It's not typical for a renowned rapper to pack his things up and move eight time zones away. But it's all worth-it for Zaakir Muhammad AKA Soup of iconic hip hop element Jurassic 5 AKA Fullee Love. Worth the effort as it uncovers a chance to throw his hat into the ring with solo project and seven-piece band The Fullee Love Collective.
Quality Control remains a defining feature of The Fullee Love Collective. Their live show nurtures soulful healing in an immersion of alluring lyricism, tightly-knit musicianship and a magenta-rose light-scape. With Mr. Fullee Love donning a heart-patterned suit, their strong suit remains both literal and figurative.
But this is only the product of the vision, which itself is deeply rooted in a long history. We sat down with Fullee Love at the funkiest fest in the west: Shindig Festival in Somerset, UK to learn about the birth of The Fullee Love Collective, overcoming oneself, living life abroad, embracing simple pleasures, and more. Stream Fullee Love's debut album Free, White & 21 while you give this in-depth interview a read.
It’s two in the morning, we’re in the UK, you just performed at Shindig Festival. How is life?
Good. It’s good because I am doing what I like doing, but it’s also… scary. Like, when I said on stage “I have to remember everything”. And that is tedious. That is a tedious task, man, so... but, it is getting better, so I am enjoying it.
Cool, so can you tell me more about what you’re doing in the UK and what you’re learning?
Okay, so when I first started off, the thing was to just do two or three shows. And it led into 30. Actually 35-36 shows, so the process was just to come out here in January to just do a quick video tape. At first, the festivals wouldn’t even book me, because they were under the impression that they would be able to book Jurassic 5. At first, they were like “We would consider it, but we think we’re gonna get Jurassic 5, so ‘no’ ”. And I was sitting there like “don’t they know I’m from Jurassic 5”? And If I’m telling them they’re not gonna get us, then they’re not gonna get us! But it finally came to where the agent, who was actually working with J5, let them know that J5 won’t be doing any touring any time soon.
And the minute he said that, the bookings just started flying in. And to some incredible festivals... not any rinky-dink ones. And I was still in LA at the time, so I made sure to come out here in April, so I could do all the festivals, so here I am, man.
Yeah, and you’re relatively early in this festival run, right?
Oh yeah, and that’s the beauty of it. Because when me and the bass player [Ant Henderson], who helped me put this together, we started talking seriously in October last year. And I told him “by January, I’d like to see if we can have some shows booked”.
Hey, man… be careful what you wish for sometimes. Because it will come true. [Laughs] And I’m still wishing, so I got some more stuff to come true, man, but be careful, because it can happen.
And how is that “coming true” for you right now? How is that going?
It’s going well. I still want some more things, though. You know, man is ungrateful. And he’s impatient. And I am all that, I can’t front. I’m trying to humble myself a lot more, but it’s going great, because I get to do what I love doing, so it’s great as far as that. But besides that, I can’t really complain.
Actually, when I first started digging into the Fullee Love project, I got the impression that it’s really an expression of you just going down a different avenue...
If this was the 1960s, I would been in a singer group. I would have been one of The Temptations, because singing is what I started doing. That’s what I was doing, you know? So, once hip hop came, I fell in love with hip hop, but trust me, man… If I could've been a singer, I would have been a singer a long time ago. A long time ago.
Because you mentioned on stage: “You guys know me as the rapper Soup, but Fullee Love is my singing”. So what has it been like transitioning into that?
I’m not gonna say it’s hard, but it’s trying to break people out of what they’re used to. And so that’s why doing it and doing it well helps acclimate them to what I’m doing. But, it’s cool, because I love doing it, but at the same time: people don’t want to change. They say they want to change, but people don’t want to change, man, so you gotta force it. So I’m forcing it on them. That’s why you see the [heart] suits and I made sure I grew some more hair to just kind of put a spin on this new thing that I got going on.
Your music has a lot of imagery, so when you’re taking a new spin, what kinds of things are you putting in there?
Well, my thing from growing up was seeing The Jacksons, Prince, Run DMC… their shows. My number one thing is: you have to have a show. Then, coming from J5, we were known for the show, because we didn’t have no super big hits. So people fell in love with us, because we would give them a show. So when I was doing this, I was just like: “If any element I take from J5, it’s gonna be the show element. You have to do a good show”.
So, being able to interact with the young lady who’s on stage with me, interact with the band, you gotta do that. Because if the people see you having a good time, they’re gonna automatically follow you. If they see me mad and spittin’, then they’re probably get mad and spit, too [Laughs]
But to even get to that point, give me like a taste of what work you guys are putting in, because that show was extremely tight...
I got here in April and the musicians had already had the show planned. All they needed was me to put the lyrics to the beat. So they were already sharp. Then I came and just put the lyrics to the beats and so I’m actually playing catch-up, because they’re tight. I’ll fuck up and they’ll be looking at me like: “C’mon man... didn’t you write this?” [Laughs] So there’s a bit of looking at it like that.
But these are some professional cats that I’m dealing with. So it’s like they’re no amateurs. They came with it and I had to make sure, and I have to make sure that I come with it. So I just was always saying: “It has to be a show. We have to do a show”. And that’s what it’s turning into. It’s still with some kinks, you know, on my end. I’m not gonna say on their end… on my end, but: it’s gotta be a tight show.
Nice, man. So when you’re not working on the music. What’s on your agenda here in the UK?
Uh… Playstation 4 [Laughter]
[Laughing Louder] I don’t have no friends outside of the band! No ladies is waving at me! No dudes is inviting me to Nando’s. None of that!
So, you know, it’s just trying to get the business aspect down. All those other things will come in due time, but right now, my main focus is to just do these shows and make sure when these shows are done, it leaves a lasting impression on people for the next years and days to come. They’ll remember us…and it’ll burn into their memory and they’ll want to come see us again. So that’s the number one thing. That’s the main priority.
And when you’re talking about giving someone an impression, like I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of imagery, there’s some serenading. What kind of impression do you want to give with Fullee Love Collective?
It’s nothing outside of sticking to what I’ve always stuck with and that is: making good music and putting on a good show. That’s it, man. That’s the impression I want to leave with people, because that’s what I’m accustomed to. I don’t know nothing outside of that. I don’t know what it’s like to just stand there and not do nothing and just sing the songs. I wasn’t brought up to do it like that. So the impression is just to make sure you enjoy it. And let people see that there were more facets to me than just rapping. Going outside of the box, doing what’s unexpected, and doing it well. And the people see it and it’s like: “damn, he’s doing it well. He’s not just doing it, because maybe he’s trying to stay current or relevant. No, he’s doing it, because he can do it”. That the impression as well.
So here’s more of a wildcard question. Do you have any simple pleasures that you enjoy in your day to day?
Playstations 4 [Laughter]. No, ha…movies! My simple pleasure is I like movies, so I do a lot of movie watching.
Being out here and coming from LA, which is a beautiful place, you can’t front, but... it’s hectic. Coming out here and kind of just being in creation and nature a little bit more than in The States is what’s cool. I really, really dig that. I really, really dig the architecture as far as the way the houses and the streets are. I like that type of thing. So, you know, as you get older, it ain’t about the finer things, it’s just the things that make you happy. I wanted all the nice stuff, too, but I don’t need it like I thought I need it. I really need peace and quiet and feeling safe, so that’s my thing.
I like the vibe of the people, I like the rain, even though the people hate it here. I do kind of like the rain. It’s cold, but it’s cool.
It is life giving, yeah
Yeah, man. it’s simple, man, it’s simple. There’s not a lot of hustle and bustle. I’m not gonna say there’s not a lot of hustle and bustle, because I know there is. But I don’t feel like I have to get in the rat race of that. Coming from where I came from, I had to be in that. Cause It was about surviving, it was about watching out, but out here: I am new to everything. So it’s a learning experience more than anything else, you know?
I am curious about your story, because it is unique where you were living a normal, working life. So I am curious about what kind of mentalities that brought you to do your thing and enjoy the process.
I feel I am a humble person. I know I am not arrogant. I don’t look down on people or anything like that. But, being Muslim, Allah has a way of even humbling you more. And that experiencing was just super humbling.
I remember one time, for instance, J5 had kind of just broken up, and I was on a bus. My car had just messed up and I was on a bus and the bus was crowded. And this guy, he looks at me. He says: “Man, I know you”. I said: “Nah, you don’t know me”. He said: “Nah, trust me, I know you. You used to be from J5” and I lied and was like “Nah, man… that wasn’t me”. And he knew I was lying. And I was feeling bad about it, but I was just under this impression that I can’t let people know that I am on the bus.
But then, one day, I was just like: “you know what, man? Fuck what people think”. It’s just like: “I don’t give a shit… I’m on the bus. And what? You’re on the bus, everybody’s on the bus…” It’s like: man, I don’t care. I got a job and some people said when I came to that job: “man, I know you from J5!”. And I was just like: “Yeah, but I don’t do that no more”.
Or they’d say: “why don’t you talk about it?”. I used to get a lot of that: “why don’t you like talking about J5?” And I’m just like: “because I am here with you… what am I talking about J5 for, if we’re all here selling shirts?” You don’t wanna hear that shit! Now, if I came to you and was like: “Hey, man. We’re selling shirts, but back in the day, J5…”. Eventually the person would be like: “We don’t wanna hear that… you ain’t in J5 no more. You’re selling shirts”. So, I beat them to the punch.
Now you’re here at Shindig Festival where you have some of your J5 band mates on the line up [DJ Nu-Mark & Chali 2na w/Ozomatli]. I am curious to know what the exchange is like in the group
Absolutely nothing. And I’m not bullshitting you. We don’t talk, we don’t communicate, and I’m fine with that.
Man, back in the day, I was bitter as sh-…I was bitter and I know other were bitter, but the only thing about my bitterness is that I would say it.
We don’t do no talking. I’m not mad. I used to be. I was just telling my bass player, Ant: “usually when people get pissed off and hate on you, it’s not because you’re shining, it’s because they ain’t shining”. And I was pissed off, because I was sitting down and they were doing it. They weren’t doing it better. They were doing it. I wasn’t.
So I’m sitting there and seething and shit, while they were up there doing their thing. And the minute I decided to do my thing, all that animosity I had? Flew right out out the window. Now I can’t even remember what I was mad at. Because I’m doing me now. And it’s a beautiful feeling.
And I see what they’ve been doing and what they’ve been feeling and now I understand. Now I understand how the DJs and the MCs feel doing they’re own thing. They love it and I love it, too.
But yeah, no conversation. It’s kind of….it’s kind of competitive for me a little bit too, man.
Between the other guys, or...?
Yeah, they don’t know that… but they might find out! [Laughs]
But I gotta let people know: in J5, I wasn’t no back up singer, I wasn’t a back-up dancer. I was one of the focal points in there. I made that machine.. fly. You can have your favorite, you can love the voices, but when it came time to keep it on track, I kept it on track. They’ll tell you that, if they’re being honest. If they’re not being honest, they’ll say it’s them, and that’s cool.
But, when you see Fullee Love and you see the way I am on stage, that don’t look like somebody who used to play in the background. It’s a lot of charisma and confidence. [Laughs]
Now you’re helping a new machine run… a whole band. So what’s the camaraderie like?
Well, I wanted to form a band. Ant, the guy who was like “hey man, I could put a band together”. I wanted to get a band together, but I didn’t know the ins and outs, basically. And Ant was like: “I could put this band together” and I was like “really?” and he was like “yeah man, I could do it”.
So I was like: “Oh Shit… I basically got a band kind of out of the blue”. And then, to go out an perform, and literally going from meeting over social media to meeting face-to-face, which was only in January, like 5 months ago. Until now, where you’re saying: “Ah man, ya’ll sound tight!”…. that happened only in January.
We got together then, and I’m having a good time. But sometimes it’s hard to convince myself and others, because I’ve been through so much, that I don’t really get excited anymore, until it happens. Before, shit didn’t happen and it fell through when I was excited. So now, when stuff happens, I’m more like: “We’ll see” and people don’t really dig that. But still, I’m just like “we’ll see” and if it pops, then it pops and I am glad, but I don’t excited no more, man. I am excited about this, but you won’t see me jumping for joy, because shit happens, you know?
Well, I gather the impression that you’re working through the learning process regardless, testing the waters, and seeing what you’re made of… but, are you finding simple moment where you’re “sittin’ pretty”?
Yeah, man… to hear what people say at the festivals and after the show and people can put aside their love for J5 and really give me love for what I am doing? That’s when I can sit back and be like: “man, I wasn’t trippin”. Because for the longest time, I was trippin like “no one wants to see me to do this… or hear me do this”.
But today, like coming in to get our passes and saying “we’re The Fullee Love Collective” and they’re like “Oh!”…and I’m just like: “damn.” Just those little moments like that.
And being out there where the girls are making all the eyes and smiling at me. And I’m just like “I’m old as hell, but I still I got it, girl!” [Laughs]
So I sit back on that and enjoy that. And you hear how people respect what I do. It’s dope. It’s very dope.
And you have a lot more to build up on. What’s the future looking like?
You know what? I don’t know. And I’m being dead ass honest with you, Mike. When people usually ask me that, I say “I don’t know what the future holds”.
Because like what I was telling you earlier, I wanted to come out here and do two or three shows. That’s what I wanted. Two or three blended into 35-36 shows. So, for me to say what the future holds... I can’t. Because I wasn’t thinking that. I wasn’t thinking of doing some of the big festivals.
I’ve never heard of Shambala, I don’t I think even heard of Shindig before. I’ve never heard of Wilderness, I never heard of Boomtown. I have heard of Glastonbury…. But, dude. I’m on some cool shows, but I wasn’t thinking that. Let me grow old, continue to do what I do, and that’s about the best I can give you.
I just want to do my thing, wear my suits, have the ladies smile at me. I haven’t gotten any phone numbers yet, but hopefully that’s coming soon [Laughs]
But I’m enjoying it, man. I’m not even gonna lie to you, Mike. I’m out here in the UK living. Even though it’s Swindon, but I’m living out here. And that’s another little something I wanted to do. And I still got some other things I want to do.
But I am getting what I asked for, and all I gotta do is play the position. And receive the blessing when it comes. That’s it.
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Photo credit to Tony Jupp.