When the time comes to begin crafting another song, Savage Souls' Fortune the Iron Mic Mangler and Kae G the Original Seed turn to Jesus. Not the actual Son of God, mind you. We're talking about Red Jesus Studios, the local hip-hop band's home base, the place where they are working on their forthcoming debut album, Ill Raps and Fitted Caps. It's also Kae G's home.
"It ain't nothing but two bedrooms in my house. One's a sound booth and one's a mixing room," Kae G says. "The mixing room is the same place where everything gets mixed and the same place where I make most of the beats, all covers get designed, videos get edited, everything."
And while Savage Souls has scored more than their fair share of gigs around town — at places like Oasis, Cha Cha's, and the now-defunct Jimbo's Lounge — they'll be the first to admit that the Holy City is not hip-hop heaven. "It's pretty horrible, to be honest with you," Fortune says. "There are not enough real hip-hop artists around here. It's not a true hip-hop scene. There are a lot of rappers and people who try to copy what's on the radio because they think that's what you do."
This point was driven home by a Critics' Pick in last week's Best of Charleston Issue. In it, we noted that Savage Souls was one of the many Holy City hip-hop acts that have made a name for themselves on sites like ReverbNation, but who the town's music scene seemingly ignores. However, Kae G admits that there are probably quite a few Charleston hip-hop artists that even they aren't aware of. After all, they know what it's like to be hiding in the shadows. While Savage Souls first joined forces in 2001, it wasn't until 2007 that they released their first collection, The Tortured Souls E.P.
"For a long time, we didn't do much, just because the venue situation in Charleston is horrendous," Kae G says. "Venues are tough. Everybody wants a jam band, a party band, or a DJ."
He adds, "It's almost like the real hip-hop heads are spread so far thin that it's hard to get them to come out" unless there is a national act on the bill.
One challenge that Savage Souls faces is winning over promoters who are afraid to book a hip-hop show. "It's hard to get promoters to grasp the difference between a true hip-hop show and like a Lil Jon-esque, let's get in fights, bring a bunch of guns, and throw chairs around the building [show]," Kae G says. "But once you can get them to grasp that, they're much more open to the shows." And Savage Souls has found a receptive audience at Oasis, where they're performing this Monday with the Wu-Tang Clan's Cappadonna, and at Cha Cha's, where they were a part of a bill that included viral hip-hop sensation Mac Lethal.
Savage Souls is currently finishing up their long-gestating debut disc, Ill Raps and Fitted Caps, an album they've been working on since at least 2011. However, all of this talk about a debut album is also a bit of a misnomer. See, Savage Souls already have a full-length collection out there, 2012's The Fitting, and truth be told, it's a stellar disc that is far more polished than a typical mixtape. In fact, The Fitting combines the best of old school, hard-hitting rap and today's lyrically challenging indie hip-hop. However, the release of Ill Raps and Fitted Caps is just around the bend. "It keeps changing. It's finally been whittled down to what it's going to be," Kae G says. "A lot of the tracks that ended up on The Fitting was early stuff. Some of that was solo stuff for an album that we just ended up adding things to. That was the beginning of the new album."
As it stands now, Savage Souls have chosen to release Ill Raps and Fitted Caps as a 10-track, seven-song EP, produced in part by Kae G and DJ Icirus, the band's third member. Fortune says, "We just wanted to have the best of the best. Make sure it was right before we put it out. In the meantime, we've been cranking out projects to keep people interested."
Which is where Fortune's All Day mixtape comes. The 27-track collection was produced by Kae G and Charlotte-based rapper Remo Williams. As expected, Kae G makes a few appearances.
However, some of reason for the delay of Ill Raps and Fitted Caps just might have to do with how a hip-hop album is recorded and how a rock disc is recorded. After all, a rock band often hammers out songs live — whether during practice or on stage — whereas a hip-hop act usually crafts an album entirely in the studio. "I think the process works in reverse compared to a lot of rock songs," Kae G says. "It's almost like we do the track for a potential album or a project and then later once we decide we're going to incorporate it into a set, then we start deciding what are the important parts, how is it going to translate live."
As a member of the rap metal band, E.O.D., Fortune has experienced those differences firsthand. "We'll be jamming on something," he says about his rock 'n' roll gig. "The music comes first and then we come up with the lyrics afterwards."
Kae G and Fortune expect Ill Raps and Fitted Caps to be completed sometime in May.