Bradd Marquis is the 6’3”, soul-singing cousin of the late Phyllis Hyman, Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad. His vocal talent also towers way above the crowd, but he hardly needs to lay down his family’s cred to impress them.
Case in point: from the minute Marquis let loose with his live rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” at Apollo Live in late 2012, host Tony Rock ragged pretty hard on Marquis’s dapper attire. But Marquis’s gospel-trained voice—a powerful, full-throated baritone that brings to mind gritty yet sensitive singers like Johnny Gill and Teddy Pendergrass—got Apollo Live celebrity judge Michael Bivins (of New Edition fame) and that notoriously jaded Apollo audience clapping and singing along like it was Sunday go-to-meetin’ time.
The Trenton, New Jersey native’s name already rings serious bells on the tri-state area’s indie soul circuit. (Bradd Marquis has toured as an opening act for India.Arie, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Tamia and Jaheim.) The multi-talent also played the lead in the 2008 off-Broadway production of In de Beginnin’, a funky retelling of the biblical Book of Genesis by late poet-playwright Oscar Brown Jr., for which he received positive reviews.
On his previous albums, Finding My Way (2007) and Authentic (2011), Marquis’s songs consistently struck the perfect balance between beats for the ’hood and lyrics from the heart. He reps his Cap City roots to the fullest on his latest, Thank You, working with producer Angelo Ray (Akon, Kevon Edmonds) and distributing it through a partnership between his own Soulman Records and the fast-growing indie imprint Purpose Music Group (home to Bilal and Eric Roberson).
Even when the beats swing extra hard on Thank You, Marquis still dares to be 100% himself: tender, heart on his sleeve, singing about the roller-coaster highs and lows of monogamy, resisting the sexting advances of an old flame, imploring women to never settle until they find a winner (like himself, of course). They’re all grown-up, relatable topics, sung over a fresh R&B sound that Marquis heats to a sizzle with his fiery vocals.
When Marquis isn’t smashing the stage, he stays active in Trenton counseling at-risk youth, so who says that nice guys in R&B finish last? Not Michael Bivins—who, after pointing out the young ladies swooning in his row, said, “What I like [about your performance] is that you didn’t turn it up, because Marvin is smooth.” Without even trying, Bradd Marquis is proving to the world that a gifted brother armed with a big, sexy voice can win over a new generation of fans.
Sun Singleton is a Virginia-born singer/journalist based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @sunsing.
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