Creative Process: The Making of Soul Revival 3

By @TrueGodImmortal 

I've finally arrived. After all these years of scribbling in a college ruled notebook, studio sessions, eagerly finding production, crafting albums, and much more, I'm retiring from solo music. I know, it feels like I'm just getting started right? Well, to be honest, I have been officially doing it for 5 years, but in general, I've been writing and making music for the better part of 16 years now. As a young artist trying to figure out where he belonged, I set goals for myself: I wanted to make a double album eventually, make a trilogy of some sort, a concept album and something musically cinematic. Then if I could manage to get those done, I'd retire from music. I mean, much like sports, when you reach all your goals, why stick around and water down your legacy? My dream was never to make a platinum album, but rather see those who supported my music  really believe in it and enjoy it. I've more than accomplished this goal now and I've been told by many that I'm in their top 5 MCs and that I have a flawless catalog. What better way to go out than to complete two of my goals in one? A double album while completing a trilogy. Why not? So, it's with great pleasure that I present the creative process behind my final solo album, my first double album, and the end of the Soul Revival saga. We'll go into the whole behind the scenes process of each song, what brought this whole album about, and what motivated the lyrics and topics. Let's get into it.

I had just finished work on Root For the Villain. It was around August 2015. I sat in DAR Studios relaxed and seemingly relieved that I no longer had to keep myself within the confines of this cinematic album. I had the freedom to essentially make whatever I wanted to make. It was on this same day that as I had just finished RFTV, I jumped up and uploaded a beat and started working on it. This would turn into the song "Kingdom" on The Road To SR3 project. It was a brief freestyle and a hook that made a reference back to my first ever solo mixtape "The Immortal Kingdom". After that, I kept recording and recording, and for some reason, I was getting this vibe that I had unfinished business. There was a large portion of my life that hadn't been thoroughly discussed in my music which went against my entire M.O. as an artist. It felt like I hadn't truly picked up where Soul Revival 2 left off. Sure, 371, Pursuing Happiness and Root For the Villain all followed that album, but there's pieces missing. 371 is about the whole time period that my daughter was born through the moment her mother picked up and left town with her against my wishes. That was 2012-2013.

Pursuing Happiness never really spoke on the fallout or anything that truly happened of my time in North Carolina, the aftermath of my family and the changes that occurred with them, my mother's health and how important she is to me, or the true changes in the relationships and situations I was involved in. Root For the Villain touched more on it lyrically, but it was just giving you the motivation for the evil and the true reason why I arrived to the villain point. There was no deep rhyme or reason and I knew I had to provide that in some way. I was losing my inspiration for making music and I felt like taking a music hiatus or retiring would be good for me. Thus, I thought, if this is the end of an era for me, why not go out the same way I came in? And why not do a double album while I'm at it to complete all of my goals. As I sat in the studio with a cup in my hand trying to gather my thoughts, I knew this was something I had to the do. I set out to create something special. I think I accomplished that goal. Separating the album into 3 chapters and 2 discs, I not only created a double album, but I created a story. A film. This Is Soul Revival 3. Let's get into it.

The Album

Act 1: Moments Of Reflection

*1. This Is Revival (Intro)

-This was simple. I had set out to capture the feel of the previous intros on the last 2 Soul Revivals. I started off with a soulful yet knocking boom bap beat and just put some of my free verse lyrics down to paint the picture and welcome the listener to this experience. I start the song off like I've started off every single True God album, posing the question "they saying True, what's good?", and this sets the tone as always. It leads into a 2nd part of the intro over a more somber soulful yet jazzy production and alludes to the impending retirement, as I spit the lyrics of "thinking about retirement now on my Black Mamba shit". The reference to the recently retired legend Kobe Bryant will be tied in again later on in this article. You'll see I'm sure. This starts off the album and is probably one of my better intros over the years.

*2. Wake Up Call 

-I set out to make an anthem of sorts in some way with this song. It's a bit slower in BPM, but still knocks and the hook is very infectious. I drop a few politically charged lyrics here and then dream of a better today, hoping things change in my life currently. It's like the moment after you awaken and everything is slowly becoming clearer. The "Wake Up Call" works definitely here. The short interlude at the end of the song signals the awakening and the clarity that was being searched for originally. It all flows together very well here.

*3. Enter The Realm featuring Shokus Apollo

-Apollo initially sent me this beat a while ago. It was on my mind to record with, as I loved the smoky jazz vibes of the production. Apollo had a verse ready and I simply went through my archives and found a verse that I had written about a year ago, but never used. The concept of "Enter the Realm" welcomes you into the lair where opinions are shot out fast, truth is spewed, and there will be some left offended. The hook here is another infectious one, as the drums and jazz melody helps to layer it perfectly.

*4. Time Goes By 

-This was one of the final additions to the album. As June was beginning, Muhammad Ali passed away. It was a hard loss. It hit me pretty hard as a longtime fan of the Champ, and if you know the cover of Soul Revival 1, have heard my single "Destined", or the song "Legendary", you'll know Ali was one of my biggest influences. We found one of his best interviews and decided to let Ali talk for about 2 minutes after the song was winding down, just allowing the wisdom to be heard. The verses in itself and the song period is all about times changing, the evolution of what we know and love, and how fast time just moves by. Tackling the imprisonment rate in the first verse while personalizing it to my uncle's struggle, and the second verse was on NBA and the changes the league has seen in general. The final verse addresses the change in hip hop period and how the music isn't what it used to be, but it still has its place.

5. Searching For Inspiration 

-In the early stages of the album recording, I was looking for inspiration and hit writer's block. It was a tough moment and I couldn't really get myself together. I had lost inspiration and I found it again, then lost it once more when Prince passed away. As I sat there, in late April, listening to Prince’s music, I then cut on Michael Jackson. After that, I decided to play my biggest musical influence, Marvin Gaye, and things just started flowing. I started writing about these three artists and how their music really impacted me in my life and career. While searching for inspiration, I found it while writing to my all time favorite artists. Funny how things can work like that sometimes.

6. Beholder's Eye

-I alluded to a few situations in previous albums, but my love life hadn't been a central theme in the music for some time. While I didn't really divulge into anything too current, I went back and recalled some situations and instances that were either never touched on or never really expanded on. As the first two verses and hook paint the picture of love being elusive, it's the 2nd part where I truly put my heart on wax. I go back to SR2 and address one of them women from one of my most popular songs "Piece of Me", and I reference just about every situation that's occurred over the last 2 years. There's been a lot of craziness in my love life the last 2 years and though I don't necessarily have all the answers now, I wanted to at least clear my head of the people and the issues from the past. There's no other way to move forward than to clear the past out.

7. The Plight of Marcus Graham

-On every True God album, there will be a Speed On The Beat produced track. Even when Speed is barely making beats, he'll end up making something for a True God album (it's only right). I was really glad this song turned out the way it did (the Bandcamp version cuts off the third verse of this song and I don't know why). I had been planning to do this song on Pursuing Happiness or Three7One. As a fan of Eddie Murphy, one of my favorite all time movies is Boomerang. As a kid, I just thought the movie was funny. As an adult, I almost related to it completely. The search for the one that results in  a bunch of moving from woman to woman, until you find one who seems to be special, but in essence that's not the one (which in the movie would be Robin Givens' character Jacqueline), before finding the unlikely choice who just makes you happy at the time (which in the movie would be Halle Berry's character Angela). The struggle that Marcus Graham goes through is defined here, but in my personal point of view, as the movie in my life didn't necessarily end with the same ending that Marcus had in the film. Real life versus scripted films. They intersect, but there is no predetermined outcome in a sense. This song was the 2nd part of what is essentially my "love life trilogy" within the first act and the first disc. It leads right into the next song.

8. As It Continues Interlude/ Comfort

-In this epic three part song, I take the listeners through a field of emotions, where the main thing I'm searching for is not found. Comfort. Everyone's definition of comfort varies, but in this song, I describe it in three different methods. Firstly, on the opening interlude, I coast over the sample loop to promote finding a common ground in love and working together. Then, as the track becomes smoother, I explain what comfort could feel within intimacy, and how we may have our differences, but love speaks one language. Finally, the third part recognizes the things holding me back from moving forward in love, but attempting to fight against them and make things better in every aspect. Regardless of whether or not I fall in love, the sample sets the tone of what's really going on, as the soulful sample sings with an almost sad "And baby, I'm going to do.... whatever feels right for me...", which is truly a poignant sample. As the song finishes up, the sample and the drums carry it to the end and just leaves you thinking "will he ever find that elusive comfort"?

Act 2: Pride and Freedom

9. Maybe I'm A Dreamer featuring Woody Rock (formerly of Dru Hill)

-My birthday is May 26th. I had recorded 80% of the album less than a month ago. I had this beat and I was unsure of what to do. So, I sat in the studio with my engineer and a friend of mine, Woody Rock, one of the original members of Dru Hill. We usually all hang out regularly or record around each other, so the session wasn't necessarily a shock. I had done two songs with Woody in the past, but those were for group projects and those songs haven't been released yet. However, as I recorded the verses and laid down the hook at first, his eyes lit up. He asked me about adding harmony onto the track, and I simply asked him to show me what that means exactly, and he went and recorded adlibs and a part to the hook. In the verses, I talk about a changing friendship and the racial discrimination of the wrestling business, which goes swept under the rug. It's a true look at some of the things that bother me and what I've experienced.

10. Tomorrow's Never Promised featuring Dugee F. Buller

-Dugee is like DAR family at this point. He's been coming to the studio for over a year now, he's linked up with us and partied, he's performed with us as well, and he's just a genuine dude. We connected for a couple of songs during the duration of the SR3 process, and some of these will eventually be released. This was one of the final songs finished. I wanted to have the homie Marlow on it, but time constraints didn't allow that to work out. Dugee showed up and put his flavor on the song, and I wanted to paint a picture of what's essentially reality. Tomorrow is never promised. Nothing is guaranteed. Life can change in an instant. My verses definitely speak to this content.

11. Sanctuary

-Honestly, this was my favorite track to write. Somewhere along the line while recording this album, I fell into a bit of a depression that I'm not quite out of. I'll be honest. It's mostly rooted in this trivial situation with the mother of my child, but there's other elements to it as well. There's the feeling of being crowded by people, even when it's just two or three of you. There's my quick temper and easy annoyance, that causes me to want to be left alone in general. I can't explain it. I'm self sufficient in many avenues and with all the stress, drama, and things that I've gone through in the last few years, I just felt like I needed a break. I needed to get away from everything. I still feel that way, more than ever actually, but this song was the reflection of it in general. I spoke about how I love my team, but sometimes I just need my own space. I spoke about the situation with the mother of my child and the crazy part is, when I was writing this song, this was about a week before she and I would eventually make peace and I'd have my daughter back in my life. This song was a vent session on everything and it freed up a lot of the anger I had in some way. There's clarity in finding yourself a sanctuary and being away from the world for a time. Every tortured artist in some way goes through it.


12. The Journey Interlude 

-When I reached out to DAR writer and content contributor @SonyWuzHere, I knew he was a growing producer, just enjoying the process of making music. I had received two beats from him and there was one beat with two parts to it. I sat and listened to both beats, and the first part of the two part beat struck me. It felt like a canvas to paint on and as I started to write, all of my most honest frustrations came out. One of which is the persona I have and how it's tough to maintain who you are within it, because majority of people you know only see True. Sure, True is who I am, that's me, but there's a time where you're not always that. The rapper, the persona, the genius, etc... is all me, but to put it in perspective, over the last 2 years, even the people I've been closest to still call me True. Not my real name, but True. I've grown used to it in some manner for a few of them, but in general, it can be exhausting depending on the person. I also spoke on some realities around me on my ex, my child, my mother, and how losing my grandmother nearly broke me, but losing my grandfather was just like watching a stranger on the news pass away or hearing about a celebrity I don't know pass away. It's not as cold as it sounds, it's just there's no familial attachment. A product of a few things I'd say, but in this track, there's a lot of honesty and some optimism.

13. Life, Loyalty, Love

-I love this song. There's a bit of positivity within this song and it features my mother on the beginning. No one will ever know how dope it felt to have my mother on my album. No one. She's not rapping or singing, she's just on there talking and laughing and saying that she loves me and is proud of her only son. For me to be able the moments that I spend with my mother and put it on a song was so vital, and I had to really make something special with this song. I touch on the three topics in the song title, addressing life in general with the first verse, the skepticism and hesitancy I have with my ex and I being cordial, facing possible court dates, fighting off depression, and such. The second verse initially was me venting off frustration at those around me, namely two or three people specifically. What's funny about that is the verse fits for a number of people I know. The concept of loyalty is very fickle at times to people and I felt the need to address these matters in this verse. It needed to be said. The third verse revisits my "love life" so to speak, but this one is more rooted in my "Searching For The Queen" feeling from Root For The Villain. Love isn't really a huge issue on my mind, but it's something that does pop up from time to time. I began to ponder if my issues with finding love can be attributed to the bad endings my past situations had, or if I'm just not really ready for it in general, though it's been 3 years since a real relationship. As an artist, those moments of self reflection and honesty tend to be your greatest. This song embodies that.

14. Nothing Like Freedom

-I battled with keeping this song on the album. I felt it was necessary to keep on the album because it represents the awakening and the ending of one chapter in my life and this album. The beat was so soulful and just hit me that I began writing one night and the lyrics just started pouring out. The first verse is just looking at everything around me, while the second verse speaks to changing your diet, changing your mentality, and becoming better as a person in general. The third verse alludes to the depression that permeated this album process, along with the previously discussed "addiction" from 371, and how I overcame that and dodged any issues. The "3 women a day" line was no fabrication and at one point, back in 2013-2014, it was true. This was me getting out everything I kept bottled in and just searching for my own personal freedom to not be shackled by the things surrounding me. It's a cleansing of the soul so to speak.

Act 3: Kingdom To Departure

15. The New Wu-Tang featuring Dugee F. Buller, Mo The General, Black Ax, Shokus Apollo 

-I did my first actual album posse track on Root For The Villain. In that track, we became the X-Men, which fit well with the theme. In this album, one central theme is knowledge of self. Becoming a God. With that wisdom and awareness, I felt we should embody something that truly fits the message. When sitting in the studio one day, I heard this beat and I was like "Man, this is some Ghost and Rae shit". Then, as it plays, I started mumbling to myself "shit we the New Wu-Tang, nigga say what?, shit we the New Wu-Tang, let me introduce you to the New Wu-Tang". Instantly, I felt something special and paying homage to one of my all time favorite rap groups while stamping the DAR brand as the next hip hop squad with that type of longevity was vital. I feel like we all put a little influence of our personal favorite members from Wu in there, as Dugee honestly felt like he was on a Method Man vibe, Mo was on his GZA shit, Ax was on his ODB status (as usual), Apollo was on his Inspectah Deck vibe, and I was in my Raekwon bag somewhat with a hint of Deck or Ghost as well. It just all flows perfectly together and I think this song is a classic.

16. Live From the Mecca featuring Black Ax

-I have an upcoming duo project with Ax (retiring from solo music, not group or duo projects) titled Black Blood Cells and I wanted to provide the listener with a preview of that one. This song is definitely a preview and was honestly just a free flowing track in the studio with Apollo helping to assist some in creating the rhythm for the hook. We were just all around brainstorming and it just clicked at the right time. The hook and title speaks to a time last year when we went and performed in New York, and the aftermath of that so to speak. The energy here is dope and I think this song highlights everything you can expect from the upcoming project.

17. Curse of the Gods featuring Shokus Apollo

-I had intended to make this a whole different style of song. It was going to be more politically charged and attack the government. Then I realized that this wasn't really where I was at the time mentally. I was rather despondent about the level of responsibility and the amount of  stress and pain the most gifted tend to endure. As well as the struggle that most aware also deal with. When you see too much (that the media doesn't want you to see), when you learn too much (that the powers that be don't want you to learn), when you know too much (acquiring all the knowledge and wisdom that the 'world' doesn't want you to have), you are dealt with what can be seen as a Curse of the Gods. When I wrote the hook, it really drove home that point. The lyrics tell the story:

"Live for the day, love in your time/
Enlighten the way, and open their minds/
But we couldn't pray, could barely unwind/
Your third eye is open, don't ever be blind/"

That's the curse. Live, love, enlighten, lead, and help to open the minds of others, but you don't get the luxury of being mindless or truly unwinding from this, unless you decide to dumb yourself down to conform to what's around you. It can be a battle for the gifted so to speak. I wanted my verses on this song to capture this and once again paint the picture necessary, and I love my opening lines of my verse:

"Peace God to the East God/ 
Guess I'll always seek God until I reach God/
In the mirror's where I go just to meet God/
Gemini, duality, give energy to each God/"

I truly love the way I put that whole sequence together. My second verse on this track is shorter, but also poignant.

18. Debts of Karma

-I don't believe in racking up bad karma. I've had some in the past and I believe I paid for them in many ways, but there's others who lack the self awareness and honesty with themselves to realize they're in debt to karma. I speak to my family here and my friends, as some of the decisions made on their behalf definitely fucked over people around them, including me. Eventually those debts of Karma will be collected and the simple message of the song is that soon you'll have to pay up. I love the beat switch and energy change near the end, because it feels like another vent session combined with optimism for the future somehow. This is one of my favorites on the album because of the message in it. This is the song where I reveal the peace I had with the mother of my child has gone sour, which happened literally a month before the album got released. This is one of the last songs I recorded and wrote.

19. Leave It All Behind

-I heard this beat and I instantly began writing. I was stuck in a small moment of writer's block and I just wanted to get out all my frustrations and anger at the time. I spoke directly to what was happening at the time and what was already going on, going back to Sanctuary a bit and deciding that I just need to get away from it all. The only thing I wanted was to just enjoy spending time with my child and leave the rest of the bullshit behind. That's easier said than done, and with this track, I just wanted to sum up the emotion behind that frustration. It's hard to explain this song in detail, you just have to listen to it and understand the mindset. Imagine you dealing with unbearable stress, being kept from what you love the most, falling out with some friends, betrayal, etc, all while running your team. At the end of the day, you deal with what comes, but in your mind, if you could, you would just walk away from it all and leave it all behind. That's what this song represents.

20. Zuri's Smile

-I always make a song about my child on every album. It doesn't fail. This song was different. It was tough to record and write. I was happy for a few months. I'd talk to her, video chat her, see her face, see her movements, and just enjoy being active in her life after such a tumultuous battle with her mother. There was peace. I was happy with retiring because I felt like I could be comfortable with not burying myself in work because the reason why I exist is back in my life and we're both complete. This song just speaks to my love for my child and how nothing in this world brightens my day and life more than her smile. Nothing.

21. End of An Era (Outro)

-I had to give you an outro. The first Soul Revival had an intro, interlude, and outro, so of course I had to bring you an outro. This is more so me just spitting rhymes from a relaxed place, accepting of the fact that this is likely the final chapter in the True God solo saga. After every story in this album, after every piece of information given, this is the end and where I walk away. The production is amazing and truly gives off one of the most soulful vibes I've heard in a while. As I mention in the intro, I was retiring like Kobe, going out dropping 60, and my last words on the outro are "True out", paying homage to Kobe with my own version of his famed "Mamba Out" phrase. The outro is the equivalent to the retirement game of Kobe, as I remind you of what I can do, take you on a journey, reflect on my past albums, and then just walk away like that. The "End of An Era" should have given this all away though. Fitting end to the story.

22. Glimpses of Wisdom (Bonus Track)

-This is one of the singles released off the album. It has Malcolm on the audio clip, and the artwork for the song features Malcolm and Ali together, a nod to the first Soul Revival cover that featured both men. The song itself is just a glimpse into the mind of a man who is wise beyond his years and speaking from a perspective of wisdom and knowledge on a number of topics. There's a peculiar line in there when I say "SR3's the ending? Prepare for another chapter", giving the listener the idea that maybe I won't actually retire. It's fun to leave that hint there just in case.

23. Greatest Show On Earth (Bonus Track)

-Another single released and on the artwork is a mic that's been dropped. It serves as the official end of the iTunes and Spotify version of the album and is a three part track technically. I just took a moment to reflect on the hip hop game, and how I felt about the lackluster talent. I make a mention for them to get their money, I just wonder where the love of the craft went in the mainstream. I also spoke to the idea of leaving out this game the way I came in (retiring after Soul Revival 3).

24. Black Empires (Bandcamp Only Bonus Track)
-This track was only intended for Bandcamp and it's actually a rough draft. It wasn't fully finished, but it was a leftover that I felt like including on the Bandcamp version for people who decide to check it out and listen. I talk about the Panthers, Black Wall Street, and briefly describe what a possible black revolution looks like. Maybe one day I'll finish the song.

25. May 2014- May 2016 (Bandcamp Bonus Track)
-I titled it that because I feel like that's really the time it took me to make this album. I pulled lyrics from 2014 and utilized them on this album and I finished writing for it in May 2016. This was really just a freestyle of what's been going on around me and just something special to throw on the end of the Bandcamp version of the album. Though a freestyle and not pre-written, it works perfectly to me and is a great listen. I played this track a few times in a row after recording it the night before I put out Soul Revival 3.

I am blessed to have 10 solo projects under my belt(including Immortal Kingdom mixtape), 7 official albums, and about 6 duo or group projects with more to come in the last 5 years. I've done a lot and accomplished so much, but the work is not done. I've solidified myself as a solo artist and with the energy surrounding SR3, it was the right time to walk away. I hope all who enjoy good music check this album out and support it. Albums like this don't come along too often. Double albums, especially. Soul Revival 3 is a journey and one that's now completed. True out.



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