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Pushing the Envelope: Acid Souljah

It’s hard to compare Acid Souljah’s sound to anything you’ve heard before. That’s because his music literally doesn’t sound like anything else. From his heavy vocal effects to the mixing that sounds like you’re listening while on acid, his music is strikingly unique, and is steadily gaining recognition. Acid talks about the history behind Evil Plug and So Evil Boyz, interacting with supporters and haters, the new Soundcloud underground, the struggles of the mainstream music industry, and the future of his music and group.

Acid has been tapped into the underground scene for as long as he can remember, listening to underground legends like Goth Money, Sesh Hollow Waterboyz, Metro Zu, Raider Klan, Ocean Gang, and Lil B while he was selling drugs and making joke songs in middle and high school. Eventually, inspired by the underground he grew up with, he decided to pursue music seriously in 2019. Acid Souljah, along with his tongue-and-cheek style was born. Soon after, he started collaborating with producer Seepy and rapper Xhris2Eazy who were also creating in the same online spaces. Having formed a strong bond between each other, they decided to start a collective. “[Xhris] dropped a song called Evil Plug and we were thinking of a collective name, and that shit just stuck,” Acid recalls. “We were like, “let’s just call it Evil Plug, it kinda sounds like the shit we’re making, it sounds cool.”” And so, Evil Plug was formed.

Evil Plug’s sound was experimental, vivid, and dark- featuring heavy vocal effects, crazy mixes which often changed the pitch, tempo, and filter on songs, and unconventional yet charming production featuring heavy 808’s and fast paced yet catchy melodies. Their sound caught on, and more and more people wanted in on it. Nowadays, a quick YouTube search will yield hundreds of “Evil Plug type beats'' which Acid Souljah finds funny. It turns out there’s actually a lot of misconception about what Evil Plug actually is. Although a lot of people try to make the “Evil Plug sound,” Acid Souljah stresses that Evil Plug is a collective name, not a genre name. Evil Plug is strictly what the members of the collective make, not anything else.

Eventually, after some changes to the group and evolution as artists, they decided to rebrand Evil Plug to what it’s known as now, So Evil Boys (SEB). SEB currently consists of rappers Acid Souljah, Xhris2Eazy, Xaviersobased, and Y8, producers Seepy, Ss3bby, and MrCheezl, and artists Fardnem, Lu_uc, and K_thar_s. With a talented roster of up-and-coming creatives, Acid Souljah is excited for what’s to come for the collective.

Acid Souljah and SEB are already making a positive impact too. Acid Souljah recalls, “I’ve had a lot of people tell me that my music helps them with their mental health and shit, and that it inspired them to create music.” He’s excited that his music is helping and inspiring people, because that’s exactly what the underground he grew up with did for him. “The underground scene inspired me to create music, so when you tell me that I inspired you to make music or I'm helping you with XYZ problem, it means more to me than like 100,000 streams.” In fact, Acid has no problem expressing his excitement and gratitude towards listeners to reach out to him. In what seems like every conversation about him online, listeners agree that Acid is nothing but genuine and wholesome to them when they reach out. Acid actually gets a lot of messages saying “holy shit, you actually responded” to which he laughs and says that of course he did, because he’s a normal person just like anyone else. He’s not some celebrity; he sees his messages and loves chopping it up with listeners.

Acid explains that his friendly attitude towards his supporters is “Because it’s about making an impact on people’s lives. I just don’t wanna be some random dude from Texas that goes to college for a computer science degree and lives an unremarkable life.” At the end of the day, what really keeps Acid going is the positive impact he’s making on his listeners, and above all, that’s his favorite part about making music. “...that means more to me than any amount of money, clout, fame, or feature with my favorite rapper or DJ. At the end of the day, that’s the shit that makes me smile and keep going,” he says.

He speaks highly of his listeners too. “I feel like fan is a dirty word. To call someone a fan is kind of egotistical like, “oh you’re a fan of me”” says Acid. He’d much rather refer to his listeners as supporters because that’s what they’re doing. They’re taking a chance and supporting a small artist by listening to their music, and maybe even telling their friends about them as well. They’re reaching out to him and telling him that they like his music, and that he’s inspiring or helping them. The support of his listeners means the world to him, so he would never want to snub them by calling them fans. “A fan is someone that’s on your nuts. A dick-eater. And like a supporter is someone who’s like “dude I really fuck with your shit, I’m gonna share your song or tell you your song means a lot to me,”” he says. Acid stresses that he has a lot of love and appreciation for those who support him.

However, even with the growth that Acid Souljah and SEB have been getting for the past couple years, there are some unique problems that he faces as a creative because of his mostly online platform- the disconnect between him and his listeners through the screen. Since a lot of the emerging underground scene is happening online, it can be hard for some listeners to remember that the creatives on the other side of the screen are real people. Acid says that some people see 12,000 followers and a couple hundred thousand plays and think he’s a celebrity, even though he’s never even gotten recognized in real life. People often act weird online thinking that he’ll never see it; that he’s too large to notice. However, even for much larger artists in the underground, they usually see when someone is being a dickhead. When he first started, hate comments got under his skin, but through his years of creating and being in the online space, he’s learned that it’s just a normal part of being an artist, especially one who’s pushing the envelope like him. “You’ve got to learn to laugh it off. If an artist says they’ve never gotten mad about someone hating on them, they’re fucking lying.” Acid says.

The digital disconnect goes beyond just trolling and hate comments as well. It opens the door for clingy fans as well. Acid recalls when an especially clingy fan would nonstop try to call him after Acid opened their Instagram dm. After Acid blocked their account, his phone was blown up by the person’s second account with apologies and begs to unblock the original account. Acid decided to unblock them and was immediately met with more constant video call attempts. “Obviously, I'm down to chop it up with a fan, but being annoying is when you draw the line between being a supporter and being a fan,” he says. “A fan doesn’t know the limits of an artist and sees them as an entity, not a person. A supporter sees the artist as a fellow human being creating art.” Another weird interaction he recalled is when a fan sent him a message asking Acid to ship them a sheet of acid, among other requests for drugs. “Would you text a real drug dealer like that? Why would you text a random rapper like that? That’s like, so cringey and you’re gonna look at that when you grow up and be fucking embarrassed.” says Acid. However, even though some fans can be annoying and clingy, he doesn’t hold any resentment towards them because he recalls a time when he used to be that kind of fan. He understands that some people just don't know how to act when interacting with people online and they eventually grow out of it. The weird behavior that artists experience online is unfortunate, but it’s only a small negative compared to the exciting development of the new underground scene.

Acid Souljah is a part of the emerging contemporary Soundcloud underground scene, which is steadily becoming more and more prevalent in the zeitgeist of the new generation. “People were saying Soundcloud was dead a few years ago, heavy,” he recalls. “I saw a thing online recently that said that Soundcloud’s user base is bigger right now than it has been in the past few years and that’s largely in part to our scene and stuff.” He’s not wrong- Acid Souljah, SEB and many more contemporaries are using Soundcloud as the main platform for their music. More notably though, the new underground wave is mainly taking place on the internet instead of any geographic place, allowing for connection and collaboration like never before. In fact, the collaboration of artists who are thousands of miles away is a key aspect of this new scene. Many artists who are working together have never even met face to face, including Acid Souljah, who has never met in person with another member of SEB.

Even though the distance can be a challenge when it comes to efficiently communicating and getting projects done on time, they still work through it. Acid says that all of his projects come together with help from people from around the globe. Most recently before this interview, Acid and Octi collaborated on the much-anticipated EP

#‎2EVIL. The project took months to complete mainly because Acid is based in Houston and Octi is based in the Netherlands- not to mention the producers from around the world who worked on it. The end result is a five-track powerhouse which was well received by fans. Worldwide collaborations in this fashion used to be rare, but now they’re a defining part of what the underground is becoming.

The new rush of art and excitement for the scene is strikingly reminiscent of the old scene that a lot of these new artists grew up with. Acid says “I feel like the new underground is hitting the youth in the way the 2016 underground was hitting the youth. This year and next year, we’re really going to see this shit pop." It’s easy to see similarities between the 2016 underground and the current underground, because the artists of today grew up with the artists from back then, taking deep inspiration. They’re capturing the authentic energy and enthusiasm that the scene had back then and are coupling it with progressive new sounds that are pushing boundaries. Acid says that “The big thing about So Evil Boyz when me and Seepy and Xhris started it was kinda taking the old underground and shit, like Metro Zu, Goth Money, and Raider Klan, and meshing it with the new sound that you hear, with these crazy mixes and shit.” As this generation grows more and more tired of the repetitive sounds of the mainstream, they are turning towards the more authentic artists of the underground who are experimenting and evolving. This is why artists like Acid Souljah are gaining traction. It’s not just Acid though. He speaks highly of Xaviersobased, who he frequently collaborates with. “I’m not saying that I'm gonna be the biggest artist. If I was going to guess, I think Xavier might be one of the biggest artists for the next wave and stuff,” he says. “People really love his shit; it makes me so happy to see… I got a lot of love for bro. We got some hella cool shit on the way.” Xaviersobased is another prolific artist who’s making waves in the underground by pushing the envelope. “I was really hyped to drop that EP produced by him last year, Based Chronicles.” Acid, Xavier, and many, many more artists are shaping an exciting new underground.

With these new artists, a new wave of positivity and support is growing as well. The word “based” often comes up in the scene to describe this authenticity and kindness to others. Originally started by underground legend Lil B, based is finding a resurgence in modern conversations about music. Acid Souljah uses it for just about everything, including many of his mixtapes like Based Boy Billionaire, Based Healing, Based Man, and Based Chronicles. It’s all a part of paying homage to Lil B, who aimed to spread positivity and love through it. “The based shit is part of what makes the underground what it is, and I feel like it should be a staple for the rest of the underground. This is what makes modern underground what it is. If there’s a key rapper that influenced almost every rapper, it’s Lil B. People that deny that are stupid. Say what you want about the guy, but you can’t deny that” Acid says. Today, artists are reviving the word based to reclaim it from the alt-right, who coined “based and redpilled” to promote hate and intolerance. They hope to bring it back to its original meaning, which is being unafraid to be yourself and spreading positivity. Acid shouts out Xaviersobased and Tenkay for being some other artists who are working hard to revive the based movement.

Many names are being thrown around in attempts to describe this still very new sound and wave of artists. Acid Souljah often hears people try to classify his music as hyper-drill, or sigilkore. However, he has strong opinions about these new buzzwords that are being used to describe his sound. “Genres and shit are the most annoying part of music,” says Acid. “I hate people that are nerdy and talk about “I listen to this many genres.” Shut the fuck up and enjoy the music.”

He feels that it’s a bad idea to put labels on the new scene so early in its development, because it's constantly evolving and changing. Trying to box people into particular genres or categories would be doing their art a disservice. A particular genre that listeners often incorrectly group Acid into is sigilkore. “I’m on the sigilkore playlist on Soundcloud, but I've never made a sigilkore song in my life,” he says. As it stands, he prefers that there isn’t a label to classify the kind of music So Evil Boyz makes, at least for now. However, if there’s one term he’s heard that he hopes sticks into the future, it’s Based Revival. He feels that the based movement pioneered in the 2010’s by Lil B was so impactful to the underground, and to rap as a whole that it deserves to be resurrected. “That’s why I push the based shit so much. And you can even see so many other rappers pushing it. Xavier, Tenkay, Xhris, even Joeyy has old videos of him online doing the cooking dance and shit,” he says.

Despite the very promising growth of the new underground movement, they’re facing a very real struggle. “The biggest problem we face in our community [is that] we get snubbed by labels and bigger corporations,” Acid says. “They’re pushing a whitewashed, gentrified version of Soundcloud that’s bullshit. You look at these blogs, these labels that are signing these artists, they’re not signing people that the people really care about.” Despite these new artists having large, authentic fanbases, labels still decide to sink large sums of money into artists who are barely involved with the underground instead. Artists who they deem “marketable” who engineer their music to go viral on social media. Acid feels strongly about these industry backed artists, saying “These guys are so industry bro. Like, they have a million agents and people behind them pushing them and making their music go viral. If you think these songs organically become memes, they don't… These labels are paying these meme pages to make stupid memes, so these rappers have a turnout of 250 people on the small stage upstairs of a venue. If you want to live in a fantasy world and act like you’re up because of that, good for you, but I know that’s bullshit.” He says that “More likely than not, we’re the real artists, you know. We’re the ones who aren’t industry plants. We’re the ones that are making this shit at our mom’s house or making this shit at a random trap house or making this shit in an apartment slaving away at a 9-5 job so we can afford to make music on our days off.” A lot of the people who are being funded by labels today and are rising through the ranks of the industry used to be mutuals with Acid and his friends too. But there’s a clear reason why they’re successful in the mainstream, and other artists are still underground. He says that “The difference between us is that they got label connections, industry connections, they got rich parents, they were nepotism babies, and we weren’t.”

This sentiment isn’t just a matter of missed opportunities and growth. Acid is feeling the effects in real time. “I got treated like shit at my last concert. They kicked us out after our set. I got a snarky email for trying to get paid the day they said they were going to pay me,” he says. Him and many other artists outside the establishment are being treated with disrespect and written off as randoms because they don't have industry ties. “I want to see the underground get the real flowers they deserve,” Acid says. Even with the challenges they face with finding recognition in the mainstream, Acid Souljah and So Evil Boyz are working relentlessly to support the scene where the industry wont.

Acid is excited for the future of SEB. “The big goal for SEB 2023 and for my music is to get it out of the underground and on a bigger scale, at least in a way that we can make it our main career,” he says. “I don’t want to be crazy famous and rich. That would be cool, but the main goal is to make it a career.” They’re already making moves, recently adding artist k_thar_s and producer Sb3bby to embolden their already powerful creative force. They’ve also started doing more things together as a collective and putting more work into the SEB platforms.

Although growth is important, what Acid Souljah really wants to do with SEB in its lifetime isn’t just growth. In fact, it’s much more ambitious. “So Evil Boyz is supposed to be palatable and accessible to the mainstream listener, so that they can get into the underground,” he says. “Like the same way that I heard Bones on an A$AP Rocky album and started listening to Sesh Hollow Water Boyz, they can hear me on blank big rapper album and start listening to all sorts of underground shit.” Acid wants to help grow the underground, and get more listeners involved. “That’s the goal. To put on for the scene and shit because people that gatekeep are lame.”

He works relentlessly to keep opening more people up to the community. He loves chopping it up with listeners because he wants them to have good experiences with it, and he genuinely cares about the community who keeps it going. He wants to inspire the listeners just like the old underground inspired him. “I’m sure that all the OGs like Black Kray and shit listen to the music that’s coming out now and how it’s influenced by them, and they’re super proud of themselves,” Acid says. “That’s how I wanna feel. Like I helped inspire a movement. I don't even wanna feel like I'm on the forefront. I just want to know that I was a part of it. Like that people will have my name in the discussion. That’s what it’s about.” If there’s one thing he wants to do, it’s make an impact. He wants the underground that he’s helping grow to long outlive him and inspire future generations of artists and listeners. “Hopefully kids 200 years from now will say, “Yo Acid Souljah and Xhris2Eazy were setting waves in 2020 and 2022 and we’re still using flanger like they did,”” he says. It’s not about being rich and famous. It’s about being a part of history.


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