As a member of Jurassic 5, Zaakir Muhammad, aka Soup, was part of a so-called “alternative” hip-hop movement in the 1990s that included acts such as The Pharcyde, Black Star, and Dilated Peoples. The LA-based group became widely known for its infectious, uplifting grooves that offered a positive and sometimes humorous perspective without becoming preachy or cliché. Despite their massive success both in the studio and on stage, Jurassic 5 broke up in 2007, reuniting in 2013 for a one-off performance at Coachella. That performance wound up being one of the most memorable highlights of that year’s festival, and ironically, the impetus for Soup to shed his former identity and step into his new one as Fullee Love.
When I met Fullee Love in LA on Valentine’s Day, he had just released his debut EP, Still in Fullee Love, two days before. With the hustle and bustle of Grammy Week and the excitement of introducing his solo project to the world, there was an inescapable electricity in the air as we chatted about his journey from being one-sixth of one of hip-hop’s most influential collectives to coming into his own as a solo artist. During our nearly hour-long conversation, Fullee Love revealed that he, like so many artists I’ve interviewed, had had to step away from music completely for several years. “Once the bottom fell out and the group had broken up, I lived off the money I had saved up. But this game is the best illusion in the world; it’ll get you real comfortable. I was comfortable not having to punch a clock…and I just knew something would come along. But I didn’t make the proper connections that I needed to in order to continue performing. I knew people who made music, but it was always a group thing and I never put myself out there to do [solo] stuff. So I had to get a job.”
Fullee Love went on to share the often frustrating but ultimately humbling experience that came from, of all things, punching a clock. “I got a job at Nordstrom in shipping and receiving. Then they decided they didn’t need as many people but they wanted to keep me, but they had other departments that needed help. So I went to stock, my pay went down, then the maintenance department needed somebody and they were like, ‘Well, at least you’ll get your hours.’ So I started doing that. I never thought in a million years that I would be cleaning toilets. It’s real out here. I got lost on how some people really have to make it.” On those occasions when customers would recognize him from his Jurassic 5 days and ask if the group would ever get back together, Fullee Love said he was quick to brush the suggestion aside, insisting he was just fine working retail (he eventually moved into sales). Inevitably, though, fate tipped her hand and presented the group with the golden opportunity to rock the Coachella main stage, providing a much-needed creative and financial boost for Fullee Love. Still, he was hesitant at first. “My pride was like, ‘Nah, I’m not gonna do it,’ but I needed the money. So I said OK.” Coachella also served as a springboard for Fullee Love to explore the possibilities of a solo career, something he said he hadn’t given much consideration before. “I never really thought that I could do it myself. In a group, I can hide. I can whisper something and nobody will know who exactly said it. But this time, I got a second chance to do something I really love doing. And I vowed never to punch a clock again.”
After Coachella, Fullee Love embarked on a solo mini-tour overseas, working out his new songs and gauging the audiences’ reactions. Those shows not only allowed him to reconnect with his fans, but to also figure out what could work and what may need tweaking both in the lab and during live performances. For someone who’d already accomplished two decades-worth of work in the music business and who had not only made a name for himself as an artist but also as an industry heavyweight (he was responsible for Mobb Deep’s deal on Loud Records), testing the waters as an independent artist under a new moniker was more than just a notion. But when something is meant to be there is nothing that can stop its force, and it was clear that the universe intended for Fullee Love to seize his moment.
Produced by The Internet member Nick Green, Still in Fullee Love opens with the lead single “Surfboard Cali.” With the EP’s theme centered around love, sex, and relationships (and the chaos and comedy that often go hand in hand with all of the above), it’s only proper that the project would drop just before Valentine’s Day. Each track is an easy, danceable listen, perfect for a ride along the PCH with the top down or a house party. Fullee Love intimated that listeners—particularly Jurassic 5 fans—probably won’t know what to expect from his solo EP, and that’s OK; this is a new direction, a variation on a theme, open to interpretation. Full Love is ready for the incredible adventure ahead, and invites us all to come along.
Rhonda Nicole is the Managing Editor for SoulTrain.com, a member of The Recording Academy (The Grammys) and ASCAP, a soul singer/songwriter, music journalist, blogger, and curator of the BohemeRockstar Music Blog (IG @BohemeRockstar), splitting her time between the Bay Area and LA. Download her EP ‘Nuda Veritas’ on CDBaby and iTunes, keep up with her new music at soundcloud.com/rhonda-nicole, follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @wildhoneyrock, and dig her musical musings at rhondanicole.com.