I'm a contributor for Mixologi, and here is a collection of my articles for the website:
Yuna's Graceful Return in Chapters
published May 23, 2016 - Read here
Tweet is Back with Charlene
published March 22, 2016 - Read here
Cold Chilling Collective - Compton
published March 16, 2016 - Read here
Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Been To The Moon” and She’s Back With a New Album
published March 7, 2016 - Read here
Originally written and published for Greenroom Magazine
June 7, 2015 photography by Quinn Wilson
Lately Detroit has been synonymous with bankruptcy, political corruption and crisis. Over are the days of Motown glory and the Big Auto boom. It’s likely that donuts are not the first thing to come to mind, especially those prepared with all organic ingredients. But that’s soon to change if Herman Hayes has anything to say about it. Hayes is known as “Uncle Herm” to his late nephew, revered Detroit producer and rapper, James “Dilla” Yancey. Hayes is also a career baker and the owner of the soon-to-be opened “Dilla’s Delights” bakery, a project that was inspired by his nephew’s favorite pastry and magnum opus album, Donuts. Hayes hopes to position “Dilla’s Delights” squarely in the middle of Detroit’s emerging green movement, and in the process pay homage to one of the greatest hip hop producers who ever lived.
After Dilla (then known as Jay Dee) formed the group Slum Village in the early 90s along with high school classmates, T3 and Baatin, he caught the ear of Q-Tip and was brought along to produce for A Tribe Called Quest. He spent the better part of the next decade constructing the soundscape for the loosely formed “Soulquarian” collective that included Common, Mos Def, Erykah Badu and D’Angelo, as well as being sought after to produce seminal albums by The Pharcyde and Busta Rhymes. In his memoir "Mo' Meta Blues", fellow Soulquarian and famed drummer and bandleader of The Roots, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, credits Dilla as the single greatest influence on how he approached playing the drums.
Dilla’s passing in 2006 from Lupus came just days after releasing Donuts, his masterpiece of an instrumental album which soon became a hip hop cult classic, he was just 32 years old. It was a groundbreaking project and curtain call in a sense. The album was created during Dilla’s hospital stay and combined unconventional samples and experimental beats, reading almost like a farewell letter with tracks like “Waves” and “Don’t Cry.” Since his passing, there have been several projects created from Producers, Rappers and fans alike paying respect to the legend in their own way. From electronic indie darlings like Flying Lotus to chart toppers like Pharrell Williams, you’d be hard pressed to find a producer in the wide ranging hip-hop lexicon that doesn’t cite him as a major influence.
In addition to his fans and peers, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Dilla’s family has also been instrumental in the preservation of his legacy. His mother Maureen Yancey, known to fans as “Ma Dukes” has made sure to be involved in her son’s posthumous releases. And despite numerous disputes with the proprietor of Dilla’s estate, Ma Dukes was happy to announce the formation of The J Dilla Foundation in 2012, which plans to support inner city music programs and Lupus research. Today, Ma Dukes’ younger brother Herm has made sure to preserve that legacy in the only way he knows how, by making donuts with the most environmentally friendly ingredients he can find.
“That’s more so about his legacy and the legacy that he should have in Detroit,” says Hayes, over the phone from Detroit. “Nobody’s going to do the music like him and the archives that he left. Nobody is. I don’t think he would be happy with anyone touching it [Dilla’s archived music] even though he knew he was leaving this world. I think he was quite the anal producer. He was just totally in love with it.”
It’s only fitting that Hayes pay tribute to his nephew in this manner, as he is the one who started Dilla’s love affair with donuts. “The basic story is I used to take my brother-in-law donuts because he used to work midnights and I was making donuts for a couple of firms back here in the 70’s and early 80’s. I used to take him donuts and he used to say ‘hey you didn’t bring donuts,’ and I was like ‘yeah I left them on the kitchen table.’ Well, low and behold, there would be a crushed box under James’ bed. He was jacking donuts at like five or six,” says Hayes. “I had no clue that this kid throughout his adulthood still adored donuts. He called his beats donuts, his women donuts, and everything was donuts. I had no clue.”
Hayes continues, “Right before [Dilla] he died actually, I found out he was making Donuts, and I was honored and amazed. [With “Dilla’s Delights”] finally, his mom and daughters can benefit from his genius.”
‘Dilla’s Delights’ is dedicated to Dilla’s two daughters, Ja’Mya and Ty-Monae, and is essentially what Dilla would have wanted his own donut shop to be – full of soul, creativity and high quality ingredients. The shop is located in the building that Dilla grew up in and where his parents once owned a restaurant called Lunar Café. In the shop, the walls will display metal numbers reading 412 and 413, the placards from the apartments that Dilla lived in. Dilla’s Delights, is also a few blocks away from Harmonie Park, where Dilla had his first DJ set ever at the age of six, with a Fisher Price-brand turntable. Spinning every day in the shop will be Dilla’s records and the records of artists he sampled throughout his career.
Hayes served as a baker and chef in the military, and returned to Detroit in 1997. He sought out a job with the, then just opening Avalon Bakery, where he learned to bake organic artisan bread. Since then Avalon has grown into a staple in Detroit and has subsisted as a business that is both community-supportive and environmentally-minded, sporting the motto “Eat Well, Do Good,” and meaning it. Business has gotten so good for Avalon that they recently purchased a 50,000 square foot warehouse as a new baking facility. Hayes hints that the Avalon owners want him to open up his own shop at the new headquarters.
With Dilla’s Delights, Hayes hopes to build on that same commitment to sustainability, which speaks to the new green-revitalization efforts that Detroit is currently experiencing. It’s a movement that Hayes credits his former employer, Avalon, for starting. In the wake of urban decay and massive population loss due to the collapse of the auto industry, urban gardens, recycling and bike lanes are beginning to emerge in Detroit.
“It started with the urban gardens or yuppies and [the] middle class moving back to Detroit, and it got contagious where the urbanites started appreciating it and started living that lifestyle,” Hayes says. “You see neighborhood gardens everywhere. There are a lot of vegans here and people riding bikes. We are drawing bike lanes all over Detroit now which is basically unheard of in my lifetime.” Hayes plans on using his own bike as Dilla’s Delight’s first “delivery vehicle.”
Hoping to practice what he preaches and following suit with the city in it’s attempts to go Green, Hayes is incorporating that health-conscious idea into his shop’s business model. His aim is to make the healthiest donut possible with no cancer causing agents. Everything in the shop will be “earth friendly” as well, from the cups and bags to the coffee stirrers.
The donuts themselves will be named with Dilla in mind. Hayes says, “So far, people are liking the ‘Fantastic Fritter’ which is naturally named after Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 1 & 2, the groundbreaking Hip-Hop albums. That’s dried organic cranberries, orange dust and cinnamon. We have a ‘McNasty Macaroon’ coming out which is naturally one of [Dilla’s] aliases. We have a ‘Coney Island Glaze’ which has an identity that I’m going to shock people with. It’s a plain glazed donut, but not a plain glazed donut,” says Hayes.
Along with tributes to his nephew, Herm plans on incorporating other cultural landmarks from the community that he sees worthy of preservation. “Detroit has a long-standing African American community called the Black Bottom, so there’s a ‘Black Bottom Beat Street Blueberry.” We infuse Hip-Hop with the community. It’s important to have things named after our city. We have an ‘Eastside Éclair’ – an Éclair that has great fillings. We’re doing a Keylime, but we call it a Delime and you have to say it like you’re from the island so it’s called a “Delime Nut.” Hayes has also been experimenting with savory pastries, which he hopes to introduce once the shop is up and running. “It’s something that I’m going to take pride in, pleasing palates,” he says.
Dilla’s Delights has plans of opening in the spring of 2014 and hopes to become a thriving asset in the movement by Detroit residents to rebuild their city by honoring one of their favorite native sons, and his favorite food. If there are any doubts that Hayes doesn’t have the best intentions in mind with his tribute, they should be answered with Hayes’ reaction when asked if he would be baking his own version of the wildly popular croissant and donut mash-up “Cronuts.” “Dilla wasn’t into fads, he was an original guy.”
Portland Profile: Hip-Hop in Unexpected Places
Originally published on Frank 151
November 6, 2013
In conversations about hip-hop, Portland, OR is a region that may never come up. Within the genre’s culture lies the idea that it's an urbanite’s response to things happening to or around them, which could serve as a reason why people don't associate the Northwest area with hip-hop. Most commonly, the region has become synonymous with coffee shops, bookstores and Voodoo Doughnuts, not to mention, IFC Network’s hit skit comedy show Portlandia, which only furthers those ideas that make Portland seem like a very granola-filled landscape. The indie rock scene, also, primarily dominates the soundscape.
“I think Portland in general as a music town is indie rock first and foremost. We have one of the best indie rock scenes in the country and the community’s attention is there; it’s just not that big of a rap fan base in general,” says Fresh Selects curator, Kenny Fresh, of the indie rock influence in Portland. The indie rock scene completely overshadows the hip-hop scene in Portland with more exposure going towards that genre. With a large underground culture devoted to indie rock, the sound that started out of the Boogie Down seems as if it fell upon deaf ears in the City of Roses.
With that being said, Portland’s hip-hop scene is still very alive and active. The scene includes an interesting array of artists like Cassow, who has worked with Danny Brown; Immaculate, who won the World Rap Championship; rapper/producer Stewart Village who collaborated with The Underachivers and Danny Brown; Tope, whose new EP Trouble Man has garnered buzz in and out of the city; as well as Trox, who has produced for 50 Cent and Smoke DZA. Basically put, Portland’s artists are doing their part to help put the region on the hip-hop map.
Although not all of what was produced received national attention, hip-hop acts from Portland have been delivering quality music. Cool Nutz, whom many consider to the godfather of Portland hip-hop, was able to achieve a small amount of notoriety to bait the bigger fish in the hip-hop pond to pay attention to the state.
“Portland isn’t looked at as a hotbed for urban culture. We don’t have a lot of things that are super influential on a national level outside of Nike, Adidas, and Voodoo Donuts,” said Cool Nutz. “I think another thing is things happened in our scene early on that weren’t transmitted out of the city. From 1995 to 2004, you had artists that were drawing a 1,000 people here and we were going outside of the city doing tours in Montana, Wyoming, and Seattle. At the same time, you didn’t have the ability to spread it how it is now with a certain validation. Not to say these are all factors. Things just happen when they are rightfully supposed to happen.
During the peak of his career, Cool Nutz was helping putting Portland on the map by signing record contracts with major labels like Atlantic and Universal. However, he wasn’t the only one helping to mold the sound of the area.
“I feel like a lot of them [the younger artists] have been able to learn and watch. I mean, you have not only myself, but other entities that laid the groundwork for what a lot of people are doing now—not just in Portland, but the entire region,” Cool Nutz added. “Like The Boom Bap Project, Lifesavas, and myself are showing a lot of artists that it’s possible to tour, to be in The Source, and work with national recording artists.
Although the groundwork was already laid, Portland’s hip-hop scene never took off because, realistically, they never had a defined sound. Areas like New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles have distinct sounds and artists whose work have greatly shaped hip-hop and whose influence echoes in thousands of artists attempting to break into the industry. For instance, Detroit has a blue-collar feel, with MCs rapping about their day-to day, while producers are essentially creating a soundscape likening to the city’s grittiness.
In prior years, Portland didn’t really have a sound so it took pieces from its neighbors to create the music of the region. Portland artists were chasing the tails of the Bay Area with the hyphy sound. “In 2013 it’s a very diverse sound. I would say about ten years ago it was very Bay Area influenced,” says producer Trox. “Now, you have the new generation coming.”
Rapper Tope echoes these ideas as well: “It is weird because there isn’t a Portland sound. I think we’ve always drawn from different places like the LA and Bay Area influence and then also we’ve been influenced by Detroit and Dilla.”
Now, artists are developing their own sound, which is going to be a beneficial to helping Portland achieve mainstream success. However, the sound that is emerging from Portland is not one specific sound but more so of a mesh. “I think it’s building and growing and creating its own identity. I love what potential is there because there is a lot of talent the outside world doesn’t know about,” says rapper Wingate. “The sound is turning skillful. Artists seem like they are starting to understand that there is a foundation in this industry and understand that working at refining your craft and skills can help create an identity for the city.”
“I think my music reflects some of the collaborative potential we have in the city. On my last album Skrill Tank, I started to focus on getting local producers to collaborate, bringing in live drums or bass players as well as vocalists to collaborate on one final product,” adds Illmaculate. “It’s a luxury of being surrounded by so many artists. I put my music next to anyone in the city, or world for that matter, and feel good about it.”
Aside from it finally figuring out a way to define its sound, Portland’s scene seems to lack the support necessary to take the region’s sound full throttle. In 2013, blogs drive music. Bloggers are tastemakers these days and due to events like SXSW and A3C, as well as the convincing and immediate factor, bloggers have more of an important role than that of record labels and record executives. With blogs like 2dopeboyz and Illroots shaping what music fans like and support, without a clear lack of representation, people are not being ushered to the Portland music scene.
Despite the lack of blog support, Portland also has a lack of visibility in the media. Although artists like Tope have gotten support from publications, not everyone has been so lucky. It appears that sometimes, these publications will mention the artist, but not necessarily focus on them.
“There is no reason in 2013 to think locally—the internet is your fan base,” claimed Kenny Fresh. “You should have local shows and stuff, but that will come if your name is ringing out and buzzing online and in blogs and on YouTube videos and things like that. Then, people here will find out about you because you’re from Portland. It kind of separates you from some guy who works at a record store that they see all the time that happens to rap. You have to make it real for them. People are skeptical. You have to kind of prove it before they can really be interested.”
If there was local support, Portland’s hip-hop scene wouldn’t need as much support from blogs and other forms of media. “No disrespect, blogs can only take people so far. Some people might disagree with me but it’s all about having your own fanbase in your town. To grow you really have to have the town behind you,” says Trox. “In Portland, that’s really hard because people will not fuck with you out here unless you’re really doing something.
Although the talent is definitely apparent, there seems to be a lack of support not only in the media, but also those who dwell in the city. Unlike Seattle, who has a breakout star like Macklemore, Portland has never had a breakout star to put the region on people’s radar.
“I think the story about Portland is like who will be the breakout artist. I think it’s a widely discussed thing around town kind of how Seattle had two on different levels—Shabazz Palaces with the underground more abstract side, and Macklemore on the huge pop star mainstream shit,” notes Kenny Fresh. “Cool Nutz and Lifesavas were that for us in ’90s and early 2000s, but that’s been ten years.”
Compared to places like California, Portland hasn’t had the same success. California has many breakout artists. In the early days, the region boasted prominent figures in hip-hop like Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and NWA. Today, Cali has Kendrick Lamar, as well as artists like Dom Kennedy and IamSu!. If more breakout artists or at least one from Portland made it out, the press that is necessary for growth from the area would flourish. However, since there hasn’t been one, it’s been rather hard for their to be a light shined on Portland.
“I’m having trouble transitioning to the national blogs that I want like XXL or 2DopeBoyz. Some of that, I think, is because there hasn’t been any Portland artists that have really cracked those blogs as opposed to Macklemore in Seattle,” notes Tope. “He cracked the blog world and then ten other artists from Seattle were able to crack because he did. I guess the national scene blog wise has been harder for me. I don’t know if that’s a testament to my music, but I kind of take it that I need to work harder and make better music. But still, I think it’s partially because our region is so untapped and people are like, I don’t even know who this is.”
With a breakout star, Portland’s hip-hop scene will only benefit. Not only will it force other people to take notice, but also amass support from the region. The talent is there; it’s only a matter of time before the scene pops off.
Detroit Rising: The Music of A Beautiful Struggle
Originally published on Frank 151
August 5, 2013
For decades Detroit has been synonymous with danger and decay. Once a bustling metropolis famous for its music and manufacturing, Michigan's most populous city is currently on the brink of bankruptcy, with one of the highest crime rates in the country.
But the D's not all doom and gloom. Detroit has a growing silver lining thanks to the hard work of ambitious, creative (mostly) young individuals who call it home. They've taken it upon themselves to turn the neglect and dilapidation back into a vibrant community.
The second installment in our multi-part series on Detroit focuses on the City's thriving though music scene.
Since the days of the iconic label Motown, which housed internationally celebrated figures like Marvin Gaye, David Ruffin, and Michael Jackson among others, Detroit has laid its foundation as a city embedded in music.
These days the soul that was originally established by Motown has been replaced with hip-hop backed by soul samples and gritty beats. Led by Berry Gordy, artists then spoke about love and life; today hip-hop artists tend to speak about money, power, respect, and a sense of struggle. With well-documented events shaping Detroit’s legacy, like the 1967 riots and the city’s recent declaration of bankruptcy, it would be an understatement to say that the region is in dire shape—something its artists have always channeled into their creative output.
“The main thing you can hear in all our music is the real passion in it with some sense of struggle,” said T3, member of Slum Village, a group synonymous with Detroit. “That’s the one thing I think that ties us all together—our sense of struggle and the things that we went through being natives of Detroit.”
This struggle within Detroit’s music seems to be systemic of the industry itself. In some areas there seems to be a lack of unity, or the semblance of a few artists monopolizing the scene on a mainstream/underground level. However that all changed to a certain extent after the passing of legendary producer/MC, James “Dilla” Yancey in 2006, which devastated the hip-hop community while also helping shine a light on the music coming from his hometown.
Now, seven years later, there seem to be some who believe that there's a huge gap between the Dilla era and the city’s newer artists. It's the classic argument: people feeling either overly entitled or under-acknowledged. On the other hand, there are those who do feel that there's a true sense of unity amongst established Detroit figures like Black Milk and Eminem who reach out to the younger generation of artists.
“When you talk to people that have been around, they talk about a bottleneck that prevented Detroit hip-hop veterans from getting their shine,” said MC and poet, Will See. “Like Eminem would be the only one to get attention from the industry. Is it really a renaissance or is it just more attention to what has consistently been growing and bubbling in Detroit? Now, you have Royce, Danny Brown, and Big Sean bringing more mainstream attention to Detroit.”
For years, Detroit has had a sound that became synonymous with the area: soul-driven, tight instrumentals, and a raw, organic sound. But Sean and Brown represent an era of artists who are excelling on a mainstream level without having to rely on the 'traditional' Detroit sound. These two, like many others, have in turn created their own style and gained both national and international success without coming off like direct graduates of the School of Dilla. It's thanks to individualist sounds like these that Detroit is seeing a whole new musical fanbase.
“There’s a lot going on. You have Danny Brown on one spectrum and you have Big Sean in a whole other spectrum. Two different fanbases, both from Detroit,” said T3. “That brings a lot of focus to the D because now, it’s not just in one section. When Slum Village first came out, it was just us. The fans are so diverse around this Detroit movement. I think that’s why it’s like oh, OK, there’s talent here. These guys are doing their thing because you have two big artists from two different sides of the scale.”
With the widespread popularity of these two figures, room has definitely been made for other new artists to leave their imprints as well. Asking the question of whether or not Detroit is experiencing a renaissance comes with a lot of skepticism, because calling it that could potentially downplay all those past decades of great music. It would also mean overlooking the momentum that Detroit has been creating for years musically, so perhaps a more adequate term would be a revitalization.
“I guess there is innovation in what we’ve been doing, but renaissance people with voices are sensationalist and then everybody else kind of repeats it. I wouldn’t say that there’s not a renaissance, but I think that’s not the right word,” said rapper Quelle Chris. “There is a real blast and unique approach to rap if you look at the newer artists coming out of Detroit. They are all artists that have unique voices and unique sounds, which in rap is essentially what's most important.”
The new approaches to rap that Quelle alludes to can be found in the emergence of these budding artists coming from the region. With five projects on their discography including Detroit Revolution(s), Clear Soul Forces has created a sound that is no doubt paying homage to Detroit, yet with their own realities, ideals, and style. In the same vein as Clear Soul Forces are artists like Red Pill, the Black Opera, Jahshua Smith, Nolan the Ninja, to name a few. And it's not all just hip-hop acts either—more and more musicians are popping up in this revitalized space with entirely different musical genres, like indie-pop group, fun.
Fun. caught waves with their Janelle Monae-assisted, Grammy Award-winning single “We Are Young” from their latest installment, Some Nights. The song pushed the group into mainstream success as the track was heard virtually everywhere. Although they're currently based in New York, group member Andrew Dost is from Detroit, and the group does most of their recording in the Motor City. Also fitting into the indie pop scene is duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., who are signed to Warner Brothers. The two came together in 2010 to create their EP, Horse Power, and now several projects later are making a name for themselves and the D by performing tracks on late-night shows like Conan.
“I think that somehow, being from Detroit brought some authenticity to us,” says Josh of from the band. “I think being from Detroit has made it easier for us to make our kind of music. I think if we would have come from Hollywood or something, it would have been perceived in a different way.”
These new acts are having a chance to pop up, perhaps because D music comes with the unwritten rule of respect. With iconic figures like Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye helping lay the foundations of a strong legacy attached to the music of the region, which was then continued with groundwork laid by Dilla, Black Milk, Elzhi, Phat Kat, Waajeed, Ro Spit and others, people expect to receive quality music from Detroit.
“There’s a lot of competition here in Detroit because we make good music. We produce great producers and MCs and just great artists in general. There’s a lot of competition here,” said producer Apollo Brown.
“Well, we’re the most imitated, whether people want to admit it or not,” reflected member of the Left, DJ Soko. “More importantly, we do better than everyone else with the least resources. We have changed a landscape without having to rely on anyone else while having minimal resources at our disposal.”
“There’s an expectation that’s already been set,” added MC Quelle Chris. “I don’t think I’m ever going to fall off because not only the artist, but the people who are receiving it, are already going to know if it’s coming from Detroit expect better.
“People don’t have to prove themselves these days. I’m from a generation where you had to battle everybody. You couldn’t just put out something because not everyone was going to hear it because there was no internet,” Chris continued. “So, you had to prove that niggas wanted to listen to you. You couldn’t just walk up and say ‘I have a CD out, so I’m already popping.’ I think a lot of people are getting away with a lot of shit, but I think Detroit, we’re always going to hold to that standard since there’s a certain level of respect for it. It’s kind of up to the artists that are still making music from Detroit to uphold that standard.”
I worked as a writer for Frank 151, and here are a collection of my articles from the website.
Interview: Seymour Liberty's Jungle Mumbo Jumbo (here)
Published December 23, 2014
Interview: Music in Story Form with Pyramid Vitra (here)
Published February 12, 2014
Interview: Latyrx and 16 Years of Change (here)
Published November 22, 2013
Beauty in Tangible Dreams: Oddisee Interview (here)
Published October 16, 2013
Fearsome Foursome: Clear Soul Forces Interview (here)
Published September 18, 2013
See Her Run: SZA Interview (here)
Published August 12, 2013
Believe The Hype: IAMSU! Interview (here)
Published July 29, 2013
Lost Tapes Finally Uncovered: Rodion Rosca Interview (here)
Published June 3, 2013
Photos and Review: Big K.R.I.T, Smoke DZA at DNA Lounge (here)
Published May 29, 2013
Photos and Review: Flying Lotus, Thundercat at Fox Theater (here)
Published May 28, 2013
Ghetto Sci-Fi: Ras-G Interview (here)
Published May 28, 2013
Language Of The People: Greg Grease Interview (here)
Published May 21, 2013
Paid Dues Festival 2013 Recap (here)
Published April 2, 2013
Ghostface Killah x Adrian Younge SF Photos x Review (here)
Published April 5, 2013
Fuck A Mixtape: Sean Born Interview (here)
Published March 20, 2013
Bay Area Stand Up: GQ Interview (here)
Published March 13, 2013
Jeanne Jolly Interview
Originally published on Rawemag/Beats, Eats & Reads (now defunct)
There has to be something in the water in North Carolina, as the region as a whole has become synonymous with great music. With artists like: Little Brother, 9th Wonder, The Foreign Exchange, and Kooley High leading the pack, the region has always been a hub for great music. Added to the list of great artists who call the region home is North Carolina native, Jeanne Jolly. “I think that there’s a lot of creative support in North Carolina and there are a lot of opportunities to explore many different musical genres,” says Jolly of the state. “We have some really amazing jazz musicians generations back. You have different pockets of North Carolina that are able to develop on their own without too much outside influence just because they were influenced by what was around them. I think there’s a lot of originality in North Carolina.” Jolly, who first caught attention singing background for legendary Jazz Musician Chris Botti, has an inviting and warm disposition and a beautiful soul that shines through when you speak with her. The singer who released her debut EP Falling in North Carolina (2010)to high praises based on the songwriting, has been singing her whole life. “My mom used to tell me that my first words were the Beethoven Symphony theme because I was listening to it in the car with my parents and apparently that was the first thing I said that made sense even though it wasn’t a word.”
After touring with Botti, Jolly returned home to North Carolina to focus more so on her music career. Sadly, five weeks after returning home to North Carolina, Jolly’s biggest fan and supporter, her mother, passed away of cancer. Using that negative point in her life to fuel her passion, Jolly started focusing more on songwriting and singing songs that truly came from the heart. “I moved back to North Carolina and I came home to be with her. It all happened pretty fast. It kind of just changed my whole world, obviously. When I moved here, the positive focus for me came in a real dark time,” says Jolly. “I started taking guitar lessons and just trying to hone it in and focus on music that I loved.” Jolly turned to her biggest musical comforts; jazz, old soul records that she grew up listening to, and 90’s country music. She also hooked up with Chris Boerner of The Hot at Nights. Boerner, and The Nights play alongside The Foreign Exchange producer Nicolay for his projects like Shibuya. Jolly’s work with Boerner also leads to how she hooked up with The Foreign Exchange for their Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange DVD, as well as joined them on the road for their Authenticitytour. “Chris is actually how I met The Foreign Exchange. He plays guitar with them. We were working on Falling in Carolina and they were on the road somewhere in Texas and he was like hey guys, you should listen to this girl. I’m producing her record in Raleigh. For some reason, Phonte and Nicolayreally liked it and asked me to sing on their DVD and to go on tour just to fill in for somebody,” explained Jolly. “I kind of stepped in there in a room full of amazing The Foreign Exchange fans feeling the love. It was an amazing experience. I had never felt anything like that. Now, here I am and The Foreign Exchange is putting out my record. It’s just kind of a blessing unfolding ever since I moved back here.” The singer just released her debut album Angels. The project, which was first introduced via lead single “Sweet Love,” was exclusively produced by Boerner and written by Jolly. The album is an eclectic effort showcasing Jolly’s great writing and diverse ear. The album title was created to pay homage to the angels within Jolly’s life, notably her mother. “Every song on the album is inspired by an angel, a story about one or alludes to the presence of one. I thought let’s just name it Angels. It does speak to every song on the record,” says Jolly. “I started this song writing journey really focusing on it after the passing of my mom who was my biggest fan. She knew I was going to try to write and really encouraged me to do that, but she never got to see me play a show of my own songs. That was something she never got to see. I always feel like this journey is so heavily inspired and guided by her as well.” From listening to this album, Jolly’s angel, her mother, will be smiling from heaven over the great project her daughter has created. Make sure to support Jolly, and purchase her album Angels, out now via The Foreign Exchange Music. Purchase album here. Also, be sure to check Jolly out on tour with The Foreign Exchange coming to a city near you. Check out
Originally published on Rawemag/Beats, Eats & Reads (now defunct)
1-O.A.K, is one of those artists who released a project, and I am so excited for him almost like it was my album. Below, is the write up for the video hope you enjoy. Also, if you still have not yet got the album, make sure to download that ASAP here.
Oakland bred singer/songwriter and producer, 1-O.A.K, represents the best of the Bay Area music scene. Within his music, he is able to encompass all the music forms that have made the area popular—hip-hop and soul, while still adding in a lot of himself and a lot of other musical elements. With his long awaited debut album, Special Request, that’s what comes across. The album gives listeners an idea of why we all were waiting for an album from the singer and really gives listeners an idea of who the singer really is notably with tracks like: “Yaya,” “Sweet Memories,” and “High Rollers,’ just to name a few. Following the release of the album, I got a chance to catch up with 1-O.A.K and speak with him about his roots in music, the creative process behind the album, particular songs and etc. The video was shot and edited by DJ.Lan.
Van Hunt Interview
Originally published on Rawemag/Beats, Eats & Reads (now defunct)
Van Hunt is one of my favorite vocalist/songwriters. I’m not quite a stan, but I have been a fan of his music since my sophomore year of high school in 2004. I was first exposed to him with a song that is still a personal favorite of mine today entitled, “Dust.” I remember watching the video (here) for the first time on Vh1 Soul at my grandparents house with my best friend. I remember thinking who is this beautiful man playing a guitar in the middle of the city speaking of how he’s already insane. Over the years, my appreciation of Van Hunt’s music has continued throughout his whole discography: Van Hunt, On The Jungle Floor, and independent releases: Use In Case of Emergency, and Popular Machine. Hunt, was scheduled to release a follow up to On The Jungle Floor, however, the album was shelved by record labels which in a way, gave birth to this stellar project that is his latest release, What Were You Hoping For? I got the chance to speak with Van Hunt before his show in San Francisco about the release of the new project, the writing on the project and the inspiration behind the album title and a few songs in particular. I also spoke with him about his metaphorical approach to love songs like “Cross Dresser” on the new album. Lastly, I spoke with him about the state of males in soul music today, if he had the opportunity to meet any musician who would it be and why and etc.
Listen to the interview now: https://soundcloud.com/bellametaphor/rawemag-x-van-hunt-interview
I was an music reviewer for Okayplayer many moons ago. Here are my articles from the website:
Goapele album review (here)
Chris Dave + Stimulus (here)
Georgia Anne Muldrow (here)
Kiler Mike (here)
Eric Roberson (here)
Boog Brown (here)
Matthew Dear (here)
Eligh & Amp Live (here)
Statik Selektah (here)
The Black Opera (here)
Meshell Ndegecello (here)
Roc C (here)