Producer, DJ, MC and musician Sol Bentley never actually went anywhere—he’s definitely been around. But he did scale back his music-making operations the last couple years while opening Skylight and subsequently transitioning to a manager position at Buffalo Thunder’s Shadeh Nightclub. “I’ve been lucky enough to have a career in music through production, teaching, DJing and radio work,” Sol says. “But I stepped back just a little bit to focus on some business interests, which was extremely rewarding, but you get to a point where you’ve gotta do what feeds your soul. ... You come in to do something and you do it, and sometimes it’s time to move on to what’s important to you.”
Obviously, this means making music, though Sol's a realist. "It's not always easy," he says. "You put your balls out there, and I speak with musicians all the time who have to go off to their day jobs or whatever."
Part of Sol's return to performance came after a neck injury earlier in the year changed his outlook. "It put me out for a couple months; I was in bed for seven weeks, had extensive physical therapy, literally couldn't do anything," he says. "I couldn't even sit at the computer and produce, it was all off the table. So when I finally got healthy again, I was ready to roar and I just said, 'Let's go full-steam!'"
In May, Sol performed in one way or another at 19 events, both as a DJ and a member of hip-hop reggae group The BoomRoots Collective. This has most notably meant a return to MC duties, something for which people of a certain local era might remember Sol, through his now-defunct hip-hop group, the Unknown.
"I was in so much pain, but I would get that microphone in my hand and everything would just go away," he says. "It was almost like, 'Welcome home, Sol.'"
And it doesn't stop there. As we speak, Sol has completed work on a six-song EP and just finished production on two music videos to be released as singles from the same recording. The first we'll see is called "The Rhythm in Me," a sort of love letter to music community and Santa Fe, shot at iconic local places like Shake Foundation and Cliff's Liquors.
Sol also hints at the possibility of upcoming Unknown reunion shows, complete with new material. "It had been so hard for us to even broach the subject after Sebastian [Gordon] died [in 2011]," he says of the former Unknown member. "But when we looked at the greater picture and the energy, Sebastian would have kicked our asses if he knew we weren't making music together."
Sol also envisions a possible solo European DJ tour and potential live hip-hop performances with drummer Norman John Cutliff III, aka NC3, formerly of Latin hip-hop-esque act Tabularasa and currently a member of rock band Katy P and the Business.
"The craziest part about working in music and production is that you can fight and fight to turn it on, and it's just not happening," Sol tells SFR. "But being laid up all that time, and just sitting around and spinning in space and time, the stuff that comes from that can be absolutely amazing—it's all about perspective."
Of course, Sol's always had that in spades. He's worked with the likes of punk act Grimple, hardcore hometown heroes Logical Nonsense and more promoters, party facilitators and MCs than seem possible. Further, he's more open to collaboration than he's ever been, saying, "I've worked on solo projects, and I'll continue to do that. But if I'm honest with myself, I didn't have that same fire that I have when I'm working with my brothers."
This means it shouldn't be hard to find Sol if you're out and about. You may even notice his revitalized energy. Regardless, it's exciting to see such a longtime integral part of local music back in the trenches.
"When it comes, you can't turn it off," Sol hypothesizes. "It's not just what I do, it's who I am, and I'm grateful and humbled that our community shows me so much love."
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