Music connoisseurs who love a good underdog story can look no further than the soul duo, Lady. Individually they are known as Nicole Wray and Terri Walker. Wray is a former protégé of Missy Elliott and scored a hit with “Make It Hot” in 1998 and then quickly disappeared from the spotlight. Walker has released four hit albums in the United Kingdom without much mainstream success in the U.S. Looking back on her journey through industry challenges, Wray realizes that much of it was due to naïveté.
“Out of desperation I was hooking up with the wrong team that didn’t get what I could do and that hindered me. This industry is fast paced and nobody has the patience to nurture you. I was young and a fish out of water. I would have listened to me more and voiced my opinion,” she says.
On their self-titled debut album they are doing things their way by incorporating the pop of Motown, grit of Stax and edge of hip-hop as they touch on themes such as coming-of-age, perseverance, love and friendship. Now with critical acclaim and a return to the spotlight some of those who passed on them before are reaching out and the ladies hold no grudges. “Of course people will come back and maybe at that time they couldn’t do anything but we won’t be mad,” says Walker. “We are very realistic but people could have let us know the truth at the time so that we didn't have disillusions. Now we want to do it our way. Everything has to come from a real place for us.”
From soul to pop we move on to the 17th Annual Pop Awards presented by SESAC, the nation's fastest growing performing rights organization. At the grand New York Public Library, celebrities including Michelle Williams, Swizz Beatz, Melanie Fiona and producer Rico Love came out to celebrate all things pop. Williams, a former Destiny’s Child member, shared that despite working on a forthcoming gospel album she refuses to choose between the pop and gospel world. “I feel like I love all types of music and to me my responsibility is the message. So whether that’s me talking about what I dealt with love, broken relationships, depression or whatever—you can call that gospel, R&B or country. I just love music and never want to be in a box,” she says.
Beatz had a busy week as following the SESAC awards he partnered with the Bronx Charter School for the Arts to celebrate its tenth anniversary at the posh venue, Marquee.
The annual charity art auction event was a success as it raised over $200k for arts and academic programming. The funding will support the school’s extended-day learning and academic intervention programs, which assists students with academic challenges that are too often underserved.
Raising funds and awareness is the mission for award-winning filmmaker, Nicholle La Vann. Her documentary project, which is in development, titled Living Legendz explores the lives of icons such as controversial professor Dr. Leonard Jeffries, self-professed “evolved” Black Panther member Jamal Joseph and Abiodun Oyewole, founding member of spoken word collective The Last Poets. To complete the project she has started a fundraising campaign driven by her desire to share stories rarely heard in mainstream media. “As an artist and activist it's my responsibility to pay homage to my elders by preserving our rich history,” she says. “It's my passion to bring consciousness back and not allow our history to be a taboo subject. I have learned thus far from my subjects how important their passion was to their culture and community.” To stay updated on the project click here.
And if you’re an unsung talent like Wray and Walker but instead want to shine as a model and not a singer, then check out the Harlem Week model call.
The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.