Culture

United Soul For The People

by Winston "Stone" Ford

I walked into a reunion. Not just another concert. Not just another group. Hands in the air. The hypnotizing trance of a crowd of 100 plus bodies moving and grooving in the same soulful two-step. The supportive screams from friends, family, and a modest but dedicated fan base populating the front lines. They are gathered together in this room warm with love and good feeling, sending up mad energy to their brethren rocking out on stage. Everyone seems to be in sync, united in soul. At the World Café in Philadelphia, I was immersed into the world of United Soul, the next segment in the Philly soul saga.

I walked into a reunion. Not just another concert. Not just another group. Hands in the air. The hypnotizing trance of a crowd of 100 plus bodies moving and grooving in the same soulful two-step. The supportive screams from friends, family, and a modest but dedicated fan base populating the front lines. They are gathered together in this room warm with love and good feeling, sending up mad energy to their brethren rocking out on stage. Everyone seems to be in sync, united in soul. At the World Café in Philadelphia, I was immersed into the world of United Soul, the next segment in the Philly soul saga.

United Soul is the sound of the meek and mellow Joshua Collins and sexy, seductive Aziz Collins, both 25, both from West Philadelphia, and both so very much in love with this thing called music. A love that gave birth to their brother-like friendship a decade ago.

You, I, we, got to get it together???

Parkway High School 1995. Aziz Collins is transferred in his junior year and meets his future music/writing/business partner, Joshua Collins.

Aziz: I thought he was a weirdo when I first met him. [But one day,] our seats got switched and he ended up sitting right next to me. Then, he was like, ???You???re into music????

And the rest is history.

??? when we started this, we were so innocent. You were so heaven-sent. You help me find my strength. And over time I have seen, you put your trust in me; you learned to love me???

August 2001, a soul is born. Overwhelmed by the state of music today, from meaningless lyrics to selling out for fame, Aziz and Joshua had a desire to get back to the basics. Making music about real things in a real way.

Joshua: We realized the wackness in music, [and thought] somebody has to make a change.

So Joshua approached his ???brother??? one day with an idea to start a group and the two have been making beautiful music together since then.

But who is United Soul? It is a sultry composition; the love-child of two passionate individuals eager to bless the world with something provocative yet entertaining.

Their influences range from Earth, Wind and Fire, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, and Al Green to Bilal, D???Angelo, Common, and Prince, and even rockers like Velvet Revolver and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Joshua, the tranquil lamb of United Soul, brings a rhythmic purity to the group, a milky, smooth voice that???s so soothing. On the other side of the spectrum, Aziz pours all of his sensual energy into United Soul waters. His rugged, fiery vocal style brings the twosome to a perfect balance. Both blend beautifully to create a unique body of soulful music called United Soul.

Divynthought: What is the message of United Soul???s music?
Aziz: Of course, it???s always the underlying message of love [but we] try to pay attention to the simple things. We could sit up here and write a whole bunch of songs about sex and whatever but we try to focus on other aspects of relationships. We try to touch on some social stuff also, what???s going on with our people. It all comes back to United Soul is for the people.

I made reservations, baby

Reservations is the name of United Soul???s independent debut release, a 13-track collection of their silky, melodic energy released back in February. Ninety percent of which was recorded in the living room of their manager Storm Martinez.

Divynthought: Who came up with the title?
Joshua: An old man who called in to WURD 900 AM [in Philly], when we were on their talk radio show. He was like, ???you know, reservations can mean a lot of things. You can have reservations obviously you know for the ladies, and reservations about different issues that???s going on in your neighborhood, globally, whatever???. We just liked the double meaning, so we took that.

Reservations isn???t the first time the listening public has been exposed to the soulful duo. In 2003, they graced the Hidden Beach Recordings compilation Hidden Hits Vol. 1 with the song He Don???t.

Let???s light a candle for all that we???ve lost and once more for all the love to be made

For United Soul, the future is as bright as the sun. In just two weeks after their album release concert earlier this year at the World Café, they sold nearly 400 copies of Reservations without any major distribution or forward advertising. They are committed to one goal and one goal only. And that???s making good music, for themselves and for the people.

For more information on United Soul, check out www.unitedsoulmusic.com