Saturday April 17th – Black Music Awards Director Pete Rhodes delivered a very palatable, emerging talent audition. In fact, it seemed more a talent showcase than a competition. With plenty of room for error, the event consisted of sound checks and live performances, but these artists didn’t flinch.
Their professionalism spoke volumes; there were times when it sounded like vocalists were singing through real-time pitch correction. When I spoke with FOH mixer, Jay Fleming, he assured me his mixing was all I was hearing. The difference a professional sound man can make is astounding, and this is a classy event, worthy of the attention.
From 1982-1999 the Minnesota Black Music Awards show drew attention to one of the best talent pools in the world: Minneapolis. An A-list of past performers reads like a “who’s who” in the industry: Prince, Morris Day & The Time, St. Paul Peterson, Sheila E., Jam and Lewis, etc.; amongst others these are the performers who made Minnesota a musically significant geographic local. They also made a definitive musical mark: The Minneapolis sound.
By 1999 the Minnesota music marketplace had changed: “If a city and state don’t get behind the music scene, it starts to fade” says MBMA Director Pete Rhodes. With the success of Rhymesayers Entertainment, and a busy Twin Cities underground Hip Hop scene, by 2010 the MBMA saw enough momentum that it was time to bring back the awards show. According to Rhodes, this year one main focus is to draw attention to those defining today’s Minneapolis sound. If the auditions were any indication, this sound is evolving, but it stays true to its roots.
To define their sound, competing artists described themselves to me in the following way: jazzy.. Hip Hop, soul, and neo-soul/funk/acid jazz, diverse, fusion of styles (R&B, pop, electronic, & jazz), soulfully sweet and upbeat, “groovable”… and it all makes sense. These are elements that were crucial to the success of the Minneapolis sound, and these young artists are adding their own identifiable twist to a new generation of timeless music.
Kudos to the winner of the MBMA emerging talent auditions: Ashley Dubose. Ashley’s performance style is relaxed and laid back; she seems very comfortable on stage and knows who she is as an artist. Her confident, beautiful voice, backed by acoustic and bass guitar, is, in a word, refreshing. Though instrumentally she flirts with folk, her music is emotionally positive, groovy, and soulful. As an audience member, she made me a believer; it’s obvious she sings from the heart. She sees her ability as a blessing and she’ll be sharing her voice with us at the Minnesota Black Music Awards show: Pantages Theater, Friday, July 15, 2011. Congratulations on your win Ashley! If you’d like to learn more about Ashley, go here: www.myspace.com/ashleydubose2009 .
Funky! The Brandon Projekt is comprised of front man Brandon Perkins and a host of accomplished players. It’s obvious they pull influences from funk, jazz, and neo-soul, and their music is very danceable. Though The Brandon Projekt has only been together about one year, Brandon has a history in the music industry. He was signed to EMI, EDEL, and Virgin (European division) from 2001 to 2006. He released a single called, “BodyRock” with a platinum artist named Shaham in Germany in 2002. You can learn more about this talented group at www.reverbnation.com/thebrandonprojekt or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thebrandonprojekt.
John Camm is an IPR graduate with a gift for singing; it’s surprising we haven’t heard more from him as part of the IPR community. For the audition, he sang to a couple original tracks that he produced, engineered and mixed (his IPR education serves him well). About his music, Camm says, “whatever I do with music must be soulful”, and he goes on to describe his sound as that which embraces elements of R&B, pop, electronic, & jazz, while staying musically current. Admittedly a little quiet and shy when not on stage, Camm has been singing since he was nine years old, and writing songs since the age of twelve. Connect with John through his Twitter account to learn more about him and his music: http://twitter.com/#!/CriderTimbre .
Margueax Davis has a sweet, friendly spirit, and this girl can groove! Familiar with the stage, Margueax is a blast to watch, and on the mic. she is fully identifiable: “jazzy… Hip Hop Soul – Etta James meets J. Dilla”. Some artists inject their stage show with interplay from fellow band mates, but Margueax was so fun to watch, I barely even noticed she was singing to a track. She has experience as a stage actor (Broadway Production RENT January 2010 At The Lab Theater), she won best female R&B vocal 2010 (First Ave. contest), she was nominated for best female R&B vocal 2011, and she was invited to sing The National Anthem for the 2011 MN Timberwolves. If you’d like to catch more of Margueax, check out these links: http://www.youtube.com/user/MargeauxDavis?feature=mhum , http://www.reverbnation.com/margeauxtheessenceofsoul .
A-matic represents fine, Minneapolis Hip Hop. With a genuine lyrical approach and strong rap sensibilities, A-matic is 100% his own man. The son of a Choir Director, A-matic has been writing and recording his own music for twelve years. His writing skills cover both rap and R&B. A-matic produces his own music and prepares his own performance tracks. If you’d like to learn more about A-matic, visit his Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Minneapolis-MN/IPR-The-Institute-of-Production-Recording/64276533876#!/profile.php?id=100000348200068
Without question, Danami is slammin! He has put together a skilled group of players to back his unique brand of Hip Hop. He and his band present a unified stage appearance, and put on an energetic stage show. Danami prefers to draw from diverse elements when songwriting and he uses his lyrics, often fiction, to carry his Hip Hop vision. Though his current musical endeavor is only 4 months old, Danami has been writing music for thirteen years. If his audition for the MBMA show is any indication of who this young man is as an artist, we’ll surely see more of him in the future. Be sure to visit his web page to learn more: http://www.danamionline.com/ .
While you’re busy checking out all these new performers this spring, consider yourself invited to the Pantages Theater, Friday, July 15, 2011 for the Minnesota Black Music Awards Show. Director Pete Rhodes assures me that the new artist showcase and a series of music business workshops will make this event a must for both Minnesota music enthusiasts and music business professionals. We want “to give the next generation of Minneapolis Sound a solid stage to promote, preserve and recognize their work”, says Rhodes. Details will be available at www.blackmusicamerica.com .
Special thanks to the MBMA Emerging Talent judges: Pete Rhodes, Lugina Smith, Kimberly Bedell Rhodes, Ben Obi, Erica West, Steve Hodge, and Norbert Kreuzer.