Souly Had – going from selling $5 mixtapes at his high school to over 20 million streams – Interview

The upstate mountain town of Duanesburg in New York’s Catskill Mountains isn’t the place you would expect to be the home of a rising rapper. But, Souly Had has been making a name for himself in the hip hop world for over six years. Starting in the halls of his high school in Duanesburg, Souly Had began selling his mixtapes for five dollars a CD, wrapped in a homemade cover with album artwork he printed himself. The grind for Souly Had hasn’t stopped there.

Graduating from homemade mixtapes to dropping songs on Soundcloud, Had found himself releasing songs almost weekly onto the platform. During this time, the rapper found his sound, and his song ‘Deja Vu’ blew up enough to where he dropped out of college and focused on music full time. A move that’s paid off.

The rapper found himself signing with Island Records and releasing an impressive EP with ‘B.L.I.S.S’ and catchy singles in ‘Hills’ and ‘Sunlight.’ Souly has been able to find his sound and expand on that producing tracks himself and working with other producers allowing him to reach multiple demographics. Souly Had is a hip hop artist you will hear a lot from in the years to come.

In an interview with GIGsoup, Souly Had talks about his newest single ‘Sunlight,’ signing with Island Records, selling his homemade mixtapes in the halls of his high school, wanting to quit music the night he wrote his biggest song ‘Crush,’ and much more. See the full interview below.

I’m with Souly Had. Welcome to Salt Lake City. Dude, I pulled up here at the venue at 5:45, and you had a line and it’s 35 degrees outside. Is this what this whole tour has been like?

Souly Had: Yeah, that’s lit. But um, no actually. So some days have been kind of busts, you already know like that happens sometimes. Some days have been more lit than this, some days have been a little less, a little more, but this seems to be the greatest amount of people that have been at a show this early before the show starts, so I can tell it’s about to be a really great show.

So your new single ‘Sunlight’ just came out last week. I really like the song. What’s it feel like? What can you say about the song now that it’s out?

SH: The song came off like super fast in the studio. I went in the studio with my boy Dom, and we just knocked that shit out in like an hour or an hour and a half. It was crazy man, it was crazy.

How have you felt about it since it’s been out?

SH: It’s been really good. My songs usually exponentially grow over time. I don’t usually get that first big day of 100,000-200,000 plays yet. But I’ll have more plays tomorrow than I did yesterday.

I’m really like the artwork for the track and also the artwork for ‘Hills’ acoustic. What inspiration with the artwork for these tracks?

SH: Thank you. So Ashley at Island, she does all the creative stuff for like the album artworks and stuff. She asked me to make like a mood board for how like these certain songs made me feel. I would pretty much put together a mood board on Pinterest with like different colors and kind of match my emotions to the songs with my emotions to the colors that I like. So that gave her a little bit of an idea of what I’d want the cover art to be. So like for that one, I told her like “I want a bed, and I want sunlight shining in from a window onto a bed.” Then Ashly just brought it to life. It’s exactly how I thought it would look like. She is really good at what she does.

You talked about working with Island Records, and this is your third release with them, what has it been like working with Island Records, and what are some differences?

SH: It’s pretty much like the way… well, when I signed, I wasn’t going to give up creative control and shit like that. I wasn’t going to do that, so basically, the only thing that is different is that I really gotta plan stuff out. Whereas, when I wasn’t signed, I’d just be like I feel like dropping a song today and plug the Soundcloud. But that’s not how the industry works (laughs) you can’t just do that every time. It’s what the fans want, but that’s not real life. You need to get uploads all these different places and have plans and the rollout and all that shit. So, that’s the only difference, and it’s a very positive difference, 100 percent.

How much producing are you still doing since joining Island?

SH: Yeah, I am doing a lot of producing but, I haven’t been using my own beats recently. What Island does is they have this whole network of great producers and great artists and stuff obviously because they are a record label. My A&R’s kind of point me in the direction to who they think I would sound good with. It’s nice because it’s never like you have to make a song with them, it’s like try this person and if you fuck with them then for sure you’ll make a banger. So pretty much I have been just going off what they think, and what I think. So I’ll like a producer and be like I want to get in the studio with him. So I have been making a lot of records with different producers, I don’t think I have my own production on my new EP at all now that I think about it. So yeah, I’ve been stepping outside the box, which is good.

What do collaborations like these look like?

SH: It depends. I like to things with producers in the studio. Like I laid the baseline on one of the records, I laid a couple of things on one of the other records, and so sometimes we make the beat right then and there and write and record it. Sometimes we make the beat, and then I want to move on, so they bring up a beat that they already made, and then I write to that instead. Then we go back to that beat we made like the next week after it is fresh in my mind again. So it really depends every time.

I want to talk where you’re from in Duanesburg, New York. When I lived in New York, I would leave the city to go hiking in the Catskills as much as I could and would go somewhat near your hometown. What’s it like being from there, and how did making hip-hop music become your life? It doesn’t seem like the popular genre of that area?

SH: It’s weird coming from Duanesburg. When I say I’m from New York, everyone just assumes I’m from New York City. So when I say Upstate, they then jump to me being from Buffalo, and like no, I’m not from there either. Most the time, they have no idea the area I’m from. But I was kind of on my own there and took it on myself to grab studio equipment and a microphone and started writing and rapping when I was like fifteen. And then I started finding my voice around eighteen or nineteen. I kind of just did it, I was like bored. I got cut from the basketball team senior year, I played basketball every single year of my life, and I got cut senior year and needed something else to do which kind of ended up being a blessing in disguise that I got cut from the basketball team. Shoutout Coach Johnson. So yeah, I had a lot of extra time on my hands after that, so I picked up a new hobby.

(Laughs) Shoutout Coach Johnson. You started rapping young, I’m curious while you were doing it in high school did you really tell people you were doing it? Or was it more of a secret hobby?

SH: Yeah, I used to take blank CDs and make mixtapes and like a normal piece of paper and print out my album cover or mixtape cover, and the music was trash by the way… the worst music I’ve ever made in my life. I used to print out these pieces of paper as the album cover as a square on the bottom and fold it in a certain way around the CD, so it’s like a cover, and I would sell them for five bucks a pop in the high school halls. I think I sold my one hundred of the first copy and then a hundred of the second copy. So a hundred people have those, and I wish they didn’t (laughs). It’s the worst music ever, I can’t even listen to them without cringing when I think about it. If you have those, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I made you pay five dollars (laughs).

So from there, when did things kind of start to take off for you?

SH: So it was in 2017, I graduated in 2015, and nothing really took off. I was rapping at parties and stuff. This is when I really started to become a good rapper though when I was like nineteen with bars and like I was spitting fast, like I was a rapper. So when I graduated, I moved out of my parent’s house and started going to college, I moved to this ten person house with ten of my buddies.

Was this Entreband?

SH: Yeah, man, Entreband. It was crazy as soon as we did that I like quit school because I dropped a song ‘Deja Vu’ and it got I think like 12,000 plays overnight and I was like that’s crazy.

What’s that like?

SH: It’s crazy. It was like the thing that I just wanted for fucking 6-7 years. It was finally happening, people were actually wanting to listen to my shit and like commenting on it and sharing it.

Was that the one you would have expected to take off like that, or was there something in between?

SH: Well, that’s the first one that I kind of like found my sound I feel like. That’s what a lot of people say is that the first one that kind of takes off is the first time they found their sound. It was good songs, and like good ideas before that but not like full songs, you know what I mean? Like, there was touches of good things in all of the old things.

You talked about how things started to change once you found your sound, how do things continue to progress for you as an artist?

SH: I think things continue to progress as I keep meeting a bunch of new people in a bunch of new places. And meeting different producers and artists and kind of merging sounds with a bunch of different people. Which I think is very important to do. There are certain artists that are super prideful and want to make the song themselves and do this and do that, and it’s like you should get on someone else’s beat because it’s a fresh sound, and it’s nice to hear you on something else. Like I could make all my own beats and I could do that, but I’d rather branch out and make some like EDM shit, or some alternative guitar stuff, like with other producers and stuff. I’m trying to reach every demographic and I feel like my last tape had like the banger on it, the love song on it, and it had the dance song, you know what I mean?

Yeah, like having a song for everyone. What has been one of the unexpected things for you in your music journey?

SH: It’s crazy man, ‘Crush’ the like most lit song, 19 million on Spotify right now. The night I recorded that I wanted to quit music, I was like “I hate this. This is the worst song I’ve ever made.” Me and my engineer were in there saying how the song sucks and I was just like getting through it just so that we could call it a night. I woke up, and I listened to and was like “Oh my gosh, I really just made this?” Like I hated the song that night, and now it’s my biggest song. So it is like a big lesson for like when you’re making a song, and it’s not feeling right in the moment just finish that shit, keep going. Which I still have a problem following that rule myself. It’s hard man, you’re stuck in a mind state where it is like something you don’t like and you keep hearing it over and over and over and it’s “wow I have to finish this song?” It can be frustrating.

Have there been any other times you wanted to quit?

SH: Um no, I was like beside myself because everything at that time was going so smooth, and I was making like hit after hit after hit and just dropping them out every week and I was trying to get a song out that week, and I was thinking how ‘Crush’ wasn’t the song, and I’d have to make a new one… woke up, different story (laughs).

You talked about how you used to release things every week, you have two upcoming releases with another EP coming and your full-length debut. What can you say about those?

SH: The full-length debut is going to be a lot of my own production. I haven’t started it yet, but I want it to be at least a good amount of songs that I produced on there. I want to get back to that sound because I feel like I have strayed far away from it, but I also want to merge it in like with me making a beat with producers helping me, which I have access to. So then the EP is going to be fucking crazy, and I’m going to have some crazy features. Well not like big name features, but like super talented artists in there and a couple big name features. It’s going to be a whole new sound too, I really got into some big R&B vibes and also into some more like I can’t even explain the sound. It’s going to sound different, and it’s going to sound the same.

So I have one more, I love karaoke, and it’s the only time I sing. So I like to ask performers if they like karaoke, and what their go-to song is?

SH: I honestly have never done karaoke in my life. So I couldn’t give you that (laughs).

Okay, what about like a go-to cover than?

SH: Ooh, probably like some Ye shit or something with like a singing hook. Like one thing that comes to mind *sings ‘American Boy’* “Take me on trip, I’d like to go someday.”

(Laughs) That’s perfect. Well, thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it and look forward to your future releases coming.

SH: Thank you. I appreciate your time as well.

Follow more of Souly Had on his Website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.