Philly Soul Music

Philly Soul Music Party for Inauguration Day 2021

The next 24 hours? Let’s have a meaningful Philly soul music party to help get us through.

So, I started this last week, talking about new Jazmine Sullivan music, and several additional Philly soul and hip hop cronies dropping records in January. Music that means something to all of us beyond just another release, just another stream. 

Thanks to those who loved and appreciated the piece, and told me so.

That said and with the next 24 hours of our lives a most transitionally weird, or weirdly transitional moment, I would like to go further. Past and present, with some inspirational Philly Soul Music moments to soothe and balm.

“Wake Up Everybody”

Philly Soul Music
Questlove, Common, Melanie Fiona, John Legend

The Philly-est of Philly soul anthems. Whether vocalized by the eternally local likes of Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. Or, more recently, John Legend and The Roots. It gives up a simple, straight-forward, no nonsense message of salvation and solution.

“Wake up everybody no more sleepin’ in bed
No more backward thinkin’ time for thinkin’ ahead
The world has changed so very much
From what it used to be
There is so much hatred war and poverty
Wake up all the teachers time to teach a new way
Maybe then they’ll listen to whatcha have to say
Cause they’re the ones who’s coming up
And the world is in their hands
When you teach the children
Teach ’em the very best you can”

Can you doubt both Teddy and John? I didn’t think so.

“Mist Burns”

Philly Soul Music

West Philadelphia vocalist and rapper Savan DePaul dropped this fresh single from their full-scale, full elpee release, Acid Rain II. With an outlook on the perseverance of nature over mankind’s whims and wants that are positively Whitman-esque. That’s freedom and forward motion when you consider a lyric such as “from the fisticuffs to the pick-me-ups.” Can’t wait to hear the album.

“Welcome to America”

Look… Everyone knows that Parkside pater familias Schoolly D invented gangster rap in the 80s. Ten years before this Ruffhouse album, the only one he made for the homegrown label, came out. And dropped with nary a trace. I say, fuck that! This album is a bracing attack on America’s systematic racism and everything else real and wrong about how its Black citizenry is made to feel. And yet, with all of its danger and detritus, there is an air of hope on moments such as “Another Sign.” Go back to this album. As well as its predecessor, How a Black Man Feels for a Schoolly more griot than gangster.


Philly Soul Music

Back when Donn T and Chilly Moody were touting their softly spun psychedelic soul pairing, &More, both the vocalist and the rapper made sure that I knew that the largest part of what made them tick/purr was the band behind them. That meant, in part, Philly’s Jake “JMo” Morelli, &More’s bandleader and guitarist, a long, legendary player known for his work with Quincy Jones and Roberta Flack, but not so much a solo career. That changes with “Memory,” a stirring, New Jack Swing throwback. That also features the additional talents of fellow Philadelphia studio session heroes such as drummer Chuck Treece and keyboardist Irvin Washington.

“Bold and Beautiful”

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, deal with this. Philly’s Vikter Duplaix has long been an avatar – a spiritual, sensual center – of the smooth vocalized deep house/electro R&B vibe that is so prevalent within the currency of lo-fi hip hop and space soul. And his 2006 LP “Bold and Beautiful” speaks volumes to the purity and emotion of a bigger “Life Worth Living.”



The longtime toast of Germantown’s avant-garde soul and blues movement (OK, it’s pretty much just him) has used the last decade of his work to stretch even further into testing. Pushing the boundaries of where words and music can go. Bilal’s end-of-2020 EP, the three long track filled Voyage-19, like the rest of the planet, seeks for signs of relief. And a semblance of peace in everything from its Erykah Badu-penned poetry to its riveting, pleading musicality. Pianist Robert Glasper. Saxophonist Marcus Strickland. Harpist Brandee Younger. And its look-sees into spiritual and secular questions.

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