Solomon OB talks touring with UnFold

Poet and MC Solomon OB is a mixol­o­gist of emo­tions. He has had audi­ences in Edin­burgh, Brighton and beyond swelling their chests with con­fi­dence and shuf­fling to wipe tears from their eyes.

The Bris­tol-based sto­ry­teller and Nation­al Poet­ry Slam win­ner – orig­i­nal­ly born in Hack­ney and whose full name is Solomon Ogun­mefun-Brook­er – has recent­ly been trav­el­ling with UnFold by Lyrix Organix on their UK tour. The sec­ond EP from UnFold was released on Nation­al Poet­ry Day 2018, and Solomon is among its fea­tured artists.

With two shows left on their UK tour – Bris­tol and Lon­don – Solomon took some time out to tell Fringe Fre­quen­cy a bit about what audi­ences can expect from the UnFold show, how this project dif­fers from his solo work and offer some sound recommendations.

I recall see­ing you per­form at the Round­house in 2016. I was struck by your word­play and pos­i­tiv­i­ty. How did you get into spo­ken word poet­ry in the first place? And what keeps you moti­vat­ed to do it?
Thank you. I start­ed off beat­box­ing and then rap­ping. Spo­ken word was just the nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion, I guess. I’m real­ly inter­est­ed in the voice as an instru­ment and I guess I’m try­ing to see how far I can push that.

How did you first get involved with Lyrix Organix and UnFold?
Me and Lyrix go back about 10 years now. Dan Tsu [Lyrix Organix founder] gave me my first fes­ti­val gig – think it was called Fes­tin­ho. I’d seen him ask­ing after a beat­box­er on a forum – I used to be addict­ed to a site called We’ve been work­ing togeth­er on-and-off ever since. As I start­ed get­ting into spo­ken word and UnFold was emerg­ing, the two paths just col­lid­ed really.

“I’m really interested in the voice as an instrument… I’m trying to see how far I can push that” – Solomon OB

So, Sophia Thakur, Lyrix Organix, you, and a bunch of spe­cial guests. That sounds excit­ing. Why should poet­ry and spo­ken fans turn up for your forth­com­ing UnFold shows in Bris­tol and London?
Don’t for­get Kieron Ren­nie, too. The man’s a force. Plus, [Bris­tol rap­per] Dizraeli is giv­ing a talk on “The Art of Words”, which obvi­ous­ly fits the bill nicely.

Peo­ple should turn up to see some­thing out of the ordi­nary. To see poet­ry accom­pa­nied by a hand­craft­ed score with great musi­cian­ship. To hear some real hon­est and shared-life expe­ri­ences com­ing from very dif­fer­ent and dis­tinc­tive voic­es. They should turn up ’cause packed out shows are the best! And we want the best.

And how about poet­ry fans with friends who are still on the fence?
I’ll use Dan’s tag line of “Kate Tem­pest meets Ezra Collective”.

Can you share a mem­o­rable moment from the tour so far?
Pre­ma­ture Christ­mas songs get­ting played on a back­stage piano. And jump­ing up to rap on [the drum­mer in the col­lec­tive] Chimnyo’s set.

How does the UnFold project com­pare to your solo per­for­mance poetry?
Work­ing with music is where I’m most at home, and shar­ing a stage instant­ly equates to more ener­gy and peo­ple to vibe off of. All the play­ers are pro, and so these a real lev­el of com­fort step­ping out onto a stage where you know everyone’s got it on. That can ele­vate what you do to the next level.

Work­ing solo, I craft the deliv­ery of these pieces. Full band con­text gives me space to take that some­where new.

Do you have any rit­u­als or rou­tines that you do before you go on stage?
I talk to myself a lot. In my head or ver­bal­ly. Remind myself of what I want to give to the audi­ence and what I want to get out of it per­son­al­ly. Remind myself to stay loose – yoga helps, to breathe right to sup­port my words, and that every step onstage is a blessing.

Name one book read­ers should read?
Aston­ish­ing the Gods by Ben Okri. Guy’s a don.

Name one album – or music artist –  read­ers should lis­ten to?
Any­thing and every­thing by the Soulquar­i­ans. They’re a crazy col­lec­tive of musi­cians made up of Quest­love from the Roots, J Dil­la, D’Angelo, James Poyser, Erykah Badu, Com­mon, and many more. A lot of them worked on each other’s albums, and came togeth­er out of a shared musi­cal direc­tion and ethos. Some of that nat­ur­al col­lab­o­ra­tion is sim­i­lar to what’s hap­pen­ing with the south-east Lon­don jazz move­ment right now.

Name one poet read­ers should look out for?
Hmmm… Isa­iah Hull is the future.

“Art will save us!” Do you agree?
Depends what from? Art saves me from myself a lot. I need that.

Final­ly, what’s next for you?
I’m hun­gry. A lot of work inside that will see the light of day soon enough. Try­ing to get a project fin­ished so peo­ple can hear my music. I’m excited.

UnFold’s UK tour, fea­tur­ing Solomon OB, Sophia Thakur, Kieron Ren­nie and spe­cial guests, con­tin­ues this autumn. Tick­ets are on sale for the group’s Bris­tol show on Novem­ber 16 and Lon­don show on Decem­ber 6.

Images: Owen Davies