Soul II Soul
Soul II Soul
Contemporary dance group, record company executives
In the late 1980s Soul II Soul added their name to the impressive list of British music revolutionaries. Fusing influences ranging from Caribbean dub and reggae to West African drumbeats to American R&B and jazz, originator Jazzie B formed Soul II Soul as a venue for a variety of rotating musicians to join in performing in his new style of dance music. “We’re not a band” Jazzie B told Steve Bloom in Rolling Stone, “we’re a concept.”
The Soul II Soul collective doesn’t have a fixed lineup of musicians or just one lead singer. The focus of the group comes from the songwriting, production, and arrangements of Jazzie B and the motto: “A happy face, a thumpin’ bass, for a loving race.” “Soul II Soul is a trademark,” Jazzie B explained to Robert Sandall in another issue of Rolling Stone. “The idea is that we cut the tracks and then feature various artists and musicians.”
Jazzie B was born in Great Britain after his parents had migrated there from Antigua. He was educated at Holloway Boys Secondary School in London, England, and started working as a DJ when he was 11 years old. While in school, Jazzie B met vocalist Philip “Daddae” Harvey, and in 1982 they began offering their services to the emerging dance club scene in England.
Under the name Soul II Soul, Harvey and Jazzie B provided sound systems and DJ work throughout London. Eventually they became major event organizers and moved on to their own warehouse raves held mostly at the Paddington Dome, under the King’s Cross arches in London. They initiated the “Funki Dred” lifestyle that combined British, Caribbean, African, and African American influences. By the mid-1980s Soul 11 Soul had opened their own store in Camden, London, where they sold clothes, sound equipment, and records. The shop quickly evolved into a hub for musicians on the growing British black music scene.
In 1985 Nellee Hooper, a member of the mixing crews Massive Attack and the Wild Bunch, rented Soul II Soul equipment for a performance in London. Hooper and Jazzie B ended up arguing over which one of them should hold the DJ post. The exchange resulted in the two becoming friends, and Hooper joined the Soul II Soul collective.
The following year Soul II Soul established a solid Sunday night gig at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden, London. They used the temporary permanence to develop their club, events, and sound system company. As their businesses grew, Soul 11 Soul recorded a demo
For the Record …
Selected members include Jazzie B (born Beresford Romeo, January 26, 1963, in Great Britain, of Antiguan parents), founder, leader, producer, DJ, rapper; Melissa Bell, vocals; Penny Ford, vocals; Philip “Daddae” Harvey, DJ/vocals; Nellee Hooper, producer/arranger; Charlotte Kelly, vocals; MarciaLewis, vocals; Kym Mazelle, vocals; Courtney Pine, saxophone; Sensi (born Nikkolai Daniel), vocals; Caron Wheeler, vocals.
Formed as a promotion and production company, 1982; developed into a collective with revolving musicians, 1987; signed with 10 Records, a subsidiary of Virgin Records, 1987; released U.K. debut, Club Classics Volume One (released in the U.S. as Keep On Movin’), Virgin Records, 1989; founded Funki Dred Records, 1991.
Selected awards 1989’s Keep On Movin’ won three American Music awards, four British DMC Dance awards, three Soul Train awards, and received Grammy awards for the best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocal for “Back to Life” and best R&B instrumental performance for “African Dance.”
Addresses: Record company —Virgin Records, 338 North Foothill Rd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.
featuring the song “Fairplay,” which garnered them a recording contract with 10 Records, a subsidiary of Virgin Records, in 1987.
A year later, they moved to the Fridge Club in Brixton, London, and used the venue to test their musical composites on the dance floor. Jazzie B and several other members of the group became involved in the local pirate radio station movement. Jazzie B even hosted his own show on KISS-FM, a station that eventually became legal. As their popularity grew, they opened yet another store in Tottenham Court Road, London.
Continuing their recording pursuits, Soul II Soul released their U.K. debut Club Classics Volume One on Virgin Records in 1989. The first single, “Keep On Movin’,” featuring the vocals of Caron Wheeler, reached Number Five on the U.K. charts; the album hit Number One. Virgin America released Club Classics in the U.S. under the name Keep On Movin’, and it sold more than a million copies. By the end of the year, however, Wheeler had left the group to pursue a solo career.
Keep On Movin’ won three American Music awards, four British DMC Dance awards, three Soul Train awards, and received Grammy awards for the best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocal for “Back to Life” and best R&B instrumental performance for “African Dance.” Before the release of Soul II Soul’s sophomore effort, Jazzie B, Hooper, and Harvey developed the Silent Productions company, Soul II Soul Visions video and film company, a fan club, and a talent agency. They even had their own record company in the works.
Volume II: 1990—A New Decade was released on Virgin Records; it debuted at Number One in the U.K. and reached Number 21 in the States. Soul II Soul created a different type of organization with their second album. “We’re still using musicians as an architect would use different tradesmen for different tasks,” Hoop-ertold Sandall in Rolling StoneaiXer the album’s release. “But this time there are only two featured artists: [saxophonist] Courtney Pine and [singer] Kym Mazelle. The rest are all signed to the Soul II Soul label. All these people will have records out before the end of the year. The new album is more like a sampler for the new label.” Their record label, Funki Dred Records, began business in 1991 as a joint venture with Motown Records.
Before the release of Volume III: Just Right in 1992, Hooper left the group to pursue a career as an arranger/producer. The third album reflected some other changes, too. Jazzie B introduced the use of male vocalists for the first time, including Rick Clark, Kofi, and Richie Stephens. “As soon as people think they have deciphered the entire Soul II Soul vibe, my goal is to add something unexpected,” Jazzie B told Larry Flick in Billboard. Another surprise came in the return of Caron Wheeler on vocals for the single “Take Me Higher.”
In 1995 the Soul II Soul message continued with the release of Volume V: Believeon Virgin Records. “We’ve been sitting back to watch—with interest—all that’s happened to music,” explained Jazzie B in the group’s record company biography, “’cause since we started, there’s been a real explosion of genres, which is very healthy. Getting a fresh take on our style is very important, and that’s what Believe is all about.”
With plans to spread their message of community within a hybrid of musical styles, Jazzie B explained his view on the success of Soul II Soul to Flick in the Billboard interview. “I am fortunate to hear so often how the Soul II Soul concept has brought joy and inspiration to people. It is an occasionally overwhelming feeling of power that must never be abused. It’s meant to be a happiness vibe—and that’s how I hope it will stay.”
Keep On Movin’, Virgin America, 1989.(Club Classics Volume One in England)
Volume II: 1990—A New Decade, Virgin, 1990.
Volume III: Just Right, Virgin, 1992.
Volume V: Believe, Virgin, 1995.
Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, Billboard Books/ABC- CLIO, 1991.
Billboard, May 20, 1989; October 7, 1989; September 4, 1990; May 16, 1992.
New York, June 25, 1990.
New York Times, May 27, 1990; August 13, 1990.
People, July 2, 1990; October 23, 1995.
Rolling Stone, September 7, 1989; December 14-28, 1989; June 28, 1990; July 12-26, 1990; May 28, 1992; November 2, 1995.
Stereo Review, July 1992. Vogue, August 1989.
Wilson Library Bulletin, September 1989; September 1990.
Additional information for this profile was taken from Virgin Records press material, 1995.
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