Consistently using soul-inflected hip-hop productions as his platform, alternative rapper SoulStice accumulated dozens of accolades from critics and underground hip-hop fans alike for his perceptive, highly literate, and concept-driven albums. Ashley Llorens was born in Southside Chicago, but his family eventually moved a little bit further south into the suburban neighborhood University Park, where Llorens grew up. He was initially inspired to rap in the seventh grade when a friend played a tape by Chicago native Twista (known then as Tung Twista). By 1993, he was writing his own rap lyrics, and by 1997, his freshmen year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), he was an on-stage performer. Along with his classmates, he helped put together a crew of MCs and producers on campus named Banarnar, which mainly served as a creative apparatus for friends to make and record music. Llorens' studies in electrical and computer engineering were extremely useful for the group, allowing him to handle more complex sound engineering tasks. Nevertheless, the group dissolved once many of the students graduated; thus, SoulStice founded Wandering Soul Records to launch his solo career. In 2003, he released his solo debut, North by Northwest, while completing his master's program at UIUC. After he relocated to the Maryland/Washington, D.C., area for a full-time position with the U.S. Department of Defense, the soulful MC came into contact with other local artists, like MC Haysoos and producer Oddisee, through performances at open mics and small shows. Oddisee contributed new beats for the 2005 re-release of SoulStice's solo debut, titled as North by Northwest: Solid Ground, and the following year, SoulStice and Haysoos formed the socially conscious, erudite duo Wade Waters. SoulStice returned in 2007 with his second solo album, Dead Letter Perfect. ~ Cyril Cordor
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