by JR Valrey, The Black New World Journalists Society
Karega Bailey is known to most in Oakland as the frontman and rhyme-sayer of the hip hop Soul group SOL Development, but I met him in action three years back as the dean of students at my younger daughter’s school. I was able to witness not just the power of the words and music of the group but their actions as educators.
Three quarters of the group worked at the school. Lauren was the piano and choir teacher who breathed life into my daughter’s confidence as a singer. Felecia was extremely gentle with the children and a great maternal figure especially for the babies who needed it.
Karega is an intelligent and principled brother of extraordinary patience, diplomacy and reasoning ability. He and his wife Felecia have come up with a new book called “SOL Affirmations.” Now that we are in the season of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is absolutely necessary that we become more aware of our mental health and start to learn the tools and techniques that we could use to deal with stress.
I have a lot of respect for this brotha’s work on and off of the stage. So without further ado, I bring to you the words of Karega Bailey talking about his book, “SOL Affirmations.”
M.O.I. JR: Most people know you as a hip hop artist, what made you and your wife want to create a book of affirmations?
Karega: We actually created this collection of affirmations and are in the process of writing another book. In the book that has not yet been titled, I write about my experience of losing my brother to gun violence. When I began to write about forgiveness, I challenged myself to give the reader more. I felt like, if a young person happens to pick up my book, they deserve more context and more honesty about what was happening inside my thinking and inside my heart that could even allow me to explore forgiveness. Because for so many people who have lost someone to gun violence, life feels far from forgiving.
M.O.I. JR: What is your book called and why did you title it that?
Karega: The book is titled “SOL Affirmations,” and it is named so because SOL for us, means Source of Light, and these affirmations and habits of mind helped me access the light within.
M.O.I. JR: What is the purpose of affirmations?
Karega: Affirmations are written or oral statements that confirm that which is true already, but perhaps hard to remember. Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves of our goodness
M.O.I. JR: There are not too many affirmation books that are written by people from the hip hop generation. Why is it important for us to venture into other genres of creativity?
Karega: Wow, man, that’s a really good question. I think the hip hop generation has to venture into other forms of creativity because our music shows us we can.
In a matter of a few decades, the world went from shunning hip hop to needing hip hop to communicate with the world. They need it in film. They need it in marketing. They need it in fashion. They need it to define culture. They need it in their daily lives.
The hip hop generation deserves to have our voices and experiences represented in these spaces. Writing books for me is just another way of telling a story, much like I do in my writing as an MC.
I also think it’s important for us to venture into other genres of creativity so that we can use other mediums of creativity to communicate our learnings and findings to an ever-changing world. Take for example, the likes of a Nipsey Hussle. Nipsey’s music was profound, but so were his interviews and his views. When he said, “I’m prolific, so gifted. I’m the type that’s gon’ go get it, no kidding.” That is an affirmation for sure!
M.O.I. JR: Since your wife is in the group SOL Development alongside yourself, what does it take to be a husband and wife team of creatives? What are some of the tools you use to cope with each other?
Karega: For Felicia and I, our teamwork thrives because of our respect for our differences and deep admiration for each other’s strengths. We know how to add value to one another, and we also know how to give each other room creatively.
M.O.I. JR: What does commitment look like? What does Black love mean to you?
Karega: Commitment looks like doing what is necessary for your family’s wellbeing. Including but not limited to investing in personal growth, investing in your relationship, and investing in your family unit. For Felicia and I, Black love is a fine art. It requires patience and the willingness to support your partner through the Black experience.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about the album that will accompany the book? What is its purpose?
Karega: The album is an audio experience of the affirmations. It is scored by the brilliant Damani Rhodes and it features a reading from both Felicia and I. This could be an excellent tool for families to experience together while they commute, or even at home.
M.O.I. JR: What’s going on with y’all’s hip hop group SOL Development? Have you been doing anything in the cyber-world?
Karega: SOL Development has actually made some cyber appearances. Most recently we submitted to NPR Tiny Desk, and you can view our submission on YouTube!
We also wrote a new song for Resurrection Sunday at the The Way Christian Center. It was an honor to make this contribution to our church home. The cyber world has also been an invitation to collaboration.
I recently collaborated with Kev Choice on his “Social Distancing” album, and that was powerful. We created a piece called “#ShelterDisplaced,” and that’s available on all streaming platforms.
M.O.I. JR: How can people get more information about the projects of SOL Development? Where can people stay up with y’all online?
Karega: Stay connected with us via Instagram @Soldevelopment. You can also follow me @Karegabailey as well as the SOL Affirmations project @solaffirmations.