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Q&A: Sophia Eris on Soundset, pre-show rituals, and her first rap

"I just want to come out very hard."
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When Sophia Eris hits Soundset's Fifth Element stage on Sunday, her solo career reaches a new peak. She'll showcase material off her self-titled debut, which was released in 2016.

But Eris has been part of the Twin Cities hip-hop scene for much longer. She worked alongside Lizzo in the Chalice and GRRRL PRTY, and joined "Good as Hell" star for her solo performances too. Of late, she's lighting up the airwaves for our colleagues at Go 95.3 at night with Auggie 5000.

GoMN spoke to Eris about her work ethic, early influences, and how she'll get pumped up before Sunday's milestone performance at Soundset.

When did you realize you wanted to create music?

In 7th and 8th grade, I would just write poetry in general, then it became songwriting when I started high school. I listened to old R&B like Jodeci and New Edition. Honestly, I was an R&B baby forever, until I dated my first boyfriend when I was 15. He was a huge hip-hop head. I wrote my first rap when he made me mad. It was to the “Game Over” Lil’ Flip beat.

What inspired you to continue?

I was inspired initially by R&B music from the '80s and hip-hop came from the social influences around me and really feeling competitive all the time. I was always around a lot of men, I had big brothers, I played sports, and I was a tomboy. Rap just became another thing I was trying to hold my own on and show I am just the same as them.

Who are some of your early influences?

Kanye, Jay and Nas were all heavily my early influences. Obviously, Lauryn Hill was like a perfect combination of both. Then, I got into Erykah Badu. Basically, people with unique voices in general.

I was so indulged into R&B at an early age, so my brain was wrapped around the fact that I couldn’t sing – just because I couldn’t sing like Mariah or Whitney. I realized there are other ways to use your voice, and just because you can’t sing like them doesn’t mean you can’t sing.

How has it been going from collectives like The Chalice and GRRRL PRTY to solo work?

I appreciate the whole journey I’ve been on, because I’ve been working with people who have been doing this since they were little. Being around great artists made me fine-tune my ability.

My record took me three years to make. It was when I was truly finding my voice. To get to this point now where I really know it and understand it, was because of those two experiences.

That’s crazy it was made through three years, yet it sounds so cohesive.

Prophis made it cohesive. That was all his production, all his hard work, making sure it sound cohesive. He’s the only person I work with as a solo artist. He’s the first friend I ever had here, so something about our bond is very sacred and I trust him. It takes people with good energy and people who believe in you around you to help you shine through a record.

Is there any crowd that has stood out to you during a live performance?

My album release party that I had back in September. That was my first time having a release party and it sold out. It felt like it was graduation. My mom, my dad, my brother, my aunts, my uncles, and my cousins all came in from different areas of the country. I remember when I got on stage and was looking around, I looked at my mom and she was just in tears. It was just like this moment of “Oh my God, I did it!”

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

I still do this thing that I did when I was in GRRRL PRTY. Manchita, she’ll be performing with me at Soundset, so maybe we can do this together. She has this dog name Canela. Canela doesn’t have a tail, she has a little nub. When she gets excited, it’s like her whole butt wiggles. Dogs when they get excited their tails wag, but her’s is like a twerk. So me and the girls say “Canela! Canela!” and we just shake our butts really fast. That’s something I do to get loose, and I do a shot of tequila. Then, I guess I am spiritual, I say thank you to the angels that I’ve had in my life that watch over me before I go on stage.

How will you get the crowd going at Soundset?

I’m doing two new songs. I’m going to be starting out hot with both of them, then I’m going into a couple of my album tracks, and ending with two collabs that I have with a couple of my girlfriends. The first track I’m doing is very different from what my songs normally sound like, but the beat is crazy and I just want to come out very hard. The verse is one of the realest verses I ever wrote. I got emotional when I wrote it, so coming out with something vulnerable off the top will help me get in a raw zone.

What are your other summer plans after Soundset?

I’ll be on tour for the month of June with Lizzo. We are hitting a lot of spots we haven’t hit before. We are playing a lot of festivals.

The whole set in general is going to be really cool, because I’m actually learning a new controller. I’m not going to be DJing from a rig, I’m going to be DJing from Ableton. We are going to have a light show with it, so everything will already be programmed with the tracks that I play from Ableton. I’m excited to step into a new world and level it up with Lizzo.

And after tour?

I’m opening up for Kamaiyah, who is an ill rapper. She’s on YG’s label. She’s coming into town July 13 and I am going to open up for her at Icehouse, and I’m super excited about that. In August, I’m doing the Pizza Lucé Block Party. Those are the two biggies.

Catch Sophia Eris at Soundset at the Fifth Element Stage at 12:40 p.m. on Sunday, May 28.

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