As a member of LA’s Jurassic 5, Soup toured the world, defining a new positive hip hop sound for the late-90s/ early-00s.
But when the band split in 2007, Soup (aka Zaakir) soon found himself homeless and then working the night shift in a Santa Monica clothing store to make ends meet.
“I needed a job, because the money that I had saved up ran out,” he says. “And I was sitting around there, wishful thinking, thinking that something may transpire, maybe with J5, that’d get me outta that boat.
“Then I came to the realisation that no-body’s gonna let me swim but me. So I got a job.
“But I’ve always been a person that had a job before doing music. I didn’t like it. You have to be humble, very humble, at the experience, but you live and you learn.”
Reflecting on the period he says: “I think it was a beautiful experience because it’s got me to this point.”
‘This point’ is a total reinvention for the rapper who, rather than simply follow the easy option of continuing with J5-like material, delved back to his soul, funk and disco roots. Donning a loud yet sharp suit and exercising his vocal chops, he’s been reborn as Fullee Love.
Overcoming his personal demons and fears, Soup’s dramatic change of mindset, his visual and vocal transformation, his new understanding, has done him a world of good! And he feels blessed.
“I didn’t see this coming,” he says of the positive reaction Fullee Love has bought him so far. “I’m not as bitter anymore. I used to be bitter, very bitter; I used to spit all kinds of venom at some of the members of J5, because I felt that they didn’t react the way I thought they should react. And that’s not for me to say. I was wrong for that. I had to look in the mirror and see all my faults and shortcomings and except those. The minute I did that … that’s the minute things started to turn around for me. While I was talking crazy about them…? Getting mad at them…? Nothing’s happening for me. But the minute I stopped, the minute I thought, look, it’s your fault, that’s when things started happening.”
In the wake of J5’s fleeting 2013/ 2014 reunion, Soup’s slowly established his Fullee Love identity. Working with producer Nicholas Eaholtz (aka Nick Green of The Internet), 2018’s Free, White And 21 was a revelation, with soulful waves and clipped Chic grooves. And now Soup’s spending most of 2019 in the UK working with his new live band of Brits, and sharpening his skills.
It’s been an emotional journey, and one he’s thankful for the opportunity to simply try it out.
“It’s emotional for me because … I didn’t think I could do it, I didn’t think I could do this. I beat myself for years, I really did. To get this opportunity is mindboggling for me. I want to enjoy it, I want to be around people who enjoy, I don’t want the world … I don’t want the world. I just want to do what I like doing. If it’s big, it’s big; if it’s not, it’s not, but just please let me be who I want to be.”
But the response so far has been nothing but positive, as The Fullee Love Collective win over audiences at both major and minor festivals, while Fullee/ Soup finds himself increasingly in demand as a guest artist, collaborating with such acts as Glasgow’s Shaaka Loves You, whose Boogie (featuring Fullee Love) recently piqued Craig Charles’ interest.
The Glaswegians – who’d previously collaborated with J5’s Chali 2na – reached out to Soup over social media, and sent him Boogie, expecting a rap in return.
“I knew they wanted rapping on it, they wanted a rapper, I knew that. But I was like, no, they’re going to get Fullee Love on it,” says the singer. “To be honest, I was going to give them what I want, not what they want … you’re going to get what you’re given! And if they don’t like it, that’s fine, it’s their project…”
Thankfully, the Scots “loved it” and more collaborations are already in discussion.
“They just contacted me again and they were like ‘we’re working on something new, do you wanna be a part of it again?’ I know what I give them they’ll take because they know I’m Fullee Love now, I’m not Soup from J5. I can do Fullee Love stuff and they have confidence that I can get it done as Fullee Love.
“That’s what’s beautiful. That’s why I get emotional. Because I wish I’d have known this stuff a few years ago … ”
* Jurassic 5’s Soup presents The Fullee Love Collective appear at Mostly Jazz Funk and Soul Festival on Friday 12 July 2019 along with The Jacksons, Ibibio Sound Machine, Renegade Brass Band and Young Pilgrims.
Other acts appearing over the weekend include The Brand New Heavies, Craig Charles, Brian Jackson, Smoove and Turrell and Rosie Tee (Sat 13 Jul); and Burt Bacharach, Khruangbin, Oscar Jerome and Ishmael Ensemble (Sun 14 Jul).
For tickets and more information, see: mostlyjazz.co.uk
- Buy Fullee Love’s album via Bandcamp: Soup J5 presents Fullee Love: Free, White & 21