Lead singers Jacob Hemphill (vocals, guitar) and Bob Jefferson (bass) met in first grade in Virginia, shortly after Jacob had returned from living in Africa with his family. The two instantly became best friends, and in middle school found a common love for hip hop and rock music. Throughout middle and high school, they met Patrick O’Shea (keyboards), Ryan Berty (drums), and Ken Brownell (percussion) – who would later form SOJA. During this period, reggae music was becoming an addiction for the budding musicians. Lead singer Jacob shares, “We loved rock and hip hop, but there was something missing in the message. Even with our favorite artists, you would get one song that hit home and touched you, then three that were about nothing. With our favorite artists in the reggae genre, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, they were singing about something beautiful that truly mattered in every song. We never really got over it.”
SOJA’s first album was recorded independently with renowned sound engineer Jim Fox. Jacob notes, “Jim told us that he would work with us and so we could afford to make our first record, and when we ran out of money he started making up ‘discounts.’ It was awesome. I asked him why a while back, and he said ‘I didn’t want to see a good thing stop.’ What was even crazier was at the time he wasn’t working with bands that were from the US, just Jamaican artists. Big ones like Black Uhuru, Israel Vibration, Burning Spear, Don Carlos, and Inner Circle.