In November, Lights La Soul gave Pittsburgh his latest project, Elevator Music. On the album, he explores the existence of his own soul, the current status of pop music, the social realities of black people and what it means to be a hip-hop artist in the light of those realities. With all those themes, one certainly finds a sense of purpose in his music, something Lights doesn’t shy away from.
“I believe strongly that my purpose is to make music,” he explains. “It’s in my family. My mom sings, my uncle played guitar and toured with Ray Charles and Little Richard.”
That purpose has evolved and become more acutely focused since 2012’s Fade to Black, Lights’ criminally overlooked debut.
“At first I just went by Lights,” he explains, “and it was a competitive thing, like, ‘I’m brighter than you.’ But,” he adds, “I added ‘La Soul’ as a way to show how I’m trying to keep everything soulful — either my own personal soul, the soul of my city, the soul of hip hop.”
Along with a sharper perspective comes new content, which seeks to elevate social awareness in hip hop: “Made a movie for Eazy-E but what about Chuck D / guns, drugs, and gangsters never did nothing to me,” he raps on “Black Sheep,” the sixth track on Elevator Music.
But Lights is aware that there is some need for fun and lightheartedness in hip hop as well.
“I like the message of spittin’ knowledge,” he admits, “but not everyone is trying to hear that all the time.” And that lighter approach is illuminated on tracks like “Bowl Hits and Chill” and “Smoke Partner.”
“I definitely want to speak on social issues, I just don’t want to preach on them,” he adds.
Whether it’s exposing the realities of his own life, the disagreement he may have with the approach of contemporary hip-hop artists, or simply providing something to bob your head to, Lights La Soul sees himself as an integral part of the trajectory of the genre.
“I feel like I’m fighting for the soul of hip hop,” he says.
Visit www.thisislights.com for more information.