Throughout history music collectives have provided fertile ground for collaboration and experimentation, leading to the creation of entirely new sounds and genres that shifted the cultural zeitgeist and changed music forever.
Groups like the Wu Tang Clan, The Grateful Dead, Odd Future, Native Tongues and many others have shown us that beautiful things happen when you bring together like-minded people and explore new ideas out of a shared love of music.
The Soulquarians were a loose collective that formed in the late 90s while recording D’Angelo’s critically acclaimed album Voodoo. Initially comprised of members Questlove (The Roots), D’Angelo, James Poyser and J Dilla the group attracted a host of incredibly talented collaborators including Common, Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and many others who inspired each other and went on to create some of the most important hip-hop and neo-soul records of all time.
Heavily inspired by the creative energy that existed at Electric Lady studios during the Soulquarians era, we decided to pay homage to their legacy and invite a group of artists to travel to FWB Fest in Idyllwild, CA and spend the weekend collaborating and creating music. We wanted to capture a special moment in time which would live onchain, forever.
We created a crowdfund using Party to raise 5ETH (~$9,300 at the time) to cover artist fees, festival tickets, accommodation and travel costs. After a week we had hit the fundraising goal thanks to contributions from 35 incredible supporters who resonated with the idea and wanted to see it become a reality.
Shoutout to Trevor McFedries, Bre Klebanoff, John Palmer, Jesse Pollack, Kiru Mehari, Katie Chiou, Mike McKain, Jeremy Stern, BlockchainBrett, Pet3rpan, Steve Klebanoff, Steven Ebert, Chris Carella, Danny Aranda, Alex Zhang, Fraser Stanley, Cooper Turley, horsefacts, Nichanan Kesonpat, Jonathan Dunne, Claude Jerome, Gilly Rall, Adrian Ricardo, Marcus Molchany, Jonny Mack, Thomas Scaria and others.
Derek Taylor and our friends at The Park were also going to be at FWB Fest and had plans to set up a studio space to record in, which they kindly offered for us to use on the Saturday. This meant we just needed to find four incredible artists that we felt embodied the spirit and energy of the Soulquarians.
We absolutely loved Iman’s latest Moneymorphasis EP release on Sound and knew she would be a perfect fit for this project. Her music is emotive, soulful and deeply inspired by her lived experiences.
Iman was instrumental in curating the Soulquest project and helping bring it to life. She is a pioneer in the web3 space, previously having worked for Sound and runs her own onchain wellness community for artists called The Homies.
Recently Iman has collaborated with Snoop Dogg, Kaelin Ellis, Fat Ron, SiR and Dave East.
V.C.R is a multi-disciplinary singer/songwriter, composer and violinist based in LA. We came across her album The Chronicles of a Caterpillar: The Egg and were blown away by her vocal range and ability to layer interesting combinations of sounds to create something totally unique and captivating.
She has worked with artists like André 3000, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Pink Siifu and Sudan Archives.
One of the most inspiring MC’s to ever rock the mic, illcamille’s complex and witty lyrical style blends new-school concepts with old-school sensibilities reminiscent of hip-hop’s golden era. Her 2019 project HARRIETT with Damani Nkosi is one of the best albums we’ve heard in a long time.
Hailing from Compton, LA she has collaborated with a roster of incredible artists including Kendrick Lamar, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Patrice Rushen, Dr. Dre and Logic.
Swarvy is a multi-instrumentalist and producer based in Philadelphia, PA. His skill as a beatmaker is unrivalled, combining obscure jazz and funk samples with live instruments, he’s a beast to watch in the studio. Check out his album Anti-Anxiety, it really is something special.
He is a frequent collaborator with Mndsgn, and has previously worked with the likes of The Alchemist, Koreatown Oddity, Ras G, Lojii and Jeremiah Jae.
The collective was joined in Idyllwild by artist and designer Jamee Cornelia who captured behind the scenes footage of the experience and Shawntel Johnson who created the cover artwork for the Idyllic release.
The artists arrived in Idyllwild on Friday and spent some time getting settled and exploring ideas for the songs. Coincidentally we found out all of the artists had collaborated with at least one other member in the past, which created an amazing synergy between the group.
On Saturday the Soulquest collective took over the studio, which The Park had set up for Fest, and recorded three incredible tracks in just four hours. The first track ‘Morning Sun’ is a dreamy, rhythmic piece of music that evokes a sense of hopefulness. The second song ‘Milk N Honey’ is a head-nodding hip-hop masterpiece and the final track ‘Wanfunun’ is a soulful story of female empowerment.
Here’s what the artists had to say when reflecting on the experience:
“A natural joy that is needed in a world where everyone is going through something. To make art by three black women that are amazing musicians this joyful and abundant and full, it’s so important. That vibration is needed in the world. This project reminds me of a vibration house.” - V.C.R
“This is such a feelgood project. A magical experience. We made this project in less than 3 hours. A lot of influences at once” - Swarvy
“This project is one of the most urban rich collaborative projects web3 has ever had. Creating it at FWB Fest last August was truly a bonding experience, not only with the other artists, but with everyone who came to witness us make it. The perfect feel to start the new year with.” - Iman Europe
“This project reconnected me with the other artists, and also blended soul, hip hop, jazz, classical music and everything we individually and collectively represent. It was like we were combining those energies easily, sort of automatically like the Soulquarians did. All of those elements are combined and I feel like we represent those elements too.” - illcamille
The narrative around music NFTs has shifted in the past year with more and more artists experimenting with new models like open editions and free mints. We see this as an opportunity to reframe the conversation around how music is valued and perceived by collectors.
We believe that by releasing the music created as part of the Soulquest project as an exclusive 1/1 edition we are making a statement. A statement that the love, passion and soul that went into making these songs is worth something, and by making it scarce we hope that whoever collects it feels a sense of pride in knowing that what they own, verifiably on the blockchain, is unique and special.
The auction for Soulquest’s inaugural release Idyllic is now live and will run for 7 days from the first bid. The reserve price is 1ETH. To place a bid please visit the auction page below (you will need to bridge ETH to Optimism)
The NFT we’ve created is a mixed version of the three songs but we also turned it into a token bound account (leveraging ERC-6551) that can own other assets, then minted each track individually and sent them to the NFTs wallet address. This means a single collector can own all three tracks as a bundle in their wallet. It’s kind of like an onchain EP that can be unbundled if the collector chooses to.
Proceeds from the auction will be split onchain as follows:
60% to the Soulquest collective (15% each)
15% to the Party contributors
6.5% Shawntel (visual artist)
6.5% thepark.eth (The Park)
5% Maddi (sound engineer)
5% iamnick.eth (operations)
2.5% Jamee (videographer)
The members of the Party crowdfund can choose to distribute the funds amongst contributors or put it back into funding the next evolution of Soulquest.
What does the future hold for Soulquest? Well, we don’t know. But we imagine this becoming an ever evolving project that attracts new artists who want to collaborate, release music together, throw IRL events and share knowledge. This is just the beginning.
The Soulquest project was borne from a desire to showcase what can happen when a bunch of strangers on the internet come together to fund creative projects they are passionate about. We still have a long way to go to make the process of forming onchain collectives simple and user-friendly, but the hope is that we can make these tools more accessible so that we can build a stronger foundation for artists to sustainably create and release music together.
If you’re interested in participating or forming your own collective please jump into the Fam Discord server and say hello 👋
For more info check out our Twitter.