SOJA, an up-and-coming reggae band out of Washington D.C., recently released a new album entitled Born In Babylon, which was reviewed here last week. Although SOJA is currently on an international tour, Jacob Hemphill (lead vocals/ guitar) took some time out to do an interview with me:


MicControl: What is the significance of the title of your new album 'Born In Babylon'?

Jacob Hamphill: "Born in Babylon" is supposed to tell the traditional roots story, but through our eyes, our perspective. �From the northern hemisphere, we want to address the issues that traditional reggae deals with, world issues.�

MC: I read that you love Rock and Hip-Hop, but you feel there is something missing in the message. Care to elaborate on that?�

JH: It's not really that hip hop and rock are missing something, it's more like reggae has a social commentary, a social responsibility too. �We're into that. �Bob Marley sang love songs and party songs too, but mainly he was singing about the way of the world, the good, the bad, and everything in between. �To me, that's bigger than most music.�

MC: What is the message you are trying to get across through your music?�

JH: Our message is to push people to make decisions for themselves, and not be intimidated by what the world says. �I don't really put a period on anything. �It's just a discussion, not a sermon. �Who are you voting for? �Who makes your clothes? �Where does your food come from? �Who makes your decisions? �Do you know? �No? �Because it matters. �Discuss.�

MC: What drew you to promote this through your music? Do you feel empathy for others or is there a personal conflict?

JH: Not sure how to answer that. �We all were drawn in on different levels I guess. �For me, I lived overseas in Africa as a kid, and in a couple of different economic demographics while growing up. �I think maybe after that, you start to identify with all kinds, reggae seems like pretty good music to do that.�

MC: SOJA is known for touring a lot- your current average per year is 150 shows. What makes the band so presentable at live shows?

JH: Like why don't we look like shit? �Haha yeah, we tour a lot. �But, we love it, it's not hard when everyone is friends in the band. �We've been together forever, some since high school, some since first grade. �Makes it easy. �We hear about other bands fighting over stuff, seems like what's the point? �If you don't like your band you're screwed, period.�

MC: Do you feel that at the live shows, the music is still about spreading a message? Or does the energy take over?

JH: No idea really. �For me it is about energy mostly. �But sometimes I get into what I am singing, I cry a lot when that happens. �I'm just kidding... mostly for us, it is about the energy. �I hope for the audience it is 50/50.

MC:�After listening to your music, I have to say I am quite impressed with the level of musicianship on the album. Do you find that a lot of reggae artists tend to leave the musicianship behind, as to not underwhelm the message?

JH: Most reggae is simple, and that is fine. �I think the idea of reggae is you come with a catchy hook and a rough bass line. �That's great, but we got sick of doing it. �We're on our fourth album, we play for ourselves at the end of the day. �Thanks for saying that!�

MC: Where can people buy the album?

JH: It is exclusively on iTunes, you can get it on our website www.sojamusic.com - and you can come to our shows and buy a hard copy. �It's cool!