Michael Oher may be the focus of the new biopic "The Blind Side." But the Baltimore Raven isn't the film's only local connection.
One of the songs on the soundtrack to "The Blind Side" was written by SoulStice, a rapper and producer based in Columbia.
"It was a cool, different experience," said SoulStice, a 30-year-old whose real name is Ashley Llorens.
Warner Bros. wanted a song to accompany a scene in which Oher returns to the rough-and-tumble Memphis neighborhood where he grew up, SoulStice said. About a month and a half ago, SoulStice's music licensing agent was approached with the offer.
"They were like, 'We need this kind of feel, we need a beat that hits really hard, and we need something that's thuggish ruggish,' " he said.
SoulStice teamed up with Ohio-based producer Mighty Wyte to create the song, titled "That Thang." On it, SoulStice raps over swirling organs and heavy beats.
"He's a very talented producer," SoulStice said of Mighty Wyte. "I'm able to work very fast, and he's able to work very fast."
Together, SoulStice and Mighty Wyte finished the first version of "That Thang" in just two days. Movie studio reps listened to it, asked for a few tweaks, and approved the final version soon after.
Writing a song for a film was much simpler than writing a track for one of his own albums, SoulStice said.
"In a way, it's easier, because somebody else is providing the creative starting point," he said. "On a regular SoulStice joint, I'm not necessarily going to have a sense of direction."
"That Thang" is the first song SoulStice has written for a major movie. Brash and boastful, it's not the best example of SoulStice's music, which tends to be more introspective and socially conscious.
"I usually write to tell my life story and share my ideas," he said.
A Chicago native, SoulStice has released a handful of albums on the Wandering Soul label, which he founded about 10 years ago. On his latest album, "Beyond Borders," he collaborated with rappers and producers from Europe and Africa.
"We export a lot of U.S. culture - specifically hip-hop," SoulStice said. "I was trying to import some culture on this."
"Strange Kinda Love," a song about same-sex relationships and marriages on "Beyond Borders," won both the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and the UK Songwriting Contest.
"I really try to shape my releases around this idea that it needs to be interesting and different than everything else that's out," SoulStice said.
SoulStice splits his time between hip-hop and his day job, working in applied physics at the Johns Hopkins University. He performs live sporadically in the U.S. and overseas.
In the future, SoulStice hopes to land more songs in films. "The Blind Side" is a great place to start, he said.