVOLT
You mentioned writing for other artists. Can you name any of them? Is Suni MF Solomon behind any hits?
[laughs] Well, you know? I've been blessed to work with John "$K" McGee and his team, A - Major, and Troy Taylor. It's been a dope and surreal experience hanging with these Grammy-nominated producers and songwriters. I haven't penned anything huge yet. I've got a really good feeling 'cause these guys have worked with all of R&B! Trey Songz, Eric Bellinger, and August Alsina, so I know I'm with like-minded people and when we're in that studio great shit just happens. Plus, I wrote my goals out for the remainder of the year so I'm grinding this shit the f--k out!
Dope. Now, you said that you're digging deeper than before. Can you elaborate?
Digging deep, like, sometimes I feel myself talking about money, cars, clothes, and hoes – a lot. And I want to make life-changing music and dig deeper and be real with myself and acknowledge my problems, heal myself while healing others. Music saves lives and I wanna be one of those artists. And I got songs where I'm deep and I wanna get deeper with the whole process of recording I just want to approach music a little differently. I feel like Kanye [laughs] maybe it's some Gemini sh-t. Maybe the twins are fighting for attention.
We often forget music is therapeutic. When did you realize you wanted to better your music and how has it made a difference in your life and work?
We definitely tend to forget. I feel like sometimes we associate music with having a good time and turning up, but now it's speaking to the people that need to be spoken to. With the way music is going, the realness is back. The people want to know you're human and go through sh-t too. I definitely realized this when I started writing for other artists. I was in the studio with Troy and he made me question what I was writing. "Who's your audience?" "Who do you see singing along with this?" "Does it make sense?"
A song is like a story: you need a beginning, a middle, and an end. You need a dope ass climax. I'm putting my mind in that place. [I'm] writing for people that have Grammys and have been places that I've dreamed of going. I look at shows, people, relationships, and everything. I read [a person's] reactions and how they express themselves. What words do people use to express themselves? You know, just deeper than my "oh, let me grab this word 'cause it rhymes and work it in."
Rob Hansen // REVOLT
So what you're working on now, how different is it from your first mixtape A Nigga Moment: Season One?
It's still gonna be Suni MF bringing dope flows to the table, that'll never change. What's gonna change is my involvement. I wanna be more involved in the production side versus someone just sending me beats and I rap over them. I wanna really collaborate on a dope sound with someone and produce something people have never heard from me. I'm definitely gonna be doing some more melodic sounds and some uptempo tracks as well. I'm happy with my flow, and now I can say it finally took forever to find the perfect voice for myself and be comfortable with it. And just more involvement from me is number one. I've been blessed to meet some dope producers that's ready to get this sound up and poppin' so I'm excited.
Are there any artists, mainstream or underground, that has influenced your creative output?
Mainstream I gotta say Lil' Wayne, he is definitely my favorite rapper and the main reason I rap. You couldn't go nowhere without hearing Wayne on someone's ringtone. Drake is a favorite and a big inspiration [in terms of] how vulnerable he is with his music and how he digs deep!
I'm inspired by a lot of my homies like Clay James, Messiah Da Rapper, iNK, Blanco "The Ear", Dasanga, $K, man I could go on all day. I surround myself around these people 'cause they inspire my moves, they inspire my business sense in the industry and definitely inspire my work ethic. When you're around people that work hard it makes you go hard that's why I have them in my life. I can't be around niggas that are stagnant and not doing sh!t cause they're gonna look at me crazy because I'm pursuing my dreams and they just letting their [dreams] go to waste. I've been in friendships like that and it's just not healthy, you know, so I make sure the niggas around me are grounded and know what they want out of life.
My mom always told me "plan your future or your friends will plan your failure." Not intentionally but if you don't know what the f--k going on with your life other people will find some bullshit to put you in. I'm more inspired by friends than mainstream artists though because it's beautiful seeing the growth of your friends up close and being around that shit solidifies that you're up next too. You are who you hang around with.
You mentioned that you've been rapping since 7. What made you want to pick up the pen? And what birthed Suni MF Solomon?
Since seven. I was mad shy though. I used to rap in my mirror on some lovey-dovey shit. I was a sap bro [laughs]. I wrote mainly about crushes. I did a lot of freestyling. Then, I started writing my raps down at like 10-11 years old. I went through hella names, one time I called myself Minnie Mouse. Don't ask me why please. I don't even think I have an answer [laughs]. Me rapping was something I always kept to myself, and the singing too, because I was so shy and music was something so sacred for me and sometimes a person's opinions can make or break you.
I grew up in the hood man. A lot of niggas ain't have dreams so I didn't share mine with a lot of niggas 'cause they'll try to make it seem like it's impossible to reach.
I remember the first time I linked with my in-house producer, BobxWeave, he told me to rap. I handed [him] a piece a paper with my rap on it 'cause I was too shy to just say it aloud. In 8th grade I ran off stage at the talent show – It's been a long journey to be secure in my own skin. It wasn't 'til I got kicked out of my old high school and started a new school for me to embrace myself, my sexuality, my voice, and my dreams. I made a video on Facebook of me rapping and tagged students that went to North Atlanta. After I did that, the homie Curtis Williams (of Two9), came up to me and was like "you that chick that was rapping on Facebook?" So he like was the first to rock with me. Hangin' with Curtis in high school taught me a lot and just overall helped me become fearless and f--k it. I mean I was hanging with one of the popular kids in high school so I had to wear my coolness on my sleeve. I met Sonny Digital before the "Racks on Racks" success. Sonny was the first n---a we seen really really, really blow the f--k up! That shit was inspiring to us, especially being like 18 years old, you know.
So, it's safe to say Suni MF Solomon was birthed at North Atlanta when Suni Solomon stopped being so damn scared of releasing her star power.
That's actually really dope. And Suni Solomon is your name, correct? Why do you think it's important for artists to be true to themselves?
Rob Hansen // REVOLT
Suni Solomon is my real name. I kept my real name cause my name is like a nickname and when I was in kindergarten, I was like, "I want people to know it's me and I made it baby!"
Being true to yourself is very important, man. It's already a f-cked up industry that I want to be in so something about this sh-t gotta be real and you gotta be real with yourself so you know what bullshit you will or won't take. You gotta stand for something or fall for anything.
How has Atlanta supported you in your evolution?
I love Atlanta. I couldn't imagine growing up and starting my music anywhere else. It's all politics in this shit but it's also timing, ya know? There's so many talented people that live here it's about what you make with it. I definitely believe that. Atlanta has always supported me with booking me and all that good stuff, of course, and when you're an artist and pursuing shit like dreams sometimes it's never enough 'cause once you reach one goal you're happy as fuck. But you gotta remember there's five more goals to attempt and concur.
What's the rest of 2017 looking like for Suni MF Solomon?
It's really looking good. Just going to the studio. One of my goals is to record 100 songs by the end of this year so I'm excited to reach that! And just expect new looks, new music, new visuals. I've teamed up with a very dope videographer, Jaye Christopher Films, and we've been bringing my music to life. So, a lot of new visuals are in the works!
I know I asked this before, but as a female in the game, is there any particular rapper who set a career model that you admire?
I would definitely have to say Queen Latifah – just how she's able to do it all and never put herself in a box. [She] went from rapping to acting to a Cover Girl, like, that's big and I admire her story and where she came from.
What would you like to impart on fans who are following you?
I just want the fans to know, that no matter when you feel like you got nothing, get lost in the music. There's a song for every feeling, every word. Follow your dreams, it's hard but everything is hard when you first start doing something. And follow your heart. Be true to you. I feel that's most important because it's so easy to get caught up in social media but everything that's for you is for you and you only, so stay at it. Music saves lives.