Jefferson Harris and Robalu Gibsun are challenging the perceived division between the musician and the artist. Their album, Incredible Heat Machines—the debut product of their combined work as the hip-hop duo “Soluh!”—is not just a compilation of thought provoking lyrics and head-bopping beats. It is the memoirs of a culture, told through the eyes of those who matured to adulthood within it.
As black artists, the two have a keen understanding of the growing intensity of issues of justice and the climate of black America. Gibsun described the album as “how we were processing the things we’d see on the news, the stuff we’d research, the stuff we’d talk about in conversation, [and pulling] that into the work.”
Each track of IHM expresses that particular flavor of honesty normally barred behind gritted teeth—being too clear about how you really feel is nothing less than bold. Harris’s smooth samples soften the blow of lyrics like “forgiveness sometimes feels like a sin” and “they permed the revolution/to regulate our textures/The blacker the berry the sweeter/the blood guzzled in the throat of America”. The potency of these words tell of Gibsun’s background as a slam poet, formerly competing on the 2013 Beltway Poetry Slam team and coaching Virginia Commonwealth University’s slam team into 9th place out of 67 teams this past April.
The duo’s final work is a credit not only to their ardent work ethic and talent, but to the unwavering support they receive from the Richmond hip-hop community, something not so easy to come by in any endeavor, let alone as a musician. “I’ve been very privileged, I feel blessed, to just be surrounded by so many creative people, everyone in my close circle of friends are artists or musicians or just creative people. A lot of my inspirations come from seeing them put out work”, says Harris. And while Gibsun and Harris already have a lot of buzz around them within the community, the value of criticism does not escape them. “I think the fact that we have stuff to learn is really important, it was a factor and still is, just in showing the project to people and getting feedback, it reminds us we’re not perfect. Let’s us not get egotistical and keeps us honest with ourselves and about the work,” said Harris.
In the words of the poet Saul Williams sampled on IHM’s track Fantastic Imagination, “The artist’s role is real simple: Just be alive and present to the moment, and try to find a way to not perpetuate the corporations desires, but the people’s desires.” There is a heart beating inside the Incredible Heat Machines, observant, alive, and present in Richmond, Virginia.
Listen to the album here on bandcamp, where you can also buy the first edition cassette.