Firefly: The Experience

Anyone who knows my work knows that I am an avid music fan. Well, to use the word fan is an understatement. Besides listening to music, writing, performing and reviewing are some of the other activities that go along with my musical experiences. Let’s just say, I live and breathe this stuff!

Just recently, I had the opportunity to cover and attend the 8th annual Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware. Firefly is one of the most popular festivals in the country, which has hosted some very notable names in the music industry. Some if the prior acts in the past, include: The Weeknd; Florence + the Machine; and Tom Petty, plus a slew of other performers in very high demand.

Before I get into the performances and my personal experiences with some of the artists, let’s talk about the overall feel of the festival. Firefly isn’t just a one-day thing— it lasts for three-days, with each day ending at about 2 a.m. It’s truly both a mental and physical investment for those who attend.

The first day of the festival, I got up very early to see if there were long lines in the will call area because the first act would begin at 11 a.m. People already started picking up their tickets 6 a.m. This itself was a true part of the experience— an unspoken subculture involved in the process.

With a collective jubilance is in the air, people were blaring music from their cars, people were dancing and chatting with friends in the parking lot— it all felt very natural and in order. The parking lot was full of vehicles with different license plates from around the country, a fun sight to see and the campgrounds were buzzing with people, full fledged tents, water coolers and all other necessities needed for the outdoors.

Post Malone


Post Malone

Now to the music— This year’s festival lineup did not disappoint. Panic at the Disco!; Travis Scott; and Post Malone all proved why they are headliners. All three acts drew massive crowds and used the stage to their best advantage. It was obvious they were all seasoned and knew the command they could have over an audience. It never hurts when each one of them has an assortment of hit songs and have reached incredible levels of success as well. Singing along was prevalent and people were not shy in letting the artists know how much they loved them.

When I wasn’t looking at the acts or trying to figure out what was for lunch, I was having conversations with some of the artists for my “SwanoDown SitDown” video series. Some artists that you can expect to see are Ziggy Alberts, Evan Westfall from the group Caamp, and Post Malone affiliate, Tyla Yaweh. Each artist was thoroughly engaging during our discussions, and I truly enjoyed speaking with them.

Keep an eye out for our SwanoDown SitDowns on The Baltimore Times website: and YouTube pages.

In the meantime… Stay Virtuous. Stay Idealistic. Stay Progressive.

Keeping Your Sanity: Getting Started in the Music Business, Part IV

As most of us may already know, crafting and mastering a skill takes a lot of time, hard work and dedication. Over three different periods in my life, I have had the opportunity to delve into the book “Outliers,” written by author Malcolm Gladwell. In this book, I read about the theory of the “10,000-Hour Rule,” which has stuck with me since I was 10 years old. Gladwell writes that if you practice a craft for 20 hours a week over a time span of 10 years, you will become a master at that skill.

However, I have come to realize that you don’t always have to be on task to be on task. In Part IV of this series, I want to focus on how using other mediums of art can influence, inspire and enhance whatever your current art form may be. By that I mean I don’t always have to use music as my only resource to becoming a better musician. My father has always told me, “You don’t have to eat hair to grow hair.”

Having several visual artists in my circle, I’ve have been able to engage in many conversations in relation to the use of light— lighting in photography, film and even paintings. The trend that seemed to be consistent in these conversations was how one can convey a mood or message by the choice of lighting. Being a musician, I obviously don’t use light as a tool for setting the mood in a song but I have started to mold my sound by specific choice of timbre, tone and color in my voice. I am no longer just singing to “sound good,” I am now creating a more dense and complex sound, styled more dynamically than before.

Muammar Muhammad, a guitarist with a hub based in Baltimore has performed in New York, San Francisco, Florida, Denver and Chicago over these last few months. I caught up with him recently to ask if and how he uses other mediums of art to influence or propel his music.

“As a musician, my ultimate goal is to venture into world music. As the name implies, I wanna subject myself to various cultures and traditions around the world centered around music, Muhammad said. “I am a huge anime fan, and if it’s one thing I learned from anime, it would be the way their culture is always on front display. I learned about Japanese religion, their political system, their educational system, the food, their entertainment, and of course their music. A lot of the music played throughout anime is heavily western-based with heavy rock instrumentation. Not only that, but they also combine western music with their own traditional music to fuse what is known as J-pop or J-rock. I have been watching and listening to anime and the various soundtracks from them for well over a decade. It’s safe to say that it has been a major influence in the way that I create my own music.”

This exposure to other forms of art isn’t just important to musicians. I had an opportunity to catch up m.ello, a talented poet on tour in St. Petersburg, Florida, a few months ago. I asked her a very similar question to the one I asked Muhammad because I wanted to know how other art forms influenced her. This is what she had to say about the way music influences her poetry.

“Poetry and music are both about feeling something— anything. When I write, I write out of that internal movement, that same heavy feeling of a song, starting low, then ending with crescendo. There have been times where I hear the same chorus over and over in my head and I start singing it low in the kitchen, for example. Those words become a thread that finds it’s way gently from my heart, winding through my arms until it reaches the tips of my fingertips, electric. This is where I find a pen. This is where I scribble the lines until it becomes different, the shadow of a song. My heart, the generator will take the notes and flip them into poetry.”

So artists out there, the next time you see a movie, check out a painting or listen to song, do it with a purpose.

Follow Muammar Muhammad on Instagram @mim0630 and m.ello @by_m.ello

In the meantime… Stay Virtuous. Stay Idealistic. Stay Progressive. To contact Imani Wj Wright, email:

Keeping Your Sanity: Getting Started in the Music Business, Part III

Being an independent artist is a beautiful thing. Yes, you are your own boss, and yes, you are free from any binding record label contracts, but- do not take the word independent, too literally. Independent does not necessarily mean alone, and in this case, it shouldn’t mean alone. There are so many aspects to becoming successful, and building a productive/loyal team around you is crucial.

What’s a productive team? First things first, you have to understand your own energy, and then find those who match it, or maybe even exceed it. How badly do you want it? How many hours a week do you rehearse, plan, or study your craft? All of these questions are important to ask yourself as you want people who reach your level of dedication. Secondly, identify your needs. Are you disorganized and need someone who is willing to help you keep things aligned? Does your music contain lots of heavy keyboard, and you need a live keyboardist? Now, on the other side of things, also know who to not have around. Sometimes there can be too many opinions in a room, from my experience, this can (at times) slow down processes, especially artistically.

I had a chance to catch up with Baltimore native, and videographer/photographer Lukey Lenz in reference to the importance of having a good team. Lenz has worked around artists such as: PnB Rock, Method Man, and Premo Rice, to name a few. Lenz asserted:

“Good teams draw from the understanding that they each need to make opportunities for themselves and the artist, whether it be a promoter, booking manager, or even another artist within the group. The idea is to work like a tree, growing the branches and making more connections.”

Since Lenz has been a team member for several artists, I asked him how he attributes to the artists’ image, and how he tries to make them appear to the public.

Lenz laughed, and then stated: “ As a visual artist I like to complement the subject by appealing to their aesthetics as well as sprinkling in some of my creative visions. Life is not necessarily like a movie, so when I do capture an artist I try to give a realistic representation of how they operate. A natural and genuine feel is what I go for because it not only gives their fans a true idea of what they are about, but who they actually are.”

Lenz then went on and specified how he attempts to capture artists in a live concert space. “On stage it is typical for me to focus or zoom as according to what I feel the artist is trying to convey. If the song feels personal, the viewer may want to see expressions on the artist’s face so they themselves can be enthralled. If the song is energetic, I’m going to give the audience a wider shot and allow them to see all the elements, pieces, and motion that make a good performance. These are subtle things that allow people to feel more connected to you and the artist.”

As much as I enjoyed listening to Lenz go through his artistic outlook on visually capturing artists, I more so focused on how everything he did had purpose. He evidently plays his role with high levels of dignity zeal. He had a multifaceted outlook of himself, the task at hand, and the artist. Lenz is a prime example of the type of team member one should be, and the type of team member one needs.

Follow Lukey Lenz on Instagram @LukeyLenz

In the meantime.. Stay Virtuous. Stay Idealistic. Stay Progressive.

Keeping Your Sanity: Getting Started In The Music Business, Part II

Back in high school, there were many things I looked forward to on a weekly basis. Some of those things include: lunch with my buddies, basketball/baseball practice, and more than anything— the weekend. There is nothing like the feeling of getting to relax after a strenuous five-day week. Now that I am grown up, that has all changed and believe it or not, my favorite day of the week now is— Monday.

Pursuing a successful career in the music industry has many parts. What I quickly began to realize is that in order to grow and expand in this business, you have to be constantly networking— contacting and reaching out to people, places and entities who have something you may need in order to get to the next level.

Why has Monday become my favorite day of the week? Well, the weekends have become dreadful to me as many businesses don’t check and/or respond to emails on Saturdays, especially publications and venues. Emails are such a crucial aspect of your come up. On average, I send many emails out each WEEK attempting to get new opportunities in place for my band and me. There have been weeks where I’ve sent as many at 20 emails to different people or entities in an attempt to make things happen. I would not be writing for The Baltimore Times today, it had not been for me reaching out to the paper relentlessly over a three-week period. I eventually landed an interview, and the rest is history!

Now, reaching out to people, publications and venues is a must but it means absolutely nothing if you haven’t built a solid portfolio to go along with it. I’ve seen a lot of artists try to make connections but have nothing substantial to back it up. It’s almost as if they are hoping for someone to just give them a blind chance. The key in this business is to put, as much power in your own hands by creating a package that would make it hard for anyone to turn down.

When I asked former English teacher and verified artist, Luke O’Brien to weigh in on the topic of building your portfolio and gaining leverage, this is what he said, “Having a foundation of quality content is key. If I’m going to ask someone else to help add value to what I’m doing, I need to be able to provide them with value as well. The only way to establish said value, and have it be sustainable, is to build your content and your audience organically. This will happen faster for some than others but it will always require time and patience.

“I made a song called “Old Love,” which I used to propose to my wife. We turned our wedding ceremony into the music video. We did all that on our own. We added value to our own thing. Then, Good Morning America picked up the video and it gained just over a million hits on their Facebook page. Now, I had a piece of authentic, organic content that I could leverage as part of my musical resume. That piece of content is still helping me secure shows two years after it was created. A booking agent can look at that and see that I have a story to tell and an audience that’s listening.”

Listen to O’brien’s advice, because he has almost mastered the skill of creating a platform for himself. He even managed to get Temple University to sponsor him to go to the highly respected Music festival, South by Southwest.

You can connect with Luke O’Brien on Instagram @lukeobrienmusic

In the meantime… Stay Virtuous. Stay Idealistic. Stay Progressive. To contact Imani Wj Wright, email:

Keeping Your Sanity: Getting Started In The Music Business, Part I

I’ve been trying to grow my hair out for the past year now, but it’s not happening as I’ve spent too much time pulling it out! That’s a joke but sometimes the stress of trying to be successful can be tortuous. This holds true for many professions, but the one I’m currently dealing with is the Music Business.

I have developed this theory a few months ago: “Some careers have a path created and you learn how to walk it, in the music business, you’re creating the path as you walk it.” So, I’ve developed this five part series for all the fledgling artists trying to figure this thing out, just like me.

First things first, do not live in an illusion. Art can be “touchy,” our pieces are as dear to us as family, so we become very attached. Being attached to your art is a good thing. It enhances the connection and fluidity of the creative process. Due to our love for our pieces, we can become blind to the reality of its true worth. What I mean by that is the song may or may not be as good as you think it is. Even tough this may be difficult to do, step away from that song you just mixed and mastered for a solid three days. After the hiatus, listen to it like a consumer. Ask yourself, does it sound professional? Would you listen to this and think it’s good work? Is it mixed well? Also, don’t be afraid of to get feedback. Ask three or four people to listen to it and hopefully they will give it to you cut and dry.

Along with not living in an allusion, comes the knowledge of where you currently stand in your career. There are too many instances where I’ve seen artists stop working as hard as they should because they’ve accomplished a small short term goal or performed at an open mic and then feel as if their performance duties have been met for the next five months.

Never feel too big. Feeling big causes complacency and a false sense of where are you are and where you want to be. Emails should be a part of your weekly, if not daily routine. I’ll get into email regiments in part 2 of this series.

The career of Baltimore native Jason Noble, professionally known as DJ SUN has been steadily propelling upwards.

He has opened up for some of the most prominent names in Hip Hop— Meek Mill, Migos and Travis Scott to name a few. He has also appeared on HBO, Showtime, and VH1.

I had a chance to speak with him recently, and when I asked how he manages when faced with the many obstacles in the industry, he responded, “In the DJ community there is a huge sense of responsibility. One of these responsibilities is to make “it” (events) happen by any means. This means if you’re not getting booked for shows, throw your own, if there [are] no venues in your city, use a house, if you don’t have speakers, hook up to someone’s car— etc.

This mindset and approach is great not only for DJs wishing to build a crowd, but for scenes that wish to take the next step toward becoming recognized and respected.”

Noble is a serious example of how to create your own lane. You will be hearing much more from him in the upcoming weeks. Follow him on Instagram @spunbysun.

In the meantime… Stay Virtuous. Stay Idealistic. Stay Progressive. To contact Imani Wj Wrght, email:

Robert Wooden III & Levite Praise Debuts At Concord Baptist Church

This past Saturday, February 2, 2019, I had the chance to see Robert Wooden III & Levite Praise (RWLP) perform at their very first concert at Concord Baptist Church in Baltimore City. I’d like to get right into my experience— it was a roller coaster that kept going up and up and the only dip was that the show had to end!

Over the past year, I’ve heard and seen snippets of RWLP on social media, and in person coincidentally at Morgan State University during one of their many

rehearsals. When I was found out the group would be putting on a show for the public, I was immediately interested and wanted to know where and when the show would be taking place.

Fast forward a few months and it was finally showtime. When I walked into the church, the excitement in the room was an undeniable. Everyone was completely attentive and on the edges of their seats— literally.

There were a few opening acts before RWLP hit the pulpit. Three voices that stood out the most to me from the opening acts were Jamielle Gilman, Jamaal Whittington and Terrance Smith. All three were exactly what you want in a gospel singer— a voice that can fill up the room, passion for the Lord and an understanding of not just praise, but the word of the bible.

We’ve all been to shows where we dreaded listening to everyone before the headliner, counting the minutes until the person you came to see and hear is on stage. However, let me say that there wasn’t a moment when a performer on that stage didn’t own their moment. I have to give immense credit to the producer and promoter of the event who happens to be Robert Wooden III himself.

When asked how is he able at 20-years-old to gain the respect of his peers and maintain his leadership role in the group, he responded, “You can’t receive respect if you don’t give it. I showed my peers the same respect I expected. I’m so blessed to have such great people around me. Once they saw my dedication and how serious I was about this show, they were all in with me.”

There was a true continuity and chemistry within RWLP. The smiles on everyone’s faces on stage made me feel their energy as an audience member. I too felt the urge to be joyful, and I surely was. With the band adding just that extra level of emotion to every syllable being sung and every melody expressed, I was overwhelmed by the amount of emotion in the room, I stood during their entire set. Even my close friend Muammar Muhammad was on his feet with me during the final hour of the show.

What really took the audience over the edge of a praise break was RWLP’s song titled: “The Best Day.” Robert’s voice assertively but beautifully glided through every inch of this piece. When the intensity of this piece reached it’s peak, Robert began to jump up and down, his energy was contagious, and had me and many others jumping along as well.

At the end of this show, I was completely amazed by the whole two and a half hours of high-powered praise that I had just been apart of.

When asked about some of the difficulties of putting a show together like this and what would his advice be for a first time show developer looking to put on their own event, Wooden said, “My advice would be always have God in your mind when making plans. Make sure you communicate clearly with everyone, such as your show manager, your musicians, and your sound engineer.”

Lookout for RWLP’s debut EP scheduled to be released on March 22, 2019.

The group currently ministers at New Solid Rock Fellowship Church, located at 4003 Northern Parkway on the second Sunday of every month. Everyone is very welcome to come out and worship with us.

Be sure to follow Robert Wooden & Levite Praise on Instagram @levitepraise_

Catching Sounds Through A Lens: Ayo Omolewa

Musical artists often hear the world a little differently than others. At times, this attribute can be great, and at times it can be one of the most annoying things in the world. You may walk down the street to get a sandwich, and the wind that just blew past your ear could be the inspiration for your next musical project. On the other side of things, you may also be listening to the latest song that everyone loves, but you just can’t seem to fully enjoy it due to that miniscule engineering mistake in bar four. Becaue I am a musical artist, I always imagined that the same would hold true for those who deal with visual art. They might not “hear” the world differently, but maybe the way they see it differs from us.

I had a chance to speak with 26-year old, Ayo O, photographer and founder of the African-orientated “One Tribe Magazine, in reference to the process of a visual artist, and their perception. Ayo gave me some insight, and talked about some personal experiences that many young creatives/entrepreneurs should take heed to.

Drake by Ayo O

Drake by Ayo O

Ayo stated: “For me personally, I think it’s not as much the photography aspect that enables me to see the world differently but just the way I think creatively. As early as I can remember, I’ve always thought just a bit different than other kids. For example, how to solve problems in class, how to communicate etc. I think it is important to keep your creative juices flowing daily and just think differently, then it translates into how you perceive the world, and in turn how you capture the world with photography. I named my photography brand, “TribeVision” because I’ve always had a vision that was different than others and it’s what sets me apart. Especially for me, a music connoisseur, putting my own creative spin on a concert photo plus the different feelings each individual may have for a song or artist produces a work that is not only unique but offers another perception of that said song or artist.”

When scrolling through some of Ayo’s work, one of the first things that stands out is his star studded lineup of muses. Some of his action shots include images of music’s most prominent names such as Drake, Miguel, and J.Cole.

Miguel by Ayo O

Miguel by Ayo O

Success stories tend to sometimes have some sort of misdirection or hurdle in the middle, so I asked Ayo if there were any obstacles during his high profile quests. “Ha! Misdirection is my middle name. Admittedly I’ve had to sneak into some concerts that I really, really wanted to get into, namely the Drake and J.Cole shows. I wouldn’t advise this for anyone, but it was worth it. “They’ve been my favorite shots so far, not because of the photos but because of my personal triumph of being where I was not supposed to be, chasing my personal dream. A major (but fun) hurdle is honestly just learning photography. Learning what your camera can do, what lenses fit your niche, and how to combine both in a cohesive manner.” Ayo said.

Ayo has a very clean and crisp style of photography. The quality of his photos seem to capture every fine detail of the image. What amazes me most about Ayo’s style is his ability to put you in the moment, so much so that you can feel the vibration of the speakers, and the roar of the crowd, simply from the image.

After conversing with two accredited Baltimore Times photographers, Madeline McQuillan, and Lukey Lenz, they also agreed that his style of work is QUITE polished. But, with popular photographers such as Gunner Stahl resurging grimy, gritty, and unedited film photography back into popularity, I asked Ayo his thoughts on the use of digital vs. film. Ayo responded: “I’ve only ever shot digital, but I’ve seen a lot of great film photography that offers a completely new element that digital can’t. To me it offers a deeper look of the “feeling” of the frame and the subjects. I’m not sure if I’ll pursue film but I’ll never say never!”

Being an owner of an engaging, and fledgling magazine, I had to ask what his near future plans are. Ayo asserted: “I have so many ideas written down for 2019 and hopefully I do complete them but for now, I really want to not only shoot more shows but also shoot more “behind the scenes” shots for artist’s music videos and song creation. I think that is an aspect that isn’t really touched on enough. Seeing what the artist goes through while creating a song or video can be interesting for a fan or an up and coming artist. Besides I definitely actually would like to shoot a couple of weddings this year, so if you know anyone getting married, let me know! Ha.”

Be sure to follow Ayo on Instagram @thattribeguy and One Tribe Magazine @onetribemag

Brooks Long: A True Songster

About five years ago, as I left my high school after a long day, I headed to the popular McDonald’s across the street, like many other students who attended Carver Center. I was particularly fatigued and I could hardly wait for my dad to pick me up to take me home.

After sitting down, I must have dozed off when suddenly I heard someone say, “Long day?” I looked up chuckled a bit and groggily responded: “Yeah man.”

After some back and forth small talk, we ended up speaking about my aspirations as a musical artist— I was 15 years old at the time. The man sat pensively for a couple seconds and asked: “Are you familiar with Brooks Long?” “No I am not,” I responded.

He went on to talk to me about how talented this guy was and listed a few of his musical accomplishments, including a “Best Real R&B” award from one of Baltimore’s publications. Later on that day, I did some more research on Long and I have been a fan ever since.

Long is a triple threat musically. His soulful and fervent voice is supplemented by his ability to seamlessly tell a story while strumming away at his guitar. And to add even more fuel to the fire his band, The Mad Dog No Good adds that extra funk to Long’s distinguishable sound. When listening to them get down you even get old school vibes. At times, I even heard an Otis Redding and Sam Cooke influence, especially on songs such as “Got Soul.” In the hook Long sings, “Don’t tell me you ain’t got soul.” The way the piece is instrumentally structured, and the method in which Long conveys his message will make you a believer. The intensity of the piece rises to Gospel levels that you would find at the 9:30 a.m. service in church.

I guess they call it soul because you can feel it in your spirit!

Long is currently working on a project titled, The Songster part 2. Well…. he has been working on it, and will always be working on it. The project is a compilation of his music that he continuously adds to throughout his journey. When I asked when the project would be completed, Long broke it down plainly and simply, “I’ll continue to add on to it until the day I’m gone.” This spring, he expects to add three more songs to the series.

Along with Long’s high energy, he also has a reserved and strategic side. Watching him during his award winning interview/concert series “The Songster Series,” at the Creative Alliance throughout 2018, it was clear to see his intellect and his knowledge of the world of music. During the shows, he explained why he began the series and talked about the importance of highlighting “true songsters.” The artists who participated in the series, ranged in age and style, which gave the show a dynamic and unbiased view of various musical forms.

Long told that he plans to pursue a graduate degree in Ethnomusicology and while in grad school his goal is to “highlight Baltimore Music Culture.”

You can catch Brooks Long on Friday, January 25, 2019, when he will be opening up for Kentavius Jones at Creative Alliance!

For more information, visit You can also follow Brooks Long on Facebook @ Brooks Long.

Jorja Smith Show Review

“Don’t want to feel ya, don’t want you on my mind.” Well Jorja… the other night I felt every bit of what you were displaying. About a year ago, I was chilling with my best friend Luke, (most of you may know him as Lukey Lenz), and as usual, it was his turn to make the music selections. Since Luke has always had top of the line mobile speakers, when new tunes come on, you can hear every ounce of what’s being played. Whether it’s the bass, the vocals or any other aspect of the song, there is no place for them to hide.

Due to the aforementioned, when sounds aren’t very pleasing, it’s painfully obvious but when sounds are crisp, it’s one heck of a time. After about an hour of listening to Luke’s playlist, a very familiar song began to play. It only took me a few seconds to realize the song was “Superman” by Black Coffee featuring Bucie. I’ve heard it so many times because it’s one of my mother’s favorite house tracks. The first line of vocals began and I realized something was a little different. At that moment, my exact words to Luke were, “Bro, this isn’t Bucie.” He said, “Yeah, this is Drake featuring Jorja Smith.” From that moment on I’ve been listening to Ms. Smith.

Jorja’s style is quite dynamic. Her voice glides effortlessly over minimalistic instrumentation but she also has the artistry and spunk to deliver on tracks like “On My Mind,” a fan favorite. Last Wednesday, I had the chance to see her live as her tour made a stop in Baltimore for the night.

Chicago native, Ravyn Lenae opened up the show and she was just about a perfect fit for the vibe and energy of the night. Her band was down right funky and they knew it too! Everyone on stage was rocking and all on one accord. Lenae had a lit up sign behind her that read “Ravyn Lenae.” The sign’s font looked as if it was from a 1970s skating rink. What truly impressed me about Lenae were two things— her sheer ability to sing and how comfortable she appeared on stage. Her technique is one that she undoubtedly works on and fine-tunes. See as though she is only 19, I think many young artists should check out her command of the stage and take notes— I surely did.

Once Lanae completed her set, the place was buzzing with excitement waiting for Jorja to appear. After several moments of suspense, her drummer, bass guitarist, lead guitarist, and keyboardist all began to walk on stage one-by-one. Then came Jorja.

Photographer Madeleine McQuillan and I had both discussed and debated what kind of outfit she would wear. For some reason, I thought Jorja would perform in tennis and something simple and Madeline thought the contrary and she was completely right. Jorja came out in a beautiful black dress and red heels that single handedly caught the crowd’s attention. I’ve been to many shows and sometimes the audience does not always focus on the stage the entire time. This may have been one of the only shows that I have attended where it seemed as if everyone was completely glued to the stage at all times.

During the first few songs, Jorja seemed to really be warming up and adjusting to everything around her— the audience, the ambiance and maybe even the lighting!

This made her very human— not fabricated or forced, it was all very natural. As the show progressed, she became immensely loose and ready to party and Baltimore loved every bit of this— especially during her bursts of dancing. Her personality shined brightly through her singing, her smile and connection with the music.

Clearly, this was a situation where the audience could tell that Jorja knew every bit of what she was singing. These songs weren’t just sounds to her, they were stories and stories that she needed to tell. During the latter half of the show, Jorja walked off the stage letting her phenomenal band take over for a while. The musicians had a chance to shine but the drummer, Femi Koleoso stood out the most for me. He was precise and passionate with every beat on the drum. I couldn’t help but yell in amazement during his solo.

Jorja returned to the stage and performed a few songs and then left the stage once again. We all realized she had not performed her hit On My Mind, and we just knew she had to be coming back. I don’t want to give away any more spoilers for those who might see her during her “Lost & Found” tour, but the way she constructs On My Mind will blow your mind. All in all this was quite the solid performance, a 9.8 out of 10 in my book!

Jorja, keep being great!

Follow Jorja Smith on Instagram @jorjasmith_

A Sit Down With MC Bravado

About two months ago, my friends and I went to see one of the music world’s most sui generis hip hop artists, Kosha Dillz when his East Coast tour stopped in Baltimore for the night. We were more than ready to see him command the stage with his style and crowd engagement.

Before any headliner performs, there is usually some form of an opening act. After female artist Devmo performed, I saw a band beginning to set up— there were two guitarists, a drummer and a keyboardist. This is a setup that I was not used to seeing in the hip-hop world, as most artists typically have a DJ and sometimes the occasional hype man on stage. Then, this high-energy artist comes on to the stage— his stage name, MC Bravado.

After an impressive performance, Bravado and I spoke for a little while. During our conversation, he informed me that he would be opening up for Hip Hop legend Big Daddy Kane on December 6, 2018 at Baltimore Soundstage.

So, of course on December 6, I’m in there. I get to Baltimore Soundstage about an hour before show time and had the pleasure of watching the crowd assemble just about to capacity. Once again, the same band set up takes the stage, and this time, even with an additional vocalist. Bravado took full advantage of the moment at hand. Performing live isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, especially if you don’t have a track behind you to support you vocally. However, his and the band’s performance was evidently carefully calculated and rehearsed. Bravado seemed like a true veteran on stage. His word play and delivery of his single, “State of the Younion” hit just as hard as the kick drum on stage. And, to make things just that much better, the sound quality was impeccable. Fortunately, for the audience and the performers, there were no barriers like production issues that took away from the art.

Bravado’s ability to be so comfortable on a platform might come from his background of teaching in Baltimore City schools for five years. He currently runs an after school program at Lake Clifton high school called, “Beats not Bullets,” which focuses around music production, engineering and songwriting.

Bravado previously told me about a kid in the program who had greatly impressed him and he said, “I told him if he keeps doing what he’s doing, I’ll let him perform a freestyle at the Big Daddy Kane show.” The kid who goes by @Kingwuane continued to stay on an elevated path, as Bravado called him on stage to perform. Watching this go down gave me quite the feeling. Here he is only 15 with his first performance at the Baltimore Soundstage, opening for a well-respected artist, the opportunity was massive. The crowd gave @Kingwuane incredible feedback and cheers, and he deserved every last bit of it.

I asked Bravado if being a teacher impacts his style of performing. Bravado laughed and said, “Yeah man, sometimes I want to just turn up, but when I have students in the building, I know I have to act accordingly around them but still put on a good performance.”

Overall, his performance was dynamic, energetic and at times, even heartfelt.

Be sure to follow MC bravado on Instagram @mcbravado.