No one had introduced me to SOLIS. I learned – as I often always do – about her last year on Apple Music through random shuffling and heard her 2019 song Can’t Breathe. The track’s cover image had a close-up of her face inverted, lips ajar, in black-and-white and oozed a certain kind of mystique. She sounds as if she were drowning on the track, her pensive, whispery vocals picking up patterns of soul, picking apart RnB, and coasting on a spare, gloomy production.
In that moment she was enigmatic but also exciting. Angel, released also in 2019, is a love song that puts more definition on her tethering towards soul but, overall, SOLIS’s sonic identity is still quite nebulous. Nigeria’s churning music industry has been producing pockets of anti-establishment, DIY artistes who are making music mostly by themselves and in their safe spaces, playing with genres and sounding familiar but also strange all at once.
This wave of bedroom pop is popular with emerging Gen-Z artistes and refreshingly antithetical to the current establishment, where music production is clinical, refined, and can’t afford to spiral into unpredictable sonic directions. SOLIS fits right into this spectrum of bedroom pop, embracing the unpredictability and imperfections and blending them into a new kind of aesthetic.
Born Kammal Zulu, the 21-year-old, Lagos-based singer shared her cosmic-inspired, debut mixtape Ruled by Venus, Unfortunately in 2020, putting up a middle finger from her four-limbed torso in the cover art. On the project SOLIS inhabits a universe where she’s in control, guiding listeners on a journey that exhumes her emotions and experiences through themes of desire, isolation, pain, and longing. The opener Fuck Boy Kiss Girls leans into disco sensibilities with lonesome synths, a bittersweet entry that unravels the mythology of the Fuck Boy, the dating colloquialism for men who are just in for the sex.
With honest, candid songwriting, SOLIS puts her vulnerabilities on display. Her latest single Body Signal was released in May this year and finds a cushion between chillwave and dream pop. In fact, the song holds many textures – hazy, chilly, subterranean, swinging from wispy moods to corporeal pseudo-rapping. Over a year since listening to Can’t Breathe, SOLIS tells me about how she fits in the industry today, her music journey and what the future holds on YNaija Next Rated.
What inspired your stage name SOLIS?
SOLIS means ‘the Sun’ in Latin and I’d like to think that name chose me. You see, I‘ve always felt a light within me, one that shone to others even when I thought I was all darkness. It is a reminder that I will always be that light; that it is my calling to spread that light. It’s also a double entendre for the word ‘Solace’ because I have always found it in music and I hope for others to find it in mine.
What was the current state of your mind when making ‘Ruled by Venus, Unfortunately,’ inspiration, and how long did it take you to make it?
I started creating the music for RBV, U a couple of weeks into quarantine and when I was creating said music, I actually had no plans on creating this EP. 4/6 of the songs are freestyles, it was the first time I was simply just having fun creating music in a long time. It felt like how it felt to make music before going official with it. Most of the beats were from YouTube producers (with the exclusion of DoOzybeats) and I released it exclusively on Soundcloud and Audiomack because it was simply a love-project. I wanted the reception to be intimate.
Your single ‘Can’t Breathe’ is a lovely fusion of alternative RnB and soul. What were you trying to convey in the song?
I like to say my genre of music is ‘Storytelling’ because every piece of music I write is a story—with a message. When creating the record with producer, KD, we began looking through samples and when I heard the one we eventually used, I immediately felt something profound and I told him ‘It feels like time is running’ which he funnily interpreted as we were running out of studio time haha. When I began writing I channeled all those emotions; how the fast paced nature of this capitalist and social media driven society has caused us young people to irrationally think we’re constantly not doing enough and time is moving too fast. On the record, I’m two voices speaking: the anxiety-riddled one and the Reminder to slow down, the voice of Calm and Reason.
What artistes/albums did you listen to growing up?
I listened to a lot of Micheal Jackson, Sade Adu, Alicia Keys, Pussycat Dolls, Destiny’s Child/Beyoncé and a lot Nigerian music like Sunny Neji, OJB Jezreel, Nneka, Asa, etc. I was also constantly glued to MTV so I was exposed to a lot of general Pop music. When I was about 14 I discovered a lot of bands like The Police, Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac, AC/DC, The Smiths, The Cure and so on and they really changed my world.
What point did you decide you wanted to be a singer?
One thing I’ve always known for as long as I can remember is that I’ve wanted to be a singer. I’ve known that since I could talk, the only question was ‘How?’ but what’s meant to happen will always happen.
Does it bother you that not everyone will be into your sound?
No, not anymore. I know my sound is special and not everyone will get it but my goal is not to have everyone love me or my music. I know ‘my people’ exist and when my music reaches these ears the impact is palpable and personal. When people love my music they really love it, and they go hard for me. I’m paving a way never paved in Nigerian music before…I have no doubts this journey will be hard, but nothing good ever came easy.
If you were invited as a headline artiste in a COVID-free concert, what songs in your discography will you choose and why?
I would perform ‘Body Signal’ because its my latest single and I’m in love with the vibes. I would also perform ‘fuck boys kiss girls’, ‘mercury’ and ‘iloveyou’ off Ruled By Venus, Unfortunately because I released them during quarantine and still haven’t gotten a chance to perform most of them live yet.
Are you signed to a label? How much of an indie artiste are you?
No, I am not signed to a label yet. I simply have good people around me, my manager especially, who go above and beyond to help and support me where needed.
Are you working on any project? If so, how much can you say?
Yes, I have been working for a while on my actual debut EP which will be available on all platforms. I’m happy to say it’ll finally be out later this year. One thing I can say is that it is divine—creating it healed me in many ways and I can only hope it does the same for my listeners. Watch this space
Featured image: @Kemkaajoku on Instagram
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.