Blue-eyed soul, a subgenre typified by rhythm, blues and soul music performed by Caucasian artists, is embedded in Philadelphia’s rich history. It encompasses timeless musical groups like The Soul Survivors, The Stylistics, and Hall and Oates. Cookie Rabinowitz, an emerging musician making a name in the City of Brotherly Love, breaks the mold of blue-eyed soul by dubbing his own musical genre, which he calls, “four-eyed soul”—an ode to Philly’s deep-rooted ties to soul music. Four-eyed soul is an aesthetic mix of funk, hip-hop, rock, and R&B. Rabinowitz will return to Wilmington for a performance at Juggling Gypsy Cafe and Hookah Bar this Saturday, November 29.
“I live in Philly, our music is made in Philly, and Philly is dripping with the soul and spirit of those who were here before us,” Rabinowitz says. “I don’t think it would be possible to not be influenced by it.”
Rabinowitz’s musical journey began when he formed a vocal group with his cousin and two older brothers during youth. He remembers they called themselves Rocky and the Armpits. “I guess I was an armpit,” Rabinowitz jokes.
The band rehearsed once, put on a performance in the living room and then broke up due to creative differences. This time around, he plans to breathe more longevity into his career—this time as a singer-songwriter.
It wasn’t until Rabinowitz met Schoolly D, hip-hop pioneer, that his musical perspectives altered. The two toured together, along with other iconic rappers such as Public Enemy. By the tour’s end, Rabinowitz turned his focus to deejaying at a gentleman’s club. The rap community inspired him to dive into their world—pulling him further away from his singer-songwriter roots—and it is there where he discovered the “on-the-job-demand” for what he calls rugged beats and smoldering hooks.
Rabinowitz’s debut album “Four Eyed Soul,” which was released this past February, explores themes of technology, social consciousness and personal growth. The album’s creation required a significant amount of manpower: Tony Reyes (singer/songwriter/producer/keyboards/bass); Tone Whitfield (Grammy-nominated producer/bass), who has recorded and toured with Bilal, Eric Hutchinson, Eric Roberson and Zap Momma; Jimmy Coleman (drummer/percussionist), who played with acts like John Legend and Eric Hutchinson; John Swana (electric valve instrument), who is acclaimed as one of the most exciting trumpet players of the decade, as well as co-author of “Blackwell’s Guide to Recorded Jazz”; and Erik Horvitz (guitar).
“Erik does everything from building the amplifiers that we use onstage to mixing and co-producing a lot of music,” Rabinowitz says. “He is the ‘itz’ in Rabinowitz.”
Rabinowitz also describes Swana as the Slash to his Axl, and notes that Whitfield’s bass playing is imperative to the band’s live sound. “I pretty much show up,” Rabinowitz says, “and these guys make me look good.”
Both Reyes and Horvitz are co-producers for “Four Eyed Soul.” Reyes is known for his work with well-known artists Cee Lo Green, Wiz Kalifa, Snoop Dogg, Musiq Soulchild, Neyo, and Leona Lewis.
“Working with Tony is pretty awesome,” Rabinowitz admits. “He’s the type of artist that will hear the good in whatever you bring him.”
Rabinowitz claims that according to rumors, Reyes has a special box that was stolen from the Illuminati—a secret organization comprising the most powerful and elite people in the world. He uses references from the content inside, which is data from everything ever recorded by anyone, anywhere from 1942 onward.
Horvitz uses a combination of sources to create Rabinowitz’s engineered sound: vintage computer software, Radio Shack compression, and abstract sensibility.
“Between the two of them and the other guys in the band, I think we make some things that are unique, special, and unimportant,” Rabinowitz says.
His songs entrance listners with high-concept lyrics. “Self Loathing” comments on people’s propensity for self-promotion through selfies and social media, rather than living in the moment with those around them. “I’m close to all of the songs,” he says. “Once they’re recorded, I try to leave them to the listener and what it means to them.”
The album teeters on the brink of pop-soul, with songs comprised of compassionate tones and warm melodies. Rabinowitz’s intention was to make lyrics that seem as if they “support” his listeners. An example of his uplifting melodies and positive lyrics come in the “Every St.” In the chorus, Rabinowitz speaks on perserverence in the face of loniliness. He hails the innate longing for human touch and interaction as a universal experience that listners can latch onto.
Several of Rabinowitz songs have made their way to the small screen, too. “American Pie” was featured in “The Ghost Whisperer” and “Whatever” was featured in “Men in Trees.” As well, Rabinowitz, alongside Schoolly D, sketched out the theme song for Cartoon Network’s “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.” His music even has found its way to the locally shot “Sleepy Hollow” star Orlando Jones. He included Rabinowitz’s track, “The Key,” on Jones’ first mixtape, “Sleepy Holloween Vol. 1.”
Rabinowitz has performed locally as a guitarist while touring with Cee Knowledge, lead singer of the funk and hip-hop group called Cee Knowledge and The Cosmic Funk Orchestra. But it’s his first time heading a show as his own leader. “As far as this time around,” Rabinowitz says, “I hope to bring something good, move someone, [and] make people feel good.”
Sat., Nov. 29, 9:30 p.m.
Juggling Gyspsy Cafe and Hookah Bar
1612 Castle St.