The R&B singer will perform at the Westland Mall Drive-In Concert Series alongside Raheem DeVaughn on Saturday, Sept. 19

Musiq Soulchild hasn’t performed onstage in front of other people since the end of 2019. It’s been so long, and during such a weird time, that the Atlanta-via-Philadelphia R&B singer doesn’t know how to feel about his forthcoming show at the Westland Mall Drive-In Concert Series with Raheem DeVaughn on Saturday, Sept. 19.

“I don’t even know what to expect,” Soulchild said recently by phone. “But I'm looking forward to it, because I need to know what the next phase is and how things are going to be moving forward. … I think this is going to be a journey, at least for a little while.”

The COVID-19 downtime has been productive for Music Soulchild, but not in the way you might think. Instead of spending this time hunkered down, writing and recording, Soulchild instead focused on his inner life — a part of himself that he’d been neglecting for years.

“I was so busy putting myself in second place to everybody else — especially the fans — it got to the point where I couldn't physically or emotionally or psychologically afford to do that anymore, because it was taking its toll on me. But there was no way people would have understood that, because they're just used to Musiq Soulchild doing the work and getting out there, not realizing I was dealing with a whole lot that I don't talk about, because that's not the type of person that I am,” he said. “There's a reason why I'm not that type of person, and that comes from a lot of stuff that I'm actually healing from, which is basically: You don't talk about your problems; you don't talk about your issues; you just man up, go out there and do what you gotta do. Meanwhile, I'm breaking down, and everybody is expecting me to be this strong, inspirational individual. And it's like, ‘Yo, I'm actually kind of messed up over here.’”

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In that way, being forced to stay home was the healthiest thing that could have happened to Soulchild. He finally began wrestling and, in the end, healing. “I wasn’t able to run to the stage or run to the studio. [Before the pandemic], I was doing all this running around, essentially hiding from myself and not ever really dealing with anything because I had an excuse: ‘I'm busy.’ Well, now you're not busy. You’re going to have to deal with all this,” he said. “I had to unpack a lot of stuff I forgot about, but it was all affecting me in ways that I wasn't aware. I was so high functioning and used to pushing through it that it didn't seem that urgent. It's funny how stuff comes up when you have a chance to slow down and look at everything.”

Throughout that time, Soulchild freed himself from the pressure to constantly create. “I've been actively doing that for about 20 years, and I've never taken a break,” he said.

At the same time, protests for racial justice began to erupt across the globe, touching on issues that were different from the ones with which he was wrestling. But to Soulchild, the uprisings were absolutely necessary.

“You can't keep sweeping this under the rug. You can't keep expecting this to go away. It's only going to keep getting worse if it's not dealt with genuinely,” he said. “Not only are we going to address what has happened today; we want to address what happened 100 years ago, because that's still an issue. The reason why that happened today is because it's something that started 100 years ago and has never been dealt with. How many more people do you need to remind you that this is not OK and justice needs to be served?”