One of the beautiful aspects of social media is connecting with people I’ve never met who share my interests. The homie Keya Maeesha and I have so many folks in common, yet we’ve only spoken through tweets, gchat and the phone. I rock with her because of her tastes in music, one of the greatest qualities a woman can possess is the ability to put me up on newness I’m unaware of, since that’s what I spend so much time doing for others. We spoke yesterday regarding her history as a cultural curator of sorts, her Date Night series of concerts in NYC (the latest of which is this Sunday, go if you can) and her general passion that shines through all she does. Warning: The interview gets a little PG-13 at points.
You’ve developed a bit of history as a tastemaker with the Couch Sessions site. How did that come about?
It was actually through my friend Joann Gomez from Music Looks Like This. She shoots photography for them from time to time and she invited me to come to an event. I always tell people that I was kind of tricked into it (laughs), because my intention was to never start with music blogging. I was just a concertgoer who really loved to go to concerts, she was going to this show for Peter Hadar and she had a +1, she asked me if I wanted to go and I was like “Sure, no problem.” That was like a week ahead of time and then the day before she asked me “You ready for tomorrow?” I was like “Yeah I’m excited, I’ve never seen him before” and she said “There’s a catch, you have to do a write up.”
After I cursed her out I went to the show (laughs) and then I spent the next three days actually trying to figure out what to say because I was nervous. This was my first time actually doing something like that, at the time we lived down the hall from each other so she and my best friend came over and said “Tell us about the show”. I didn’t know but my friend was literally typing up everything that I said, he showed it to me and was like “There you go.” Word for word he typed everything I said and told me “Just type how you talk”. I retyped the whole thing the way I talk, The Couch Sessions liked it and that’s pretty much where things started.
You’re also affiliated with This Is Real Music. How did you get involved with them?
They were co-sponsors of that same Peter Hadar show with The Couch Sessions and they saw the review as well. I was talking with one of the co-owners of the site, he said “I really liked your review, you did a good job.” He said “Let me ask you a question, what do you think about this song?” He sent me a song in Gchat, I wrote back like “This is dope” and I wrote out a sentence. I think it was for a song by Eternia & Moss. He would send me songs, I would say what I thought and the next thing I know he sends me links like “There you go”. I looked on the site and there goes what I said about those songs on the This Is Real Music site. I tell them both that they all tricked me into this but I’m very grateful, I actually love everything that they’ve done for me so far.
I’m a person that tries to stay up on music that people haven’t heard of and it’s impressive that you know music I’ve never even heard of. How do you manage to stay so far ahead of the curve?
It’s research, my good friend Justin Hunte who works for HipHopDX told me it’s very important to do your research. Just like how you would do research on an artist, I actually search for music. I’ll go to Bandcamp, pick a tag and comb through the music that pops up in the tag. I go to different music websites to see what they’ve posted like SoulBounce, HipHopDX, 2DopeBoyz, Couch Sessions, This Is Real Music, TheNext2Shine and all of those. Then I use social media because a lot of the people I’ve learned about has been through that, I try to keep my eyes open and my ears to the ground to see what’s out there.
You recently put out the Cupcakes & Handcuffs mixtape as a promotional tool for your upcoming event. Tell me about that project.
Cupcakes & Handcuffs came about with DJ Phaze who is the the DJ for this segment of the next Date Night NYC event on September 1st. One of the things I wanted to do was give people an idea of what it means to experience intimacy in music’s form. I’m a very intimate person, I’m about the senses and heightening the senses, so I believe that music has a way of translating that when people cant do it themselves.
He and I were going back and forth about different artists to put on there and I said “Why don’t we feature the artists we’ve already had on the series or artists that are going to be on it?” We literally sat and talked about it for months before finalizing it and Phaze did such an amazing job, he’s another person who’s a crate digger. He searches for music also, so it was only right that he was the person to put that together.
The title was just us fooling around pretty much but it kind of makes sense. Cupcaking refers to the song that’s quite hilarious, when you think about cupcakes you think about something sweet, something that you do when you’re all in love and lusty and the handcuffs is pretty much self-explanatory.
Talk to me about Date Night. What is the concept that you’re going for when you throw these shows?
Date Night is three fold. The first aspect of Date Night is to create an intimate experience between the artists and the audience, so that at the end of the night you feel like you went on a date with the artist who’s performing in front of you. The second is to create a safe space for people to experience intimacy in music’s form, whether it’s couples coming together or singles like myself who come and want to experience music and feel okay being sensual, that it’s okay to do it in this atmosphere. The third is to give a chance for known artists to perform with unknowns, giving a stage for everybody to perform on and showcase their skills.
In this respect everybody wins, the patrons win because they get to experience live music plus they get to experience intimacy with whoever they’ve brought or build a relationship with somebody there who comes. The artists get to show their skills and share of themselves being intimate with the audience and the venue itself can show that they can create an atmosphere and a safe space like this. It’s been going well so far, I’m very grateful.
How do you determine the artists that you choose to perform for Date Night?
I always create playlists, that’s actually how Date Night started. Everybody has a playlist that they have for different things, for when the kids are in the car, when you study, when you need to calm down. I have playlists for if I go on a date, if I’m taking a guy out on a date and I want to create a specific type of atmosphere. These are all artists who’ve been on that playlist and some of them are from doing research or from experiencing them at another show. That’s actually how I found out about Brian Owens.
I want to focus mainly on indie artists, because that’s most of the music that I actually listen to. I want to branch out of course and make it big and maybe get a mainstream artist like Jill Scott one day. After that I think I’ll shut down my whole series but the main focus is indie artists and they’re people I actually play and listen to myself.
What have been the challenges been of making your name in New York where everyone is a mover and shaker throwing shows of their own?
There’s definitely been some challenges. The show is small, less than a year old and the challenge for me is going up against shows that are more well known. One of my shows we were promoting for months, people were really excited about it and it was for an artist who was very well known and maybe two weeks before my show three other major shows that would cater to my audience were announced for the same exact day. I would love to get to the point where Date Night would be the first option for you to go to, but we’re not since it’s still relatively small.
It’s like constantly climbing up a hill, you’re trying to make it to a certain point. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t but I’m very grateful for where the show has been. This is my fourth show and the venue hasn’t kicked me out yet (laughs), people still say that they love it and they enjoy it, so I’m just really grateful for where it is. There’s definitely been challenges but I’m working on defeating each level as I go.
As a concert enthusiast, what have been some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had?
I’ll give you three. One was the summer of 2008, it was Jill Scott, Chuck Brown, The Roots, & Estelle at the Merriweather Post Pavillion in Maryland which is where I’m originally from. That had to be one of the best live show experiences I’ve ever had, I was just very grateful to be there.
You like that word grateful.
I do like that word grateful (laughs). I say that because music saved my life, so every time I hear it and I connect with something, I genuinely appreciate what what music has done for me. That Jill Scott & Chuck Brown concert was one of the best I’ve ever been to. In New York I’d have to say it was a Foreign Exchange concert at BB King’s in June of 2009 or 2010. Anybody who ever goes to a Foreign Exchange show knows they put on a hell of a show. It’s unforgettable so any time they’re in New York I’m always there.
The other was Big K.R.I.T. and Freddie Gibbs at Southpaw when it was still open. I’m a huge Big K.R.I.T. fan and he killed that show, I was so proud of him like I had known him for a really long time. Anybody who was in that room could feel how excited he was, I think that was his first sold out concert and then he came back the next year and sold out the Highline Ballroom.
I’m going to throw a cliché question at you, but it’s probably difficult since you’re a music enthusiast. You’re stranded on a desert island and you can only have five CDs, what would they be?
The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. Any Marvin Sapp CD because he is one of my favorite gospel singers. Jill Scott’s Vol. 3: The Real Thing.
That’s a surprise, you prefer that to her first two?
No I don’t, but I relate to that album a little bit more and we’re just gonna leave it at that (laughs).
I know what that album was about, I got it.
(laughs) The Foreign Exchange Leave It All Behind and Teresa Jenee’s Electric Yellow. Her voice is wonderful, she’s like this little tiny thing that can sing out loud for no reason.
What would you say is your ultimate goal with your passion of music?
My end goal is to open a music therapy center for at risk children. Arts programs are going away in schools, which is very essential especially in elementary and middle school. Knowing that those budgets are being cut, I understand the impact that music had on my life so my goal is to take these concerts and build another brand that would strictly be to benefit music therapy programs for children. Everything has a purpose, it all kind of ties in together. It’s sharing music, but it’s also to do something with it. You can’t have such a beautiful gift and then not do anything with it. I love service, I love children and I love music, so I want to put the three together.