AOTW - Soce The Elemental Wizard
I’ll admit it, I probably should have been aware of Soce (pronounced So-Say) The Elemental Wizard a while ago. He’s a part of the NYC hip-hop scene and we have a lot of friends in common. Ironically, it was Iowa’s own Coolzey who, in a way, introduced us. During the 12 week run of Coolzey songs on this site one of them, week ten’s “Graduation Day,” was produced by Soce. Soce tagged me in a Facebook post about it, and alakazam, suddenly I was introduced to the wild world of Soce The Elemental Wizard. This week I caught up with him to find out more about that wild world, including his love of wizardry, how being openly gay has affected the way he’s been received within hip-hop, and how he scored the best website name on the planet.
Adam Bernard: Why don’t you start everyone off with a brief history of the universe... or at least a brief history of Soce The Elemental Wizard? Where are you from and what led you to music?
Soce: I grew up in New Hampshire and I've lived and performed here in New York City for over seven years now. I've had hip-hop in my blood ever since my sister gave me a fresh mixtape that included a track called “Freedom of Speech” by Above the Law. That particular song was a catalyst that pushed me into the world of philosophies and frustrations expressed with lyrical versatility that we call rap music. I've been a musician all my life. I grew up singing, began violin lessons when I was four, and have since played trombone, piano, guitar, bass and numerous other instruments, as well.
Adam Bernard: You are very open about your sexuality. What are some of the positive things that have come from this?
Soce: A few years ago Sirius Shade 45 was looking to do a track called “Gay Gay Gay,” a parody of the second verse of the Hurricane Chris single “Ay Bay Bay,” and they turned to me to create it. They also created an entire gay rap competition that I competed in and subsequently won. More recently, Prince Paul invited me to perform a gay rap pop song on Negroes on Ice, an upcoming album he's creating with his son DJ Paul Fresh. I've recorded it for him and I'm excited for the album to drop. Prince Paul also starred in a recent episode of my web series Math Problems.
Adam Bernard: Obviously there’s more than a little homophobia in hip-hop. Being that you’re so open about being gay, do you feel that’s shut any doors that would have been open to you otherwise?
Soce: Not one bit. Even if I wasn't gay I'd still be a nerdy, middle class, white, Jewish, well educated guy, which still doesn't fit into the normal hip-hop archetype. Then again, there are a fair amount of white, Jewish, presumably middle class rappers who have achieved decent success, such as the Beastie Boys, Scram Jones, J.R. Rotem, Scott Storch, The Alchemist, Ill Bill, and Rabbi Darkside, so there's hope for me yet. Basically, you work with the cards that you are dealt. When people see a rapper take to the stage, they want to see someone who has incredible skills, and they want to see someone who keeps it true to who they really are on the inside. I think that's much more important than who they are sleeping with.
Adam Bernard: Are you looking to break down some walls within hip-hop, and perhaps America, or do you really just want to rhyme and if that other stuff happens it’ll be a nice bonus?
Soce: My main goal is to teach people to be confident with who they are. When I finish a show, and someone comes up to me and tells me that they had a blast doing the Internet Treasure Quest dance with their friends, that makes me happy to know that we all shared a moment making complete fools of ourselves, and we enjoyed it. I want people to realize that you never have to succumb to bullies and let them force you to act in any way that you're not comfortable being, just so that you can be more "popular." Also, there are over 100 gay rappers out there, so I'm not the only one fighting the good fight. For more info on all of us, please go to OutHipHop.com.
Adam Bernard: I know you actually cover a wide variety of subjects with your work. Hit me with some of them.
Soce: Some of the other subject matters I discuss include awkward social situations, being lazy, pirates, video games, and how much I love my microwave oven.
Adam Bernard: You perform in a wizard’s hat. When did the world of wizardy become a part of your life?
Soce: I've always been a fan of RPGs (role playing games) starting with Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior for the NES. During my senior year in college I somehow managed to play and beat just about every single SNES RPG out there, and let me tell you, it was so worth it. I'm not strong enough to take my foes on directly as a warrior, so instead I use my intelligence to take them on with powerful hip-hop spells. To be honest, I rarely perform in my wizard regalia these days. I mostly save it for very special shows, such as well-paying college gigs.
Adam Bernard: What makes your wizardry “elemental” wizardry? (shout out to my former employer, Elemental Magazine)
Soce: I am a master of the four elements: Earth, Water, Wind and Fire. My strongest element is fire, because I am a gay man and therefore obviously very flaming... he said jokingly.
Adam Bernard: Are you a fan of Harry Potter, or do you have beef with him?
Soce: Harry's cool, but if I were his classmate, Vincent Crabbe's the one I'd be going after, because I've always been into guys who are big and strong.
Adam Bernard: Finally, how the heck did you land the website name GreatHipHop.com? Were you like the first person ever on the internet?
Soce: I originally used socetew.com as my website, which is short for Soce The Elemental Wizard, but that was a bit hard to say and spell when I did radio interviews, so I decided to use GreatHipHop.com instead. I guess I was just lucky that no one else had thought of it yet in 2004.