One of them is a born-and-raised Seattleite and recent college graduate about to step back from the spotlight to take a trip around the world.
The other is a classical pianist turned MC with East Coast roots and an obsession with coffee.
Seattle-based rappers Sol, 23, and Katie Kate, 25, will make their mainstream debuts at this weekend’s Sasquatch Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre, and their rides to hip-hop stardom have just begun.
When did you start rapping?
I started rapping shortly after I started listening to rap. I probably wrote my first song when I was about 10 years old. I was fortunate enough to have a connection to get in the studio at a really young age, and started recording music at around 11 or 12. I started putting music out pretty much during my college years.
You’ve released all of your music as an independent artist. Is signing with a label something that has ever crossed your mind?
I have been approached by labels, but it’s never really gotten very far because I don’t really have much interest at this point in my career. I think (the) important thing for me is to keep building on what’s been working for me so far. I feel like what has worked for me so far is my music, and my sound, and I want to keep building on that. And I want to keep that control for as long as possible.
You are about to take some time off to travel as part of a fellowship you were awarded from the University of Washington. What’s that all about?
Just before I graduated I applied for and got this Honor Scholarship. It’s called the Bonderman Travel Fellowship. I’m leaving at the end of June, and I will be traveling around the world for about nine or 10 months – going to India, around Africa, South Africa, around South America and up through the Caribbean.
What’s the reasoning behind this itinerary?
Each person who got (the fellowship) gets to choose (his or her) own itinerary. These are all places that I’ve personally always wanted to go, but also places I researched. And this trip, it’s loosely based around music. And experiencing what role music has in different cultures.
Do you think you are taking a big risk in going on this trip when your career is really starting to take off?
It’s a real thing to think about. It’s something that I definitely considered at one point when I applied for the fellowship. And certainly when I got the fellowship. But this truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So no matter what happens with this moment here in my career, there’s no way I was going to be able to turn down something like this.
Your debut album, Yours Truly, placed high on both the iTunes hip-hop chart and the Billboard charts. What did that mean to you?
It’s forever a growing process. So hopefully this album was just a stepping stone. Just putting that album out was a huge thing for me because it was such a labor of love; it took me almost three years to make the album. I think it was a reminder that when people do believe in your music – even if it’s my core, growing following – you can still do something special. And you can get people’s attention.
What are you looking forward to most at Sasquatch?
I am really looking forward to the environment. And being around people who are completely encapsulated in the experience. I feel like I am a visitor to this experience, and I want to leave a positive impact on the people who show up and check out my set.
Do you have any new music in the works for your set at Sasquatch?
I have been working pretty intensely on new music since I’ll be gone for so long. I really want to have something I can leave people with. You can expect that I’ll do some new material at Sasquatch, (but) I can’t necessarily say how much at this point.
Are there any artists that you are looking forward to checking out?
I’m looking forward to seeing the Roots. I’m going to have to look at the calendar, to be honest, and see who all will be playing on my day, cause I’m trying to sneak away and catch some sets, but unfortunately my personal schedule that day is pretty hectic.
So what can people expect from you in the future?
Like I said, I’m working on new music. I’m not sure exactly, to what extent, or what kind of a project it’s going to be. You can (also) expect more live instrumentation from me, and less sampling. I play with a live band now, and as someone who appreciates live music, that’s one of the most exciting things that’s been going on. We have some cool things planned for Sasquatch.
When did you start rapping?
Well, it actually began in upstate New York. I listened to a ton of hip-hop, and I would rap kind of as a joke with my friends. But one time I actually called in to a radio station and left a rap for them, and they played it on the air. After that I was kind of hooked secretly.
You recently released your debut album, “Flatland.” How long was that in the works?
Oh man, many moons. It was like five years, essentially, because I was in school, trying to earn my classical piano degree, which takes up so much time and energy. And I was making tracks and making everything – you know, I make all my own beats and write my own songs and I rap everything. And I record them. So it takes me so much time to put everything together. And then one summer, I was, like, “OK. I need to get this done. I just need to buckle down and put it all together.”
Is working on all aspects of the production an important part for you?
I make all my own beats. Because I also did a lot of composition when I was in school. And I did a lot of electronic music in school. So I never really saw a need for other people to make my beats. I fiddle around with some from other producers, but it never really felt like my music, you know? It always felt like I was rapping over somebody else’s track. Which is fine, but it’s not my expression of myself. So, yeah, it’s always been important to me. Because creatively, it’s the only thing that really makes sense.
There seems to be a lot going on in regard to hip-hop in Seattle. Can you speak to that?
Well, I mean, Seattle is a very creative community. It always has been. And there has been a lot of support here for people who want to do things a little bit differently. And I think, for some reason, there’s been a little bit of renaissance here, hip-hop-wise. I know there was a teen dance ordinance that was passed a while ago that made it difficult to throw hip-hop shows, so it went kind of underground. And then around 2001 I think it kind of started resurfacing with, like, Blue Scholars and Common Market and stuff. And since then, it’s kind of evolved really rapidly, from just conscious hip-hop, community-oriented stuff, to like more pop-driven. And I think that’s awesome, and I think that happens because Seattle fosters that kind of creativity, and people, and encourages it.
Do you have any collaborative projects in the works?
Not as of yet. I’d be open to it. I’m kind of like a terrible collaborator. I just don’t play well with others; I’m such a control freak when it comes to my music. And this is an exaggeration, but I tend to not make music with other people because I have the ability to do it all myself. They have to have something that I definitely don’t have and can’t do. But hopefully, in the future, I will be able to collaborate with all of the wonderful and talented people in the scene.
What are you looking forward to at Sasquatch?
I’m just looking forward to the whole thing. I think it’s going to be a really cool experience. I’ve never played a festival before; I’ve never played anything of this magnitude before, so I’m like scared out of my mind and very excited. And I look forward to just sharing my music in a new way that I haven’t experienced before. And I have a new song I’m going to be doing at the festival too.
Are you having to change the way you perform for the festival setting?
Yeah, I mean, I do a lot of banter in my performances. I’m very, like, audience participation-oriented – which I’ve never really meant to be. I have this weird, stand-up comic from the ’90s vibe. I don’t know. But I kind of can’t do that (at Sasquatch) because there (will be) too many people. And I am going to be too far away and removed. So I kind if have to polish up my set in a different way that’s going to make more sense for that venue.
What can fans going to your Sasquatch set expect?
They can expect a damn good show. They can expect to have their socks blown right off of their feet (laughs).
Which artists are you excited to check out?
I mean, honestly, I’m just most excited to see my fellow rappers from Seattle. Metal Chocolates and Don’t Talk To The Cops and Fresh Espresso. I really want to see how they are in that space. (Beyond that) I haven’t really thought too much about it, because I am so focused on making sure I do a good job and have enough time to get everything done. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to catch something cool.
Do you have any big plans after Sasquatch?
I’m definitely working on new music. I’m always working on music. I think I need to make some – I don’t know – I kind of want to do something less formal than an album. But I am playing Bumbershoot, coming up at the end of the summer.