A wildly successful 2020 for indie performer Suli4Q wouldn’t mean as much if the entertainer, entrepreneur, and evangelist for Kansas City prosperity didn’t also focus on impact in the real world, he said.
“In my journey, my biggest goal in reaching my full potential is being able to visibly see the changes that I’m having in inner city communities all around the world,” said Sulaiman Z. Salaam III, who performs as Suli4Q.
His latest, pandemic-produced album — ”Scarlet R3d: DLX” — cracked iTunes’ Top 10 hip hop and rap albums earlier this spring.
“It felt amazing. … I was No. 9 and Megan Thee Stallion was No. 10,” Salaam continued, highlighting the significance of the milestone, which also put him in the company of hip hop icons like Lil’ Kim, The Notorious B.I.G., and Eminem.
Click here to stream the album, Scarlet R3d: DLX, on Spotify or to check out more music by Suli4Q.
“I’m independent. I’m not signed to another label. I had to create my own opportunities — and for me to be able to achieve what other artists who are signed are achieving … it was very empowering.”
Producing and recording music that aims to similarly uplift listeners — especially young people — shares Salaam’s mantra of promoting people-focused prosperity, he said.
“It sounds cliche when you’re a kid and somebody tells you, ‘What you believe, you can achieve,’ and ‘If you put your mind to something and you never give up, then you’ll make it happen,’” Salaam said. “At some point in your life, you kind of realize, ‘Wow. This is actually the truth.’ And I think that that was that moment for me, where I realized that whatever I put my mind to, I can make it happen.”
Check out the music video for Suli4Q’s “Live Forever,” then keep reading.
Gift back to KC
In addition to his uncles, mother and father, Salaam has drawn inspiration to keep moving via the pandemic-launched nonprofit Kansas City GIFT (Generating Income for Tomorrow). Salaam is an investor in the grant-making organization, which focuses on supporting Black-owned businesses in economically disadvantaged communities through group economics.
“I see the responsibility that I have, and I also see the influence that I have on my peers,” he said of his outlook and the importance of what GIFT does in Kansas City, looking to invest at least $180,000 in Black-owned businesses over the next year. “I’m one of the people that can actually help make change in inner city communities — because I come from that place and I care enough to help make that change.”
Salaam wants Kansas Citians to know he’s here to be an asset to them, no matter what they might need.
“Music is great, I love music. It’s my passion. Music is a vehicle to inspire. And every talent that I have, I want to use it as a vehicle here in our hometown,” he said, sharing his hope that by being an advocate for Kansas City, his success can inspire other locals to step up to the mic and see they too can succeed and give back to the city.
“I’ve been [making] music since I was 2-years-old and, through trial and error, learned how to create my own opportunities and built myself up and put myself in a position where I can make some real strides to reach the destination that I want to end up at,” he said.
“My inspiration comes from just living life and making sure that I keep that at the forefront; making sure I’m appreciating every encounter — because that’s what it’s all about. So as long as I’m paying attention and I’m being a student of the world and I’m learning from every situation that I’m in, that allows me to continuously stay inspired.”
Connecting to fans, community
Marketing his music through a one-of-a-kind Suli4Q app, available on all major marketplaces, Salaam has proven himself an entrepreneur who doesn’t see limits, he said.
“I built my own app and I have games on there and I started releasing exclusive content, which helped me build up my following,” he explained, detailing features of the app that include retail sales for his Troost Avenue-housed clothing store, R3AL, games, videos, and a membership portal for user-to-user interaction.
“I have a lot of friends in the music business and after being a part of a label or even after a successful album release, they didn’t have any way to communicate with their audience or with their fans,” he explained of what prompted the creation of the Suli4Q app.
“You always want to reach your full potential,” he said, adding his success isn’t an indication he’s stopped setting goals. “I’m focused on reaching my full potential so I can help [others] at the highest level.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that seeks to build inclusive prosperity through a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development. The Foundation works to change conditions, address root causes, and break down systemic barriers so that all people – regardless of race, gender, or geography – have the opportunity to achieve economic stability, mobility, and prosperity.