Diversity Rules Magazine welcomes Raph Solo as its June feature. Raph’s story is an empowering one, and about a journey of self-worth and self-love. He has released a new album with the first release being the title track, “Word of Love.”
JRK: Before we get into the interview can you tell readers about your background, where you are from, and all that good introductory stuff?
RS: Hey, my name is Raph Solo, I was born & bred in Nigeria, to parents who were originally Lebanese/ Chilean by descent. I’ve been living in London for most of my life, hence I am a Londoner. I moved here for my secondary schooling. I wrote my first song when I was seven. I am inspired by real life experiences and I like to tell a story in the name of Love, wisdom & knowledge shared.
JRK: You just released the title track off your new album entitled, “Word of Love.” Can you tell us about the song, and motivated you to write it?
RS: The song is a celebration of self- love and self -worth. It’s an anthem for those who greet love with gratitude. It’s a song about realizing the value of love & what we are able to bring to a relationship. It’s about appreciating the love you feel within yourself and it’s about seeing the love in others too. I found myself in places on numerous occasions where I felt like I was taken for granted and I vowed to break that cycle and I quit the habit of staying longer than I should in places where I didn’t feel welcome like I should have felt.
JRK: You describe the sound of “Word of Love” as a “Poptecsol.” Can you explain what that means?
RS: Popstecsol – pop / tech / RNB soul. I made a record which stimulated my current musical taste buds. I am into soulful melodies, killer pop hooks, grand pianos, and electronica. Musically, the album has an electronic vibe which works well with the modern love themes I am addressing. It’s a contemporary sounding record which echoes the issues I tackle.
JRK: What are the other songs on the new album focused on?
RS: Broken Hearts, is a song which is particularly close to my heart. It relates to fear of intimacy and the sabotage of relationships. It’s a reaffirmation song however in that We have the power to overcome fear in the name of Love and no matter how fragile we become as a result of being broken we can always stand strong again. I’ve Had Enough is another song I enjoyed making. It explores the topic of behavioral patterns which can become habitually toxic if not addressed leaving us with dependencies we may not want. But, It’s also a positive song about believing in the power of choice and the knowledge in our ability to reclaim control over anything we no longer want in our lives. Replay has a very ‘now’ time- relevant theme which talks about cyber love and the potential harm social media can have in a relationship.
JRK: Many times people seek empowerment and validation in the approval of others, which can be very damaging, instead of looking within and loving themselves. Based on your experience, how important is it that we love ourselves before loving someone else? How can doing so empower individuals to become the person they were meant to be?
RS: I had to think about that question… And so, I will say that we all want to feel loved, we are human and approval is a sign of love as we read it. That’s why we seek it, I believe. It can be damaging sometimes when we don’t feel loved or when we are disapproved of. Personally, I found my greatest strength came from finding that I had the ability to love regardless of whether I was loved in return or whether I was approved of. By doing that… my ability to love became what I loved about myself most and so I learned to Love myself by being able to love others for who they were. Simply. Love teaches love and vice versa. That’s how it worked out for me.
JRK: You voluntarily underwent reparative therapy to cure your “gay.” What compelled you to do this? What was the experience like? At what point did you realize the therapy was merely damaging your self-esteem?
RS: I get asked a lot about my reparative therapy experience and I realize the reason I get asked is that we are still subjected to it. I wrote a book about my experience titled The Memoirs of Angel King by Raph Solo for anyone who wants to read in depth about it, the book is available on Amazon and iBooks and other online outlets. I was failing at relationships and I thought maybe God wanted me to go straight and that was why I was not finding love. It was a shot in the dark. In retrospect, I asked how could I have had a successful relationship with anyone if I didn’t have a good relationship with myself. I am grateful for my experience with reparative therapy as it cleared a lot of psychological obstacles that were a result of my upbringing. Power is knowledge and now I know. I realized six months into reparative therapy that it was not going to work for me. It was the second time I had tried to cure my gay if you want to put it like that. The first time was a five year period of celibacy which I imposed on myself in my early twenties. In the end, the same result, I was gay. I accepted it and I learned I wasn’t a bad person for wanting to love another man. Simple.
JRK: What advice would you give to a young person struggling with their homosexuality?
RS: I can’t answer that without touching on the topic of God which I feel a lot of gay people are brought up to feel they have no right to believe in because of their sexuality. I personally believe in God, a higher being, a universal energy, Love or whatever people want to call it. I was not able to deny my faith and I also was not able to deny I am gay. I thought I couldn’t have the word Gay and God in the same sentence and that was my battle. I am thankful to have found a way to make it work for me by believing God is Love and He loves me just the way I am and He wants me to be happy. Advice – Find a place where you feel comfortable in your heart with what you believe to be true for you and as long as you are not inflicting pain and causing harm then you are a person who is loved and blessed and you want the freedom to express your love. Simple. I hope these words can be of some use to anyone who is struggling. It is a horrible feeling to feel that your nature and existence is wrong. Love yourself.
JRK: Inspiration is the fire that propels people forward to fulfill their dreams and aspirations, and it is the fuel for empowering our personal greatness. What inspires you?
RS: I am inspired to be myself. I am not deluded by fame and fortune. It is not what drives me to do what I do. I am happy with my existence as I am. Of course, we all want to be able to pay our bills and most artists want to have their work touch people which drives us to work hard. I am inspired by making a difference in whatever way I can contribute. I am inspired by relieving someone of a certain pain or a struggle. If I am able to share an experience and they derive something useful from it, then I feel I have succeeded in my purpose. Music is a gift which drives me To share my experiences when I write a song, or when I produce a film or music video or when I compose the concept for a photograph, in a way which is authentic in the hope it will have a message which is of some use to someone.
You can visit my website raphsolo.com for my work both audio & visual as well as learn about my book.
JRK: You recently found love. What advice do you have for someone searching for this elusive thing called “love” but has been unable to find it?
RS: First and foremost I would assume that you want to feel that you are whole and complete on your own and you want to love yourself for who you are. And, from then you will find that love is not elusive but it’s something which lives inside you. Be yourself is the only advice I can give and say No when you want to say No and don’t put yourself in a position where you feel you are not comfortable. When it comes to relationships, Love will never make you feel that way. And remember whether you are partnered or single, your worth as a person is determined by your ability to love. That is what I believe anyway. I am grateful to have found myself in a relationship which works for me and I have learned a lot from those relationships which didn’t work.
JRK: Do you have any parting words of wisdom you would like to leave with readers?
RS: Yes… “here goes Raph and his Word of Love” haha. We are all human. Karma is a person who lives with you. Give what you want to get back. We all fuck up. That’s part of life. We all need to clean up after we fuck up too, good to remember that. Say No when you don’t want to say yes. Love for the simple reason that you are born to love. Straight/ Gay/ Rich / Poor / Black / White are all just labels… we all bleed the same color. Love Lives. Be yourself. We all have a unique set of fingerprints to remind us of that Mantra.