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Independent Weekly: “To Not Be Afraid”

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Picture swiped from Phonte’s Twitter. Genuine blog content coming soon, I assure you. For now though, check out this week’s Independent Weekly because I’ve got a big cover story on Yahzarah’s The Ballad Of Purple St. James, featuring Phonte, and Nicolay from The Foreign Exchange as well. Really, these guys are making some of my favorite music right now and I can’t say it enough. Click below to read it:

The soul singer Yahzarah lounges comfortably near the window of the Beyú Caffé in downtown Durham, her poise protected from the sweltering mid-July afternoon outside. Her head is shaved, and she dons bright red heels and a short, tasteful animal print dress. In person, she presents the same singular mix of traditionalism and outré cool that defines her new LP, the excitable and often devastating Ballad of Purple St. James.

The Ballad of Purple St. James is a weird record. Not Lady Gaga Fame Monster weird or even Janelle Monae The Archandroid weird, but weird because it’s a sprawling, rarefied expression of a uniquely talented artist with a willingness to speak and sing—wonderfully—on very personal and intimate things. It’s the sort of willfully individual R&B record you don’t hear anymore.

Yahzarah smiles when she remembers handing Phonte Coleman—the Little Brother emcee who had been her frequent collaborator and friend for more than a decade—a draft of what would become her third album, The Ballad of Purple St. James. At that point, she’d been working on it for nearly three years. “He told me, ‘Nicolay and I can make you a better record,’” she recalls, surprisingly bemused. Coleman was referring to Nicolay Rook, the other half of his forward-thinking, grown-up soul group The Foreign Exchange. A record produced by these Grammy-nominated critical darlings might have afforded Yahzarah instant legitimacy and attention.

Written by Brandon

July 28th, 2010 at 10:32 pm

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