Artist and Performer Embraces Creativity as a Lifestyle
Long after his physical presence expires, memories of Solomon Osayi Roller will manifest through his art.
People will remember his smile, passion and authentic joy for uplifting others. Fame never crossed Roller’s mind as a reason to entertain people. In his lifetime, his legacy will not reflect the presence of material wealth but rather the riches he gave others.
“When you think of a tree, you think of strength. You think of providing and the beautiful thing about art is you don’t have to inspire everyone individually,” Roller said.
He applies another tree analogy to describe himself as an artist. Rather than just a dancer, singer or instrumentalist, Roller defines himself as an ever-expanding creative. His motive is to inspire people through any medium he chooses.
“I love dancing, don’t get me wrong but what I was meant to do here is much bigger than dancing. I’m a creative. Dancing is just a part of that,” Roller said. “It’s like a tree with different branches and different roots.”
People who know Roller would probably describe him as chill, laid back and humble but he also exudes a confident and familiar aura. Like the friend you have fond memories of on the playground, Roller’s presence brightens your day when you see him.
Although, you would be shocked Roller did not have a lot of close friends in high school. Instead, he spent a lot of time at home with his family or alone engaging in self-discovery.
“People knew me. People said what’s up to me but people weren’t my friends though. Being a friend, an active friend takes time. That’s a commitment,” Roller said.
He said his art saves him from loneliness in a sense. Roller recalled a time back in high school in Verona, WI when he felt low. He stopped singing and dancing for a few months. One day after taking his time to pack up after a U.S. history class, his teacher Mr. Larson walked up to him and said something he would never forget.
“I didn’t really look up. I didn’t have too much energy,” Roller said.
Roller recalls Mr. Larson’s words that day:
“He said no matter what you do, no matter what you put your mind to, you will be successful. He said I see it in you. Every time I see you I know you’re meant for something greater. All this is temporary. There’s power in what you do.”
Born to a loving family, Roller received his name as a gift from his grandmother in honor of his late grandfather. Roller said he carries the name of a Nigerian legend, representing the rebirth of his family legacy, the man who passed before Roller’s birth. He said his mother did not want to believe it at first.
“So, my mom gets an ultrasound and the nurses start laughing at the screen because at the time it’s way too early for movement,” Roller said.
He said he danced in his mother’s womb and his mother knew the late Solomon returned. His grandmother named him Solomon Osayi Roller. Solomon means “wisdom and peacemaker” while Osayi means “God made me well.”
“She wanted me to have some Nigerian in me. My grandmother said he’s going to get that name whether you want it or not because it is him,” Roller said.
Fulfilling a Purpose in Life
Roller said he recognizes the profound blessings in his life, one being the First Wave Hip Hop Arts Scholarship through the Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (OMAI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He said he would not have the financial means to go to college without the revolutionary arts program’s support.
“I just remember when I got that call. My dad was out of the country so it was just my mom and my sisters. Everyone was excited,” he said.
Roller said First Wave offers students a support system and the opportunity to join a collective of high-ranking artists. The program changed his life and pushed him where he needs to go, however, he realized his calling long before at the tender age of 8-years-old.
“I wanted to be like Michael Jackson, he truly impacted people. He truly touched and influenced people with his art,” Roller said.
He attributes his faith in God for allowing him to grow as an artist. Each part of his routine and every activity he participates in feeds his art or faith in some way. Roller said his identity as an artist extends beyond just working in a particular medium but rather incorporating a creative mindset into each aspect of his lifestyle.
“I really think God put his hand in my life and said I want you to see this, I want you have a glimpse of this and I did,” Roller said.
He said recognizing his calling helps keep his ego in check. Roller sees his art as something much bigger than himself. He calls this divine intervention.
“I want what I do to heal people because we live in a world of hurt,” Roller said. “Music truly is healing in so many ways for all people.”
He pointed to the legacies of great entertainers like Michael Jackson, James Brown and Aaliyah for inspiration. Roller said some of them were saving themselves at the same time while transforming others through their music along the way.
“When I die. If the art was just about me, then it disappears. If I’m gone, it’s gone too,” he said.
Roller said the beauty of art is how accessible it is to the masses. He encourages others to not just follow him on social media but engage with his work. He said his work is not for everyone but for anyone. Roller plans to reveal more of himself in his work in the near future.
“I want you to be a part of it because it’s fun because it’s meaningful and people need meaning in their lives,” Roller said.
To follow Solomon on his journey, follow him on Instagram for updates: @solomon_roller.