For most electronica music fans the album Illusions from Bay Area based group Soulstice was and still is one of the top alternative albums of the last decade. I like many discovered them by word-of-mouth and was immediately hooked from start to finish.
Released in 2001 on SF label, Om Records, the group was formed by producer Gabriel Rene and Mei-Lwun Yee and included keyboardist Andy Caldwell and the awesomely talented lead vocalist (and Gabriel’s younger sister), Gina Rene. Soulstice was an underground sensation and had everyone from hip hop heads to dance fiends checking for them and they easily gained worldwide recognition due their amazing way of fusing electronica, R&B and house. They toured relentlessly, released a remix album and were definitely on their way to becoming less underground and more mainstream; but instead silenced followed and rather than releasing an equally or better yet hotter album than the first one, they all just somewhat disappeared without much word and left fans wondering WTF happened and if they would ever be seen again.
Well, word on the street nets is that Om and Soulstice parted ways due to ‘creative differences’. Soulstice was hoping to evolve their sound and make it a little more mainstream yet keep it alternative, but Om felt that that particular sound at the time did not fit the mode of the label – so just like that the band broke up and Gina decided to pack her bags and head south to pursue her career as a solo artist in LA.
Fast forward to 2010 and Gina Rene has re-emerged as an MC/R&B singer – and although she remains unsigned, she recently released her solo album called Gina Rene Presents Episode 1: Renegade which is available on her myspace page and on Fifty100.com (which is a newer online distribution website for indie artists). Her rapping/singing combo may remind some of 1999’s Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which could be a good or bad thing depending on who you ask. Unfortunately though, I’m not jumping out of my seat over her rhyming skills, and it’s not because she’s no good at it, it’s just that as a female MC she’s not able to stand out as much as she would as just a solo singer, which is probably why I’m more attracted to songs like Set Me Free and U Must Be, which showcases her introspective writing skills and unique voice which now comes out a little harsher than before making it slightly unrecognizable but still very beautiful.
However, Gina has earned quite a reputable name as an MC down in SoCal – receiving a major co-signed from LA radio host and 90’s rapper Yo-Yo and earning creds as a hot free-styler at Hollywood’s Hip Hop Café. Her music was also featured on the movie soundtracks for Mean Girls and Step Up and if you peep her on Youtube you can find some other collabo’s that she’s done in between. So yeah, unbeknownst to many it turns out that Gina Rene has diligently been putting in a lot of work over the past few years to make a name for herself without Soulstice being attached to it.
But deep down I’m hoping that she’ll still explore the electronica sound again, because that’s what made me a huge fan of hers in the first place and I think that’s where she shines the brightest. But is good to know that she’s still in the game doing what she obviously loves doing most: making music.