Kudos to Wale whose Ambition album is still strong at #10 on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop top album charts. As Tabi Bonney noted on an interview with PatisDope.com Wale’s success is important for all DMV artists because it brings attention, “It helps everybody, it opens up opportunities for everybody.” True, but it also opens up a question. Which DMV artist is actually prepared, right now, to take advantage of the opportunities opened up by Wale’s success? And don’t refer to that bogus WKYS beauty contest, the Hottest 10 DMV Rappers. That’s just a marketing tool for the radio station. Come up with a name on your own; someone you’ve listened to, who’s show you’ve attended, who has more than one song, on one mixtape that makes you believe in their talent and potential. You need a moment? Here’s some help. Check out our OnStage Video Showcase.
Not that he needs to hear it from us, but we’ve got so much respect for Raheem DeVaughn that we wanted to write something that acknowledges his tremendous contributions to entertainment in Washington DC and beyond. We were reminded of his impact a few nights ago when we caught a replay of an interview he did with Big Tigger on Direct Access. What we saw was a professional at the top of his game.
In this business creating an image, cultivating it, and using it to connect is just as important as having enormous talent. Honestly – and YouTube and all the television talent shows are proof of this - there are thousands of folks who have star quality talent in America, plenty of them in the DMV. But along with talent they need another ingredient that’s harder to define. Let’s call it industry acumen. The music industry is a business and folks who do well in it don’t stray too far from remembering that it’s a profession. The moment on the stage doesn’t end when the lights go down. The whole world is a stage. Performing is the easy part.
A three-time Grammy nominated artist, Raheem DeVaughn has called himself his own “best marketing tool.” And he is. He can smoothly update an audience on his radio show , his new mixtape, “Freedom Fighter”, and his upcoming appearances as if they were lines from a ballad. But he markets more than himself. Follow his Twitter account to see how he’s created a platform for the artists of 368 Music Group and for social causes. That’s the critical ingredient – knowing what to say and when to say it, knowing what enhances your career and when to act on it, creating and keeping a connection with your audience. It’s a winning formula. There may be three or four personalities in the DMV who have it, and Raheem right now is the leader of the pack.Here’s one of our favorite videos in the OnStage Video Showcase; “Mo Betta” Raheem, for all you do, we appreciate you!
“Misty Blue” – Monica and Mary J. Blige
There’s a reason we begin by reviewing a video from the past. First, it’s a performance video and OnStage is, at its core, all about live performances. Secondly, this is a classic live performance with Monica and Mary J. Blige trading verses on the Dorothy Moore signature song which had an even earlier life than her version. So we want to set a standard by which we judge any other live performance videos and how we imagine other artists would come off doing a live show.
In terms of performance, this video sets a high bar. Monica brings out her best to do a duet with the “Queen” and in tribute to their innate professionalism, or dedication to practicing before the show; they swap back and forth without missing a beat. Put two great talents together and they push each other to bring out the best in their repertoire. Watch Mary J let it go at the 3:30 minute mark of the video and just as you’re thinking “Wow!” Monica comes right back to hit a note of her own!
Our point is it doesn’t matter what musical genre you either like, or perform in, the game has always been about quality performance. They just stood on the stage with microphones in their hands, and blew! The video is a classic.
“Get Away” – QUAN
Many of you may remember Quan’s early affiliation with Nas. In fact, “Just A Moment” from Nas’ Street’s Disciple was written by Quan and Nas liked it so much he added a verse and put it on the album. With that kind of pedigree you’d think nothing would have gotten in the way of continued success. But the music industry is hard, and life is twenty times harder. It ain’t always colorful; sometimes it’s black and white, like the video “Get Away”.
The power of this video is its straightforward and stark depiction of a grieving father. It’s dedicated to Quan’s son, Kayden, and is miles away from what you’d expect from Quan. No posse, no stuntin’; just anguish as the scenes move from car to grave site to a lonely figure sitting in his living room. It’s the mixture of song and rap we’ve come to expect, with more emphasis on the singing. It’s hard to pull off a credible tribute song but this works. We’re looking forward to hearing Quan’s new project, Glorious Struggle.
“Told You So” – Uptown XO ft. Diamond District
“Earned all my stripes…” is a line from UpTown XO’s video “Told You So” and that about sums it up for a rapper acknowledged as being among the vanguard of the DMV hip hop scene. You don’t expect anything less than raw spittin’ from Uptown XO and he and the whole crew deliver it on a subway ride shot the day Hurricane Irene visited Washington DC. Beautiful beat in the background and they get right to it, rhyming out a message throughout the entire ride. The video was shot by Langston Sessoms and even in black and white is sublimely smooth on the transitions from scenery to performance. Nicely done!
“Still Complete” – Pete G
The great thing about video is discovering an artist you hadn’t heard before and immediately recognizing that it’s talent you‘re glad not to have missed. Fortunately, we were turned on to Pete G by @BigSensi and after browsing through his videos we knew we had to put one in the OnStage Video Showcase. Pete G is a standout among emerging rappers. He’s got his own style, a unique voice, and an unforced delivery. He’s also got a track and video “Punctuate” with Lil Wayne on the feature. That kinda catches the eye.
“Still Complete” is directed by Mikhal Shapiro with additional vocals by Myke Nez and produced by SermStyle who has previously done work for Wiz Khalifia, Young Buck, and Yung Berg, among others. With those kinds of credentials we had high expectations for the visuals and beats and got what we were looking and listening for. Shot against an impressive scenic backdrop with movie-like quality that still doesn’t steal the spotlight from the performer as a lot of videos do, the nice touch here is that it centers the artist and allows the audience to focus on the lyrics. And the lyrics are good; “It’s in my fate, the right, what’s left, extinction? I can’t look back. I’m on a time limit breathing.” He’s not just making up rhymes, he’s telling a story. It’s a deep video and because we think there’s big things to come from Pete G it’ll be in our video rotation for quite a while!
Big thank you to each of the Show Us Your Style! photo contest entries and especially our guest entrants, Sir Daj and DB. There are a number of ways to interpret “style” but we look at it as a combination that begins with confidence, and then melds in a certain look, a manner of dressing, the way accessories highlight an outfit, comfort. Guess it’s swag when you add it all up.
So we asked our special guest judge, Eny Oh from Beholder EL, to curate the contest and be the sole arbiter of style. After all, she’s pretty well known as the go-to stylist for all things lavish. She’s got that eye for what works and she put it to use in selecting our contest winner, Shannon Smith.
Congratulations, Shannon! Your photo entry, Pretty Girl Swag, has all the elements of style described above. From the cap to the sneakers, the bold shorts complimented by a black vest, the confident tilt of your head, the relaxed pose on the steps … it worked for you, and stood out for Eny. Congratulations also to Adam George, our contest runner-up, and to all the other entrants. We love your style!
Stay tuned to OnStage. Follow us on Twitter @_OnStageDC. We’ll be back with another contest in November with a new set of prizes and we’re working to bring Eny back as a judge. Meanwhile she’s available to meet all your style and fashion needs when you contact her @BeholderEL.