“Health and family… more time with my family,” says Souldia, when asked what we can wish him for the coming year. As it turns out, it was his 39th birthday when we interviewed the Québec City rapper on May 24th.

Montréal rapper Lost, also present, agreed: time with his family is what he misses the most, through the whirlwind of his career.

Souldia, LostAlthough both artists’ schedules have been incredibly busy these last few years, they managed to make time to unite their skills for Portrait robot, a surprise first album launched on Disques 7ième Ciel on May 3, 2024. The project highlights the raw reality of two rappers who started at the bottom of the ladder, and are fully aware of their new reality – which brings them ever closer to their career goals, taking them away from their loved ones.

“Une autre journée loin de vous, j’suis désolé / J’ai le cœur gros, j’ai le blues,” [freely: “Another day away from you, I’m sorry / My heart is heavy, I have the blues”], confides Souldia on “Hibou,” one of the most intimate songs on the album. “Surveille ma maison en mon absence / J’connais qu’le boulot, papa n’a pas de chance” [freely: “Watch over my house while I’m gone / Work is all I know, daddy’s not lucky”], continues Lost on the same song.

“There are days when I don’t even see my family,” explains the artist, who has three children. “I work, I do night sessions. I start at 6:00 p.m. and I come home around 1:00 a.m., when everyone’s asleep.”

“But in the end, it’s for them that we’re doing it. We’re doing it for our legacy,” says Souldia. “We find a balance, in the end; we manage to spend some quality time with them.”

And that’s exactly what they had to do to create their first collaborative album: find quality time. Alongside four talented producers and songwriters – Christophe Martin, Farfadet, Toosik, and TWT – Lost and Souldia hunkered down in a spacious cabin near Rivière-du-Loup.

There, three workstations were set up: one for voice takes in the basement, and the other two on the ground floor to cook up beats. “With those three stations, things were happening non-stop. It was like an assembly line in a plant,” says Lost. “When Souldia was downstairs tracking vocals, I’d be upstairs listening to instrumental tracks, or recording toplines.”

From 8:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m., almost without a pause, the duo worked relentlessly for five days. Ever the early bird, Souldia was in charge of waking up his crew. “I’d turn on the Bluetooth sound kit and blast the song we were working on the night before as loud as possible. That got everyone going!” he says, laughing.

“The only time we spent all together was during meals. That was our time to relax and chat. And as soon as we were done, it was back to the grind,” says Lost. “We never had time to party. We’re all pretty solid party animals, but we were in work mode!” says Souldia.The result is a collection of 10 songs that vary widely. The journey begins with the powerful, Jersey drill-infused “Hier encore,” and ends with a warm rap-soul number, “Cohiba,” with everything in between alternately relaxed, biting, or melancholy. Ultimately, each song on Portrait robot becomes a playground for the artists, where they regale us with innovative, efficient flows, each in perfect unison with the track provided by their production team. “There’s a lot less pressure when you do an album this way [as a duo],” says Lost. “We made space for creativity, and stuff we’d never done before. I wouldn’t say we allowed ourselves to fail, but we did allow ourselves to try new directions without thinking about commercial success.”

Souldia, Lost, Hier Encore, Partie1, video

Select the image to play the YouTube video of the Souldia x Lost song “Hier Encore (Partie 1)”

For the rappers, this musical meeting of the minds had to happen. Ever since they met at Souldia’s launch party for his Sacrifice album, at Montréal’s Lion d’or eight years ago, both men realized that they had a whole lot in common (beyond being dads). “There are too many things that unite us,” says Lost. “First of all, we’re both from the streets. We both have quite a storied past… and musically, we have the same approach. I like Souldia’s fiercely determined writing. In the rap realm, some prefer lyrics, flows, or even instrumentals, but the most important thing to me is to share an emotion. What gets me is when I can feel the motion of the rapper. And I get that from Souldia’s music.”

Both rappers share another dilemma: staying true to their roots, their entourage, and themselves while also evolving as artists and human beings. “Oui j’ai changé / Juste un p’tit peu / Pour le meilleur et pour le mieux” [freely: “Yeah I’ve changed / Just a bit / And for the better”], proclaims Souldia on “Sur parole,” hinting that transformation is the path to self-realization. Those words also resonate with Lost: “The most important thing of all is to keep evolving. It’s to admit you’re somewhere else, now, and that it’s a lot better than where you were before. There’s nothing ‘realer’ than saying, ‘I’ve changed.’’’

But changing requires a healthy dose of humility, and a large capacity to analyze, with hindsight, the good and the bad from one’s past. As they rap, “J’en veux au monde, donc c’est normal que j’prenne tout personnel/J’me suis mis dans la merde tout seul pour aller m’plaindre que personne m’aide” [freely: “I’m mad at the world, so no wonder I take everything personal / I dug my own shithole only to complain no one is helping me”], Lost admits on DCD.

For Souldia, music is the most efficient way to analyze his life. “Music let’s you travel in time,” he says. “I can be right here in 2024, writing a song about my journey over the past decade. I have the luxury to revisit my past. And to top it all off, I can project myself into the future. That’s where it all becomes a true art form.”

“Music allows you to manipulate time at will,” he adds. “It’s what allows me to know where I’m going.”