Premiere: Stop everything and revel in the ‘Soul Force’ of ATX hip-hop

If there was any doubt that 2016 was the year that ATX hip-hop artists would rise up, refuse to remain in the shadows and take their rightful place as the vital and necessary voice of the bleeding streets, let’s go ahead and put it to rest. Austin/San Antonio crew Third Root has assembled a dream team of top Central Texas emcees for this explosive “posse cut,” “Soul Force” recorded at Adrian Quesada’s studio, Level One Sound.

Third Root’s own spitters, Charles “Easy Lee” Peters and Marco “Mex-step” Cervantes, are joined by local heavies Bavu Blakes, Da’Shade Moonbeam and Riders Against the Storm alongside San Antonio standout Vocab for an exhilarating three-minute lyrical blitz that soars with an irrepressible spirit of uprise.

Photo by Francisco Cortes.

Charles “Easy Lee” Peters. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

» RELATED: Hip-hop grew up: Bavu Blakes on moving the culture forward

The project was devised by Third Root DJ, Jeff Henry, better known as Chicken George, who came up with the concept of “taking (his) favorite conscious rappers from Texas and putting them all together on one song” over a year ago. The idea was to do an old school, Native Tongues-style track, with all of the artists in the studio at the same time, feeding off each other’s creative energy. They gathered at Quesada’s South Austin studio on Martin Luther King weekend in 2015.

“We put the beat on collectively and pretty much agreed to write about things that would touch on the topic that Third Root focuses on, which is community building, activism, empowerment through hip-hop,” Peters says.

With Dr. King’s legacy lingering in the air, the artists flipped the script on a narrative of insurmountable strife, infusing their verses with conquering love.

Photo by Francisco Cortes.

(l-r) Jeff ‘Chicken George’ Henry, Marco ‘Mex-step’ Cervantes and Ellison Blakes. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

“The idea of bringing artists together who have community and social justice in mind, you could feel it in the room, a lot of that energy,” Cervantes says.

“Let the collective supernature take it’s whole course / Step by step Barbara Jordan called it Soul Force,” Austin OG, Blakes raps on his verse, summing up sense of power through unity that reverberates through the track.

“As a community — as black communities, brown communities, communities of lower income — there was a time when it felt like the courage was being suppressed and stomped out in so many words,” Peters says. “We were scared to take action.”

He believes recent widespread media coverage of long-simmering racial strife, exposed by cell phone videos from the streets, has an empowering effect on artists and activists alike. “I think all of that has kind of helped the young people see that it’s up to them and up to us as leaders and teachers to stand up and take action to be proactive.”

Photo by Francisco Cortes.

Jeff ‘Chicken George’ Henry and Adrian Quesada. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

Artwork for the track was created by Izabella Tablante, one of Blakes’ seventh grade students at Decker Middle School and enhanced by graphic designer Tosin Nisot. Eric Morgan, a.k.a. Master of Self from Crew 54, shot the documentary video that accompanies the release. Third Root’s next album “Libertad” is scheduled to drop next month.

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