Located on a quiet residential street in Upper Darby, Soulville is the kind of place where music lives. When passing through the threshold, there's no denying that you're in the Ville, music is crammed into every corner; plastered on every wall; and floating through the air in song and in conversation. Governing over Soulville are Beatsmifs duo: Fatnice & Blaak Tha Ninth Man (members of the disbanded trio 84), and a surly cat named Premo, who thinks he's one of the Bboys.
A cross fade between a museum and a clubhouse, Soulville houses an extensive collection of music and pop culture memorabilia that spans across generations. But, what really calls music lovers to Soulville are the 3000 albums that dwell there. They line every room and are packed into precarious pyramids, that climb toward the ceiling.
Exploring the catacombs of Soulville is exciting and finding gems that hide deep in the stacks, is a thrill for the avid crate digger.
Dubbed as "The most Soulful residence on Earth", Soulville was originally located at 56th & Market, and started as a hang spot for 84 and a myriad of Philly's underground scene. "Soulville was a sanctuary where people could come and just listen to music, and get the therapy that music provides" says Fatnice, a MC/Singer/Producer, Chicago native and Philly hip hop head since the late 90's. He recalls a young bul named Reef The Lost Cauze, and a couple of Dj's with a studio in their Park Heights apartment called Illvibe Collective. "The first time Bahamadia came into Soulville, she came in, sat down, took out her pen & pad and started writing."
Soulville was also a hub for the neighborhood. They participated in neighborhood clean up's, community activities and provided a soundtrack to West Philly living, under the el.
Today you'll find Soulville, still thriving and apart of the community. "The aesthetic is still there. When you leave the Ville you feel refreshed," says Fatnice, with excitement beaming through thickly framed glasses.
Nowadays The Beatsmifs are dedicated to sharing their collective 40 years of experience, and have led talks on music appreciation at various schools throughout the city. "That's something we're really into at Soulville. We would like to do that for the rest of our lives. Giving back in that way to the people is just an amazing thing." Soulville has also joined the digital age, by way of "Straight From The Ville", a bi-weekly podcast, with Blaak on the 1's and 2's and hosted by Sammy Cook. This summer they take the show on the road for a multi-city tour of their all vinyl party series called "Welcome to Soulville (The Live Experience)".
Growing upward and outward, the Beatsmif duo also does their thing individually. Currently Fatnice is, moonlighting as singer Mojo Green, and has recently released his single "Be My Girl", from his forthcoming album The Water Bearer. Blaak plays it close to the vinyl. He's a slave to the crates, producing music through the The Beatsmifs and hosting a series of Soulville mixtapes, his interpretation of the Ville's eclectic collection.
There's no plan for the music to ever stop at Soulville. And whether it's to sit in the barber's chair, dig through the crates, or to be apart of the conversation the steady stream of loyalist will always be welcomed at Soulville.