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Saint Heron Announces Creative Collaboration with IKEA
Saint Heron is excited to announce an upcoming creative collaboration with IKEA, exploring architectural and design objects with multifunctional use.
Our brand, founded in 2013 is a multidisciplinary cultural hub with a focus on “building the community that we wish to see exist” through music, visual art, and performance art mediums. The hub has been centred on artist and artisan collaborations with previous works with Mickalene Thomas, Jacolby Satterwhite, Kenesha Sneed, and Phlemuns to name a few. Our founder, contemporary artist Solange Knowles and the company’s co-curator artist Armina Mussa have partnered to create original multimedia installations that creatively reflect on intersectional art and culture themes, foster thoughtful fellowship, and push the conversations of our communities to the forefront. With their help, Saint Heron immediately outgrew normalcy’s insular web of creative collaboration by hosting pop-up events in various cities, collaborating with popular festivals like FORM Arcosanti, AfroPunk Fest and Pitchfork Music Festival – and even offering curatorial music contributions to The Met and The Whitney Museum’s annual member’s parties.
We’re excited to continue to push these conversations and boundaries even further with our upcoming collaboration with IKEA. Stay tuned for more information!
Interview: Chloe x Halle’s Symphony Gets Sweeter
Having won our hearts over early in their career beginnings on YouTube, sister duo Chloe x Halle are a force among today’s best talent. The Bailey sisters are human vessels of the celestial energy and positivity that comes across in their original music via their individually unique vocal textures, high-vibrational harmonies and colorful musicianship. Chloe (19) and Halle (17) are already culture giants despite their petite statures. At heart, they’re everyday young adults who find joy in the little things. But professionally, the Atlanta-born ladies unapologetically flaunt their disdain for average predictability. Chloe x Halle don’t fit any cookie-cutter ideas of artistry nor will they compromise the integrity of their creativity by conforming to the demands of popularity.
From music to fashion, Chloe x Halle have successfully slayed everything they set their minds to. In addition to writing, producing and performing their own music (and raising the cover bar by flawlessly reworking some of everyone’s favorite jams), they both model, dance and are self-taught musicians; and at the top of 2018, they’ll deliver all that authentically matchless charisma and sass onscreen in the Black-ish spinoff series Grown-ish. Saint Heron had the honor of chatting with the darling sisters about their roles as trackstars Jazlyn and Skyler on the show, sister and friendship bonds in professional settings, hopes for future collaborations and film scoring, new music and more.
Shantel Pass: We’re all aware that you ladies got your start on YouTube and I’m wondering how it was decided that YouTube would be the best place to start showcasing your musical artistry.
Chloe: You know my sister and I, when we lived in Atlanta, would just sing around town and some people would say, “maybe you should start posting YouTube covers” and we were like “uhhh, you know… really? We’re not that sure about that.” And then one day we just didn’t really have anything to do at the house and we loved the song “Best Thing I Never Had” by Beyoncé, so we found an instrumental online and we just recorded it and posted it – with our parents permission. But you know it was like… it was something that we just threw out there, we didn’t expect much because we know it’s like one in a million when there’s so much content already out there. So it was really just for fun and I’m just so amazed and in awe about how all these opportunities came just from posting YouTube covers.
That was actually my next question. It was whether or not you guys expected it to be something that led to superstardom for you from there?
Halle: No. We did not expect anything. We had no expectations. I remember when we posted our first cover and it got to a hundred views. We were like “Whoa! That is amazing!” So we really just feel so blessed that something so big could stem just out of just posting YouTube covers and posting our favorite songs of what we were singing around the house at the time. And we’re so grateful that people resonated with it. Yeah, we weren’t expecting anything. It was just really a nice surprise.
Amazing. So other than guitar and keys, do you play any other instruments? And if so, how did that come about? Did you take lessons? Are you self-taught?
Chloe: Yes, so when I was [in] around 5th and 6th grade I played my violin and that was so much fun. It was a part of our school activities and you know having that part of me – it will always stay with me. I want to get back into my violin because, we’d love to record some string parts in our songs ourselves. And an instrument that I really really want to learn how to play are the drums! I [work with] drums all the time with our production, but I actually want to play the real live drums and that’s going to come really soon. I can’t wait to start experimenting with that.
Halle: Absolutely, I used to play cello when we were in elementary school. I used to play cello and that was really fun. I recently got an electric cello that I’m really trying to get back into starting soon. So that’ll be lots of fun but I always want to expand my horizons. Like Chloe said, definitely drums would be so cool to learn. I feel like I can get so much better at guitar. And yeah, we taught ourselves on YouTube with our instruments. Just looking up simple chords to our favorite songs, that really gave us a great foundation for making our own songs.
So, the music covers have been a big hit. We love those just as much as we love your original music. Y’all have this amazing ability to add fun and color and even, a lot of times, more music to some of our current favorites. How did the idea to start covering random tracks come about? And what has been your favorite cover so far?
Chloe: Well you know, what we do now is just throw something out because we’ll get inspired by a song we love, and most of the time it’s like these really cool trap songs [and] songs with great meanings and messages. My sister [and I], we love to experiment in life. So that translates through our music and harmonies. I think because we’re best friends, our harmonies are kind of like second nature. So it’s always fun coming up with new arrangements. We’ll sit in our room and arrange these in like 5 minutes and then record them, and then we post it! I’m so happy people gravitate towards them and that makes me so happy. But yeah, that’s how it came about.
Nice! When people see you, they see you as a sister duo and I think sometimes it’s very easy to forget that you’re both individuals as well. Can you tell me, has there ever been a case – musically speaking – where your creativity or your ideas collided? And, how does that help shape the musical dynamic you share?
Halle: What I love about our sisterhood is that we do have two completely different perspectives when we’re creating and that’s something that’s so exciting. My sister, she is such an amazing producer and she listens to such great music, eclectic music that is just so eccentric and beautiful and different. For me, I love to listen to jazz. So I’m kind of coming from the jazz perspective of things and when we come together, it’s cool because it makes this mash of our favorite things and that’s really what excites me. That’s why I’m so happy to have my sister [and] to be able to do this together because although we’re very different, when it comes together it seems like it’s all in harmony. So I’m very happy about that.
Chloe: I always feel like two heads are better than one in any situation. I have a different perspective than my sister and she has a different perspective than me and when those two perspectives come together, a lot more people can connect to it more. I just love how we fuse these different sounds together and I feel like that’s the sound of Chloe and Halle. We’ve got the hard beats and also the classic melodies and harmonies. And that’s what I love about us. Two minds are better than one!
In addition to your music, I’m always checking to see what y’all are wearing and you always look lovely. The ComplexCon ’90s-music-video, casual-streetwear combination was so nice and really unexpected too. I’m curious to know how you choose what to wear for your performances and who your style inspirations are for everyday wear.
Chloe: We have an incredible stylist Zerina Akers. And we love her to death, she’s like our sister! We built this beautiful bond so she knows us so personally, and she knows how to bring certain things out of us, and we just collaborate. My sister and I, we love to take risks and experiment with colors and shapes and have fun; how we’re individuals but we’re the same at the same time. We like that to shine through our clothes as well. Most of the time we’ll be coordinated with the same colors or patterns, but something will be different in it. I love how our sisterhood translates through our clothes!
Well, congratulations on joining the cast of grown-ish. I’m so excited for you both.
Chloe and Halle together: Thank you so much!
It’s not easy to memorize lyrics to a new song but I imagine it doesn’t take as long for you since you write your own music. Did you face any challenges memorizing your lines and cues for your roles in the show?
Halle: Oooo, that’s a great question! Well, I don’t know so much that we faced challenges. Normally, in the morning when we got there, we would go over the lines while in the makeup chair because sometimes you’re so busy and you don’t really have time, but when you’re getting your makeup done and your hair done it’s a moment of silence. So that’s when we would go over our lines. It was so much fun because everybody on set made us feel so comfortable and looking to our friend Yara [Shahidi] – she is so amazing – she showed us some of the ropes and we were just so grateful to be a part of that whole environment.
Speaking of Yara, as sisters living and working together, I imagine there’s a level of comfort you both have with one another to squabble or goof off every now and then because that energy and that connection is just there; like you know each other and are in tune and you feel it.
So, since you’re both real-life friends with Yara, what has it been like working so closely with another person that you share that bond with?
Chloe: It has been the most incredible thing! Like, I love going to work every single morning no matter how early because I know that we’ll see our family. The whole entire cast, I’m not kidding you, we are truly like a family. We finished wrapping the season about two or three days ago and I cried like a baby. It was so emotional because we all love each other and we’re going to miss seeing each other everyday. You know when you’re around people, you start getting attached and connected and your energies sync up. I love Yara, I love the entire grown-ish cast and I’m just so happy that art imitates life because we’re family and friends in the show but that’s also true in our personal lives.
Do you have any interest in pursuing more acting roles? Whether in film or TV.
Chloe: Absolutely. When my sister and I first got into the entertainment business we started off with acting. Our mom would always take pictures of us and we would go to auditions. My very first audition when I was three, it was for The Fighting Temptations and I got it! I played little Beyonce when I was like 3 and a half.
Oh my gosh! I never realized that’s you!
Chloe: Yeah! It’s so funny how my sister and I, living in Atlanta, we’d do a bunch of stuff with Tyler Perry. It’s just fun getting back to the acting.
What about scoring a film? Would you guys ever score a film?
Chloe and Halle together: YES!
Halle: Yes, that is a dream of ours! Yes. That would be so exciting to do because that’s one of our favorite things, especially as creatives – when we’re given direction with movies and television on what to create based on a scene, that is so fun for us. It’s like putting a puzzle together. So we act like we’re 5 year olds and that’s the best time of our lives.
In an interview, I can’t remember where I read it now but, I do remember reading that you write a song per day and you guys have over 300 songs in a catalog of unreleased music. Has the process of writing, producing, and recording changed in any way since you began filming grown-ish?
Chloe: You know, since our album is 90% done – and around the time we started filming grown-ish – what we do now after we leave set is go in and start mixing and tweaking certain sounds and adding little elements to improve the songs because when our album comes out we want everything to be so perfect. It’s so full of our hearts and our soul. So instead of writing every single day, since our album is almost done, we’ve been just adding on and critiquing and editing – going back and tweaking little notes. I have my computer in my trailer and I’ll start mixing in there on my computer in-between breaks. Since music is our heart and soul we always find ways to make it work.
Grown-ish is premiering on January 3rd, which is right around the corner. Can you tell us about your characters and what, if anything, about their personalities you identify with or relate to that helped you become “at home” in these roles.
Halle: I am so excited with our characters. Chloe plays Jazlyn and I play Skyler. We’re twin track stars on the show. Basically, we like to think of our characters as the alter egos of who we are in real life because they’re so sassy and it’s really fun to play them. But for me, I’d say my sassy side comes out only when I’m with my closest friends and family. So nobody really knows that that’s underneath me, but the character really helped me get it out. It’s so much fun to play.
— grown-ish (@grownish) December 8, 2017
Let’s talk about show prep. It’s a little bit different standing in front of a crowd and performing your music than it is to stand in front of cameras and lights and directors on set. How do you get your head in the game for acting and how does that differ from how you prep for your live music performances?
Chloe: You know, they’re both very similar because they’re ways of expressing ourselves, and we’re stepping out of our comfort zone whenever we get on the stage and perform or whenever we get on set and act and perform in that way. So you know, I personally always get nervous no matter what – whether I’m speaking, whether I’m singing, whether I’m dancing. But I feel like my nerves are preparing me to properly execute and giving me the energy that I need. So I love getting nerves. I’d be sad if my nerves went away because then the excitement is gone. Music, I notice I get more nervous before we get on stage and sing than I do with acting because with acting you have more takes and it’s okay if you fumble on a line because you can just redo it again. You always do these different layers and different coverages. So acting takes the pressure off a bit because you know you can do it again if you mess up.
If you could choose to be casted in one TV show from the past what would it be?
Chloe: Oh, that is such a good question! I know mine! I say That’s So Raven and Cheetah Girls. Those were my shows growing up. Also for me Family Matters was a bomb show. That would be amazing, that would be so cool if I got casted in that.
All excellent picks. So you write, you produce, you sing, dance, act, model and you even recently collaborated with Benjamin Shine for the New York Fashion Week edition of 29 Rooms which was amazing. How do you practice self-care with such a tight schedule and so many different mentally and physically demanding projects? What does self-care look like for you ladies?
Chloe: For me, self-care – and what I love to do – is meditate, pray and just center myself internally so that I can properly execute anything that I need to do whether it’s relationships with my friends and my family, and also business relationships. What I like to do is take really, really hot showers and play really great music. And I love to get my nails done because as I’m getting older and growing into the young woman that I am, I’m learning that yes, sometimes I do need to step away and breathe and just have a moment to myself to center my thoughts again.
Halle: For me, I would say one of my top moments for self-care when I need to breathe and just go away from all the noise for a second is, I love to sit in the sun in the morning. It’s the best thing ever. So I just come out on our porch and I sit in the sun and it really centers me and makes me feel so happy and energized for the day. You can never be sad when the sun’s out because it’s like “oh, this is so wonderful!” I just feel really great after I sit in the sun. And then like Chloe said, we love to take hot showers and I also love to read when I feel like my mind is overloading. I just pick up a good book, sit down, and then read to fall asleep. It’s the best thing ever.
So far you’ve already collaborated with Beyoncé and Michelle Obama, these are big names for so early in your career. Congratulations again. Who else are you interested in working with both musically and on screen?
Chloe: Ooooo! That is a really, really good question. Musically, there are so many incredible talents out right now and I love that they are getting the recognition they deserve; like Tyler, the Creator, GoldLink, Willow, Kehlani and Kali Uchis, and we’d love to collaborate with H.E.R. They’re really the voices of our generation right now and just being able to sit down and create with them would be a dream come true. Acting wise, well I have always loved Denzel Washington. I know that, I’m going to believe it and see it. I know it seems far, but that would really make me so happy because I admire him as a human being and also as an actor. He’s incredible.
Halle: As far as singers, I just love collaborating with the new wave. [Working] with a bunch of cool young kids who really know where they’re going, that’s something that’s very inspiring to me. When I find myself amongst beautiful people that know what they want and who make beautiful music for the world, that’s something that’s so exciting to me. As far as acting, I think I’ll have to think about that a little more but Chloe did a good one.
Denzel is definitely a good one.
At the very beginning of “Simple” there’s audio of you explaining how people have commented on the complexity of your sound and then the song goes into the most graceful clapback I think I’ve ever heard in my life. That level of confidence in creativity doesn’t come naturally to everyone. So what advice would you give to other young girls and creatives to encourage their authenticity and determination to chase their dreams?
Chloe: Well definitely, the people you surround yourself with is so very important because when you have those moments when you’re down and discouraged, you need someone that’ll be like “Girl you can do this! You got this! It’s okay,” and someone who is not afraid to tell you “that ain’t too hot.” You know? I’m happy that I get to be in this life with my sister because I have the best of both worlds with her. We’re creating together and she’s also my voice of reason; and since we’re on this journey of music together, whenever I’m feeling down, she’s feeling the same. Because we’re experiencing it together and we know how the other feels but what we do is, we center ourselves once again and say, God would not put these ideas in our minds and bless us with these gifts if we weren’t supposed to shine them to the fullest and we don’t want it to go to waste. Everyone has a gift and what their purpose is, is to share that gift with the world. So all we ever want to do is inspire others to share their gift and that really keeps us going. When we meet beautiful girls and boys of all colors and ages telling us that our songs have inspired them, we know that we’re doing our job.
Alright, last question. With a new year on the horizon, tell us what’s next for Chloe and Halle?
Halle: Well, we are so excited for this coming year because of the show, grown-ish. And then our album which we are super super duper excited for. We’ve been working on this album for like three to four years now. Even before our EP, before the mixtape. We like to think of our mixtape songs as songs that are still great but won’t make it on the album. So that’s why we put that mixtape together and we’re just gearing up for this coming year with our album because we are so excited for everyone to hear our baby, what we’ve been doing and it’s very cool.
Chloe: Yeah, I saw something online where it said “2016 was the caterpillar, 2017 was the cocoon, and 2018 is the butterfly,” and I truly truly believe that. This year was just building and constructing and doing all of these wonderful things behind the scenes and we can’t wait for it to come to fruition and be out there.
Just in time for the ‘Grown-ish’ premiere on Tuesday, January 3rd (2018) at 8 P.M.EST on Freeform TV, download Chloe x Halle’s newest track “Grown” here, which also serves as the the show’s theme track, and watch the Snapchat-themed accompanying visual below!
Photography: Daria Kobayashi
The List: Bilal
“The List” is our exclusive series that highlights select artists and the various, random things that they’re currently into and inspired by. Ranging from all creative facets, this series shall serve as your go-to for all things visionary and artistic.
It’s nearly impossible to define singer-songwriter, producer and all around creative Bilal. He is literally a living work of art beaming with otherworldly talents, interests and style that is surely his own. Naturally, many of us are curious about what inspires such a prominent influencer. And for someone as elusive as Bilal, you’re probably aware of deeply rooted and untraceable those things would be. Lucky for us, Bilal shared a few items that move him in some shape or form. He dives into the contributions of Dr. John Henrik Clarke, shared how he is able to carve out a relaxed and mediative environment for himself and some essential reads that explore history and honor the legacy of those who came before us.
See Bilal’s list below in his own words:
Dr. John Henrik Clarke – Pan-Africanist.
He pioneered the need for Africana Studies in school. His words, teaching, and what they mean to other Black people are very important to me, especially, his speeches.
This album is life changing. Especially, as a jazz musician, I always go back to this album for inspiration when I am making music.
An Indica/Sativa blend is always important. I like to work with an open mind, in a relaxed environment.
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition; Ravel: Bolero
This is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard. You can’t love art or musicianship and not enjoy this piece.
Stolen Legacy by George G M James
This book is so important to the education of everyone. Learning about our true history and giving credit to those who actually discovered Arts and Sciences, is imperative to us. This is a great read.
Saint Heron’s Black Bag: Chicago
The Saint Heron Black Bag aims to spotlight establishments and businesses founded and built by people of color. This directory is just one small act by which we hope to enrich our own communities, support the fiscal successes of our peers, and effect change economically as we highlight small and large businesses across the nation.
Food & Beverage
105 E 47th St, Chicago, IL 60615
Ain’t She Sweet Cafe
9920 S. Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60643
Batter & Berries
2748 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
Brown Sugar Bakery
328 E 75th St, Chicago, IL 60619
The Bureau Bar
75 E 16th St, Chicago, IL 60616
Demera Ethiopian Restaurant
4801 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60640
Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant and Bar
6120 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60653
Litehouse Whole Food Grill
1660 E 55th St, Chicago, IL 60615
7167 S Exchange Ave, Chicago, IL 60649
Peaches on 47th
4652 S. King Drive, Chicago, IL 60653
Sip & Savor Chicago
528 E 43rd St, Chicago, IL 60653
Some Like It Black Creative Arts Bar
810 E 43rd St, Chicago, IL 60653
Sweet Maple Cafe
1339 W Taylor St, Chicago, IL 60607
Yassa African Restaurant
3511 S King Dr, Chicago, IL 60653
Fashion & Apparel
Fat Tiger Workshop
836 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642
Sir & Madame
5225 S Harper Ct, Chicago, IL 60615
Standout Style Boutique
3353 S Morgan, Chicago, IL 60608
A Polished Work Inc.
1000 E 76th St, Chicago, IL 60619
Christian Fields Style Bar
6550 S Cottage Grove Ave, Chicago, IL 60637
Crystal-Eyez Makeup Lounge
1933 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
Karyn’s Day Spa
1717 N. Ashland Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60622
Black Ensemble Theater
4450 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640
110 E. 23rd St, Chicago, IL 60616
436 E 47th St, Chicago, IL 60653
ISF (Illinois Service Federal) Bank
4619 S King Dr, Chicago, IL 60653
1520 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL 60605
645 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60616
The Silver Room
1506 E 53rd St, Chicago, IL 60615
Vice District Brewing
1454 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605
The Revisit: Erykah Badu’s ‘Baduizm’ Turns 20
Erykah Badu’s debut album was a culturally sentimental work that explored the fusion of Jazz, Blues, R&B, Gospel and Funk elements so in depth that it blatantly threw the industry’s limitations of R&B/Soul a curve ball. At the time, a few artists were on the brink of pioneering the Neo-soul subgenre, but they each maintained radio-friendly tinges of baby-making slow jams and break up ballads. Baduizm was astrally spiritual, however, with its live instrumentation and lyrically imparted consciousness. And with a team of forward-thinking, musical craftsman on board with her vision, Badu essentially altered music’s landscape forever. The 1997 LP was mostly produced by The Roots and newcomer at the time, Madakwa Chinwah, with instrumental contributions from Ron Carter, Bobby Bradford and more. Though this was Erykah’s first studio album, the melodically ferocious courage demonstrated by the singer on each track was evidence enough to declare her artistry necessary and irreplaceable. It was also clear that the Dallas native knew of her virtuosic peculiarity but intentionally vowed to persist anyway.
Erykah Badu was the Black bohemian archetype sporting high head wraps and ancient Kemetic symbolism-themed jewelry. But more than her appearance could divulge, the songstress’ otherworldly voice was the true revelation of her unearthly wealth. A nasally tonality so organically rich and pure presented itself as the newborn lovechild of Jazz and Blues music. But the former B-girl’s southern twang, poetic prose and Hip-Hop culture references were a persuasive testament to the genuine originality of this sound. One that only Badu could birth.
Baduizm bleeds philosophy and wisdom by way of the storyteller’s (Badu’s) spirituality and womanhood. The Texas native’s assertive self-assuredness in “Certainly” boldly violated the “lovestruck damsel” narrative of the late ’90s with a straightforward grace. But the song’s original message is rumored to have been rooted in the theme of the stolen identities of Africans who had an alternate sense of self imposed on them after being sold into slavery. The massive presence of an upright bass almost instantly transports you to a ‘50s nightclub where the resident chanteuse’s earthy and funky vocals coo, “I was not looking for no love affair/ And now you wanna fix me/ I was not looking for no love affair/ And now you want to mold me/ Was not looking for no love affair/ Now you wanna kiss me/ Was not looking for no love affair/ And now you wanna control me.”
Another component of Baduizm that resonated with early supporters was Erykah’s conspicuous humanness. She maintained a serious consciousness on “Drama” but flexed her satirically witty personality on “Afro (Freestyle Skit),” proudly showing that Black women were not only spiritual and artistic, but intelligent and comedic. A lady beatnik as heard on “Sometimes (Mix #9),” Erykah Badu could also and very easily give any vocalist a run for their money as the soothing harmonies on “4 Leaf Clover” showcased. Her flexibility further surfaced as her live instrument enthusiast side on “Rim Shot” gave way to her self-love savant side on “Apple Tree.” Clever metaphors garnish the singer’s unbothered undertone as she shares some valuable “food for thought” and unapologetically admits to being selective with who shares her space. “See I picks my friends like I pick my fruit/ My Granny told me that when I was only a youth/ I don’t walk around trying to be what I’m not/ I don’t waste my time trying to get what ya got/ I work at pleasing me cause I can’t please you/ And that’s why I do what I do/ My soul flies free like a willow tree/ Doo wee, doo wee, doo wee/ And if you don’t wanna be down with me/ You don’t want to pick from apple tree.”
There were three singles released from Baduizm that, though not as abstract as the album’s deep cuts, were still so avant-garde for radio. Regardless, they each earned their rightful spins and swept in a host of accolades for Erykah Badu. The relatable “Next Lifetime” highlighted the complexity of relationship interferences while the reality-based “Other Side of the Game” found Badu pleading with a lover to abandon his precarious, street occupation. Admittedly content with the life her man’s hustle affords her, the songbird mellifluously expresses her fears resulting from his involvement in the game. Baduizm’s lead single “On & On” was themed in the teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths and boasted a slew of third-eye only messages on everything from racism to faith.
So, while most other artists exhibited preexisting images by safely placing their musical puzzle pieces where they were designed to fit, Badu reshaped her pieces and created a new picture that only she envisioned for herself. The jazzy swing of her voice over the Hip Hop beat on “No Love” bears witness to this fact as does every other item following Baduizm in Erykah’s catalogue.
This seminal body of work is conceptual, complex, charismatic, confident and sometimes confrontational which makes it one of very few albums that’s as much a part of Hip Hop history as it is R&B/Soul. Baduizm earned the Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best Vocal Performance (“On & On”) as well as three Soul Train Awards, eight American Music Awards and two NAACP Awards. It peaked to #2 on the Billboard Top 200, #1 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums and was certified Triple Platinum in the U.S. (certified Gold in the U.K. and Canada). And in all its ground-breaking glory, Erykah Badu’s debut album was just the foundation for a career that continued to blossom musically as well as branch out into fashion and film. Revisit the awe-inspiring sermon that dawned Badu the high priestess of Neo-soul in Baduizm below.
“Everything that I learned forever is there. ‘Izm’ in hip-hop culture is marijuana, and izm gets you high. So ‘Baduizm’ is supposed to be a natural high — my way of lifting everybody.” – Erykah Badu
Listen to Our Favorite Jams of January
It’s a new year, and one of our New Year Intentions is to keep bringing you our favorite Jams of the Month. We were curious to see how this year would do musically compared to the phenomenal releases of 2016, but with the first month of 2017 setting the tone, we don’t have much to worry about.
Our playlist this month opens with Thundercat‘s “Show You The Way” featuring Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. The certified groove of his bass guitar lovingly flirts with Thundercat’s signature harmonies while Tay Walker‘s “Runaway” carries our escapist desires right to the beach side paradise we’re longing for. The “Patience (Freestyle)” by RAY BLK finds encouraging bars surfing a sea of angelic melodies while sunny guitar strings gleaming through the warm winds of punchy rhythms in “Murder” with Jarreau & Emmavie keep the beachy vibes going. Also included are Matt Martians‘ “Southern Isolation,” “Alone by “Olawumi, Sonder‘s “Lovely” and more. Closing it all out is Niya Wells with a vocal offering on “Never Enough” that feels like the cool breeze from night’s end.
Let some of our favorite Jams of January 2017 light up your world by pressing play below.
Find Encouragement Through Handwritten Manifestos Left At PROCLAMATION! Miami
Just one week after a painstakingly goodbye to President Obama, we left our woes on the dance floor during PROCLAMATION! at The Standard Spa, Miami Beach. In natural Saint Heron House fashion, we dedicated our energy towards releasing our truths in fellowship, making self-care an obligation, and exuding self-love and love for others with purpose.
Before entering the celebration on the hotel’s facilities, attendees were asked to hand-write intimate decrees for living in the present and looking toward the future. Their responses were like sunshine on a cloudy day. Take a look and uplift your spirits.
Get Into It: Leyla McCalla
The ever-evolving boundaries between classic genres have blurred beautifully behind Leyla McCalla‘s take on folk music. She’s far from the average musician. Singing in French, Haitian Creole and English, the string-loving songstress has found her niche through the combined expression of her music and meaningful messages. She’s been deeply influenced by traditional Creole, Cajun and Haitian music, along with American jazz and folk. With versatility on her side, she plays the cello, tenor banjo and guitar and is equipped with a voice so natural and pure that mother nature would be envious.
McCalla’s Haitian immigrant parents birthed her in New York to later raise her in suburban New Jersey. Their upbringing was consistent with assigned readings that lead her to identify with the teachings of Langston Hughes at an early age. With Hughes playing such a pivotal role in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, her parents saw fit to encourage their young star to educate herself using poetry and literature from the activist. Little did she know, those powerful underlying messages would serve as a foundation for her lyrical talent later down the road.
And that’s where Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes comes in to play. Named 2013’s Album of the Year by the London Sunday Times and Songlines Magazine, Leyla McCalla’s debut album resonated in the minds of all who lent an ear. The record, which pairs some of Hughes’ poems with Leyla’s own music, also includes original compositions and Haitian folk songs that continue to ring in a digital standing ovation. Having mastered the power of storytelling, McCalla’s sound is now known to offer a brief audio journey through history.
McCalla’s second album, A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey, continues the exploration on themes of social justice and pan-African consciousness that marked Vari-Colored Songs. Named after the Haitian proverb that also provided the title of Gage Averill’s 1997 book about popular music, power and politics in Haiti, it was the singer’s intention to share the inspiration which history provides her.
Offbeat called Vari-Colored Songs “ambitious, deep and gorgeous,” while the Boston Globe described the record as “at once varnished and sparse, like field recordings in high definition.” If nothing else, the songbird’s collection of language blending sounds encompasses three centuries that detail a history of oppression. A beautiful offering in itself, Vari-Colored‘s drawn inspiration from the legendary Hughes has in turn sparked a widespread desire to revisit the work of civil rights influencers. Though the music genre strays outside of the lines of what has become a “norm” for African-American inspiration, McCalla’s transparency of family, memory and time is a quality we should all consider.
Stream her debut album below. And if you’re in Miami, be sure to stop by the Saint Heron House this weekend to see an intimate performance from Leyla McCalla during our Soul Cleansing on January 28th. Tickets can be purchased here.
Listen To Our Favorite Jams of December
The turbulent year of 2016 brought forth quite the slew of sounds, and the final month was no exception. Musically, December was a month of limitless possibilities. The tasteful tunes released within the last month of the year helped us curate a playlist rooted in warmth and a sprinkle of holiday cheer. Featuring Abra’s “Bounty,” Little Simz’s “Picture Perfect,” Big Sean’s “Living Single” and many more, it’ll be hard to fight that finger snapping urge with this one.
Dive into our December Jams of the Month and listen to the full playlist below.
Roll Back, Play That: Cardi B
When you cross an unapologetic persona with palpable honesty, you get the tenaciously beautiful Cardi B. The rapper-meets-reality stars uninviting past has platformed the success of her future, and the world can’t get enough of her persona and comedic candor. As she continues to metamorphose into a public figure, she sheds a unique light on women who once shared her struggle.
Here she takes part in our Roll Back, Play That series, paying homage to her mother and the classic pop gems that have followed her throughout life.
On the entire playlist:
The entire playlist is inspired by my mother, Belcis! My mother was a huge fan of Madonna and other pop sensations of the ’90s and early 2000s. Even to this day, she still listens to these songs regularly.
INTERVIEW: BJ The Chicago Kid Premieres ‘The Lost Files: Cuffing Season’ Mixtape
I’ve always believed, from personal experience, that music heals. So with that, BJ The Chicago Kid is a true musical medicine man to me. An incredible vocalist and insanely talented songwriter, I happen to think he’s the reason passion and romance have returned to lustful desire in music. So when the opportunity to interview the Windy City native was presented to me, I was immediately thrilled. That joy soared to a new height during our conversation when I heard the heart and faith-based determination of the soul that powers the artist. In this honest discussion, BJ spoke candidly about his recent accomplishments, after-show life and his brand new mixtape, ‘The Lost Files: Cuffing Season’ which is premiering exclusively with us at Saint Heron. The tape is pure, honest and full of heart and warm energy, just like the artist and healer who’s responsible for its creation.
Shantel Pass: Congratulations on your three Grammy nominations! That’s a huge deal. I imagine it’s an honor to even be nominated but can you tell me how this feels and whether or not this was something you foresaw for your music career?
Thank you! Yea. I did foresee this for my music career, but we never know timing. But hey, man, I’m not mad at God’s timing at all. I feel like it’s perfect timing. It’s definitely an honor to be acknowledged by the Grammys. That’s a part of why the NBA is the NBA. They play basketball for the championship. You know? So I think it’s a beautiful moment.
Awesome. So it’s apparent, especially to me because I’m also a church kid, that you came up in the church. Can you tell me a little bit about how your involvement in ministry shaped your individual artistry?
Growing up in church period teaches you everything from how to sing in front of people and handle your nerves with the attention on you, to literally learning how to sing properly, and learning how to fly freely creatively a little bit. Because church has a flow. It’s like a structured flow, you know. It’s so many things. The confidence. I mean, it taught me a numerous amount of things.
To date, you’ve collaborated with some awesome artists including Marvin Gaye posthumously. Who are you most looking forward to working with that you haven’t worked with already?
It’s a few people. I would love to work with Little Dragon. I say this all the time, I’m a big fan of Little Dragon. I’m a big fan of CeeLo. Of course I would love to work with D’Angelo. It’s a few other people. It’s a long list actually. You know how it is with singers. *laughs* But really, the list goes on and on.
*laughs* Okay. Vocally, BJ, you’re amazing. You have one of those voices that when people hear it, they instantly know it’s you. But on top of how strong you are as a vocalist, you’re also an amazing writer. So can you tell me where the inspiration behind your words comes from and what the composition process is like for you?
Yea. The inspiration comes from a crazy amount of things as well. Everyday life, what my fans have instilled in me, from before I was able to touch the radio and play my own music, on down to how I continued that and what else was pretty much poured into my spirit from friends, from me just walking down the street, from me walking into a restaurant. A lot of it is creatively written. Some things I haven’t gone through, you know? Some things are what I would do, some things are imaginary writing, some of it is friends’ stories with a little bit of my twist to it. We all just try to find that common ground of that everyday life in the music. Like “church in the morning,” “Jeremiah,” – songs like that, we still try to connect with the people. We love to be creative but we’re understanding, even more, that we have to keep that main connection with the people.
The creative process is very different every time. Sometimes I start with the hook. Sometimes I start with the verse. Sometimes I start with backgrounds. For instance, “Aiight” from Pineapple Now-Laters started with the backgrounds. The part that goes, (*sings*) “Aaaahhhh ahhhhhh.” That was the first thing I cut. All the backgrounds you hear? That’s the first thing I cut and then lyrics came after that. Sometimes it’s unstructured, yet it’s always still structured because I understand. I’ve been in all of those places and positions before in writing a song to know how to at least connect it and put the puzzle back together.
Now, BJ The Chicago Kid as an artist is who we get to see. But the public has a way of forgetting that our favorite artists are also human. They have needs and feelings just like we do. So after the show, when the lights go out and the music stops, who is BJ the human? And how do you decompress?
I try to do things that I can’t do often. I love to cook. I love to listen to old music. I’m still settling into my new place. I’ve been in my place for about seven months now, but I’m still settling in because I’ve been on the road for so long. So it’s the regular things. Like sometimes, I try to catch a show on Netflix. I really just try to balance out life a little bit. I go see the family and check on them, the nephews, the nieces, the god-kids. It’s a balance of life in itself, but it seems like it all leads back to the music.
And speaking of being on the road, you recently wrapped your In My Mind Tour which included a lot of festival dates. All of this success, I’m sure, didn’t come easy or fast. So what keeps you motivated during hard times?
What I’ve been through. What I see. My faith. My heart, my courage and the warrior in me. All of those things combined. I just refuse to come this far [only] to forfeit my time. That’s the best way I can say it.
Definitely. So let’s switch gears just a bit and chat a little about your new mixtape, The Lost Files: Cuffing Season. These are…I don’t really know how else to describe these nine tracks other than by using the word magical. They just evoke all the feels. It’s smooth, romantic, sexy, and it centers on the theme of love and adoration. And it was really hard for me to choose a favorite, but “Make Love” literally took my breath away.
Seriously! It’s breathtaking.
And then “All On Me” was just that chill jam that kind of directly asks the “what’s up with us?” question. That’s real life. I loved that honesty and the realness of it. Then “Plain” just had me like “oh my God. Am I about to cry right now?” It’s such a feel good tape. It’s just the sweetest thing and it’s so romantic. So how’d you arrive at the decision to release such an intimate mixtape.
What’s crazy is, I’d lost a hard drive in moving from a previous location and I couldn’t find this hard drive for years. And I worked on these songs with producers Dre & Vidal, Uncle Chuck, Harold Lilly [and] Dammo Farmer. It’s been so many guys I’ve had that connection with, and I think we were making some different music than what we’re making now. But in moving, I found this old hard drive that over time I was just like “yo, let me listen to these records and see what’s on here.” Because I know what I was looking for [though] it’s not even what we’re actually using on there. I was looking for something else that I’m still looking for. [laughs] I couldn’t even find what I was looking for. But I found this, and finding these songs just reignited that fire. It reminded me of songs that I grew up on. Everything from Mint Condition down to Usher, to R. Kelly, to Dave Hollister. Everything. It reminded me of that feeling. And we had to find a way to give it you guys. I just thank God that I found this drive necause we put so much time into making this music. Whether it was twelve years ago, two years ago, or one day ago, I feel like the effort and the time that we put into the music is worth being heard.
Absolutely. And I also noticed that some of the songs contain snippets from Tina and Ike Turner’s biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It. I found it ironic that the amorous lyrical content of these songs related to intense passion so generally that you found a way to link it to this movie. Can you explain that link? Like, how do these two connect for you?
Yea. When it’s real love, whether it’s forever or whether it’s for a few years and then there’s a divorce afterwards, it’s a hell of a roller coaster.
Oh God. Yes, BJ!
*laughs* And I feel like that’s what love is about. Love is about the roller coaster. It’s not just about the good days. It’s about actually going and getting through the bad days, and still hugging that person before going to sleep that night. You know what I’m saying? It’s still about getting through it. I don’t think it’s about the problem. It’s about the result of the problem. “How do we react to this?” And that is the beautiful part about life. Understanding that is the understanding about love. I feel like that is the perfect example. It gives you a little funny with it, it give you the real life. It marries all of those things together and I think it just meshed well with it.
It absolutely did. Is there anything else you want the fans to know about The Lost Files or what’s next for you?
Yea. [The Lost Files: Cuffing Season] is just attributed to everything I grew up on. It’s the link, the missing link that I lost on that hard drive that I thank God I found, and I just really hope you guys enjoy it. I just want to say that real music lives forever. Timeless music.
Stream BJ The Chicago Kid’s passionate and sexy ‘The Lost Files: Cuffing Season’ mixtape below.
Photography: Motown Records
Listen To Our Favorite Jams of November
It’s hard to believe, but it’s already December. November flew by in the blink of an eye but we still managed to snag our favorite songs of the month for our monthly playlist. Through the fall month, we were driven by the grooviest of gems. Goldlink exclusively premiered his “See I Miss Pt. 2” with us with a feature from the soulful Marsha Ambrosius, Childish Gambino dropped off his dreamy, retro-esque “Redbone,” Steve Lacy stepped into the solo spotlight for “Some,” and St. Beauty debuted the haunting “Borders” alongside a musical feauture on HBO’s Insecure.
See who else made the cut as you tune in below!