Features, Music Reviews, Race + Culture

INTERVIEW: Racquel Jones

By JD Brant

“We spend so much time fighting to be who we are, and not evolving.”

– Racquel Jones on being a woman (IG video post)

Racquel Jones has gumption, a required trait for those seeking longevity in a forever-shifting industry. Gumption is not to be confused with grit. Grit is doing what it takes because it is expected of you. Gumption is doing what it takes with no perceived expectation. Despite the odds. Despite no odds. Regardless of the consequences or what people think. Gumption is correcting the uninformed with a megaphone. Whether they are receptive to the message or not, it needs to be said.

Sparks ablaze and guns blazing, Racquel Jones is that girl on fire.

To make the most of experience, you need to meet people where they are. On the album, IgnoRANT, we meet Racquel where she is, a woman evolving. A woman of substance, of reckoning. IgnoRANT is a melodrama you can dance to, and so much more: lust, betrayal, destitution, destruction, and clairvoyance on every up-front track.

In artspeak, I’m describing Racquel Jones in peak condition. The incendiary MC was happy to talk with Eloquent Mag about IgnoRANT and the experiences that guided her during the production and songwriting processes.

Eloquent: First off, I want to say I love the cover art for your album, very Basquiat/Dali-looking. Who’s concept? Also, did these artists inspire it (you mention them on the album also)?

RJ: Thank you. I am very much inspired by Salvador Dali and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Obsessed. They are two of my favorite artists, who’ve inspired all aspects of my creativity. They are constant references for me and I mention them in manic, which is my favorite song on the album. The concept of the cover was mine. My label asked me to do a painted self-portrait cover for the record, so I decided to do a surrealist self-portrait baring my soul, showing much of who I am and how that ties into the album for me in a personal way.

Eloquent: Can you discuss a little bit of your heritage/roots and how they influenced the album’s sound and direction? 

RJ: I’m in every way Jamaican, good or bad. Jamaica has the most churches per square mile in the world yet it’s one of the deadliest places on the planet. That is explored on the album through the album artwork, and me examining how religion plays a negative role in our defect and demise as a people on the song sacrilege. Jamaica is one of the most beautiful places on this planet and has a culture unlike any other. Authentic, infectious, beautiful, warm, creative, and influential. That is knitted in every fiber of my being and creativity. I come from a background with a heritage of strength, tenacity, knowledge of self, divinity, and the ability to break barriers and defy odds. That is the core basis of who I am. I’m also from a background etched with trauma and pain which also aid in the shaping of my perception of the world, how I’m perceived, and also my morals…be it good or bad. Sonically, there’s reggae, dancehall, African drums all over the album. The language and overall aesthetic are very much my Jamaican heritage exploring global relatable issues with a Jamaican vocal lens. 

Eloquent: On “Ugly,” you explore the beauty industrial standard. You are vocal about insecurity, turning it into a power, something that makes us unique. As a model and performer, are you noticing that the “typical beauty standard” is on its way out, or is it still present in the industry? 

RJ: No, the unrealistic damaging beauty standards are still very much alive, with people constantly reconfiguring to fit into them. Who has their real faces and bodies anymore? 

Eloquent: How has the music industry changed to accommodate women, if at all, in your opinion? Secondly, what challenges are still present?

RJ: Women have been more vocal about who they are, brave enough to stand up for themselves, strong enough to be themselves and clear about what their voices are and how they want to be presented; so the industry had no choice but to comply. There are changes but still a long way to go. It’s still thought of as a male-dominated field with disparities to reflect that and we suffer because of this. But given what is currently happening, I’m optimistic that it won’t be that way for long. With that said, big ups to all women beasting in this bitch with full ownership of themselves and their businesses within this industry, women who are ferociously aggressive, revolutionary, rebellious, tough as nails, dominant and sexy. 

Eloquent: What would your advice be to young women, especially young women rappers, who find early on in their careers that they are being pressured to act, sing, rap, or present themselves in a particular way?

RJ: Present yourself ONLY how you want to be presented. NEVER compromise and only do it the way that’s true to who you are. So if you want to be overt and sexual, be that. If you want to be an activist, be that. There is a place for Cardi B, Lana Del Rey, Lauryn Hill, Big Freeda, Adele, Kiarra Sheard, Billie Eillish, Lizzo, Beyoncé, Coi Leray. Just be however you want to be as long as it’s true to who you are. 

Eloquent: How do you handle writer’s block or a creative slump? 

RJ: I either push through the resistance (which always gets me magical results) or I step back from it, breathe and take a break, then have a go at it again. 

Eloquent: “Hurt” is a haunting track. You talk about getting through the hurt to achieve greatness or a better life. It’s almost another way of explaining a creative’s path, and how it’s never about the destination, but the journey to get there. Is this an accurate interpretation of the track?

RJ: I welcome that interpretation too, and that’s the interesting part about art…is that it opens up for many interpretations. There’s a lot that has hurt me immensely on this journey and this song is in a way my cathartic release of such, but more particularly relationship-based hurt. When I wrote “Hurt” it was a way for myself and women alike to address pain and bring closure without being shamed, gaslighted, or made to feel invalid by people who’ve hurt us…who are narcissistic, lack emotional intelligence, and refuse to be held accountable. It’s an outlet for pain, and motivation to move on from it. 

Eloquent: In an Instagram video you posted, you said, “We (women) spend so much time fighting to be who we are, and not evolving.” As art is one of few safe spaces for women to truly express who they are, I want to ask, do you feel like you’ve evolved on this album as both a performer and a woman in general?

RJ: For sure. Art has always been a tool that has aided in the evolution of not just the artist themselves but the world in general through cultural and creative expressions. I certainly evolved more after making this album creatively and mentally, especially from discussions I had through IgnoRANT. There’s more understanding, empathy, growth and my moral compass is more guided. 

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Poetry Talk

Poetry By Brian Sheffield

Pixabay

if you haven’t noticed

i’m plagiarizing

By Brian Sheffield

When the last poem is ever written

there will be a tempest of leaves falling

away from the giggling face of a

hoary ash tree in the front yard. The sun

will be angled in the sky like the lure

of a deep sea fish; and though there will be

no teeth, there will be lights, a crash, and then

a mother bending somewhere to pick up

broken shards with a torn rag she intended

to throw away three months ago. As a

given hand — shaking either in gawking

old age or in the misunderstandings

of nervous youth; or else calm and stilled in

experience or confident secrecy —

begins the first syllable of that last

poem ever written, a small dog will

fail to catch the mailman as a

black and white spotted cat loudly licks its

own asshole, openly, in that way that

animals do familiar things, which some

of us humans, sometimes absurdly, keep

held to our own privacy. The dog will

bark incessantly, and the cat will pause

to look up, make eye contact with some other

living beast, and then move its head to the

left, one leg lifted like a strange antenna,

as it slowly blinks, before it starts once

again on its immortal task of faux

cleanliness and the casual nature

of a publicized and personal pleasure.

Only the mother, rising from her work

to run the back of her hand across her

brow, will think of the last poem ever 

written. She will walk across the kitchen

to finally throw that damn rag away.

And she will turn her head slowly to the right

and look out the living room window, where

the mailman continues down the block

and turns left when there is nowhere else to go.

BIO: Brian Sheffield is a performance poet. He is co-founder of Mad Gleam Press and co-editor of POST(blank), a bilingual, French-American Word-Art publication. He has performed and been published internationally among predominantly independent circles.

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Poetry Talk

POETRY WINNERS: NOSTALGIA

Pixabay

The theme for the Fall 2021 edition of Eloquent Mag was NOSTALGIA. The winning poems will be posted on the website this month. They will also be published in the digital ISSUU copy of Eloquent Mag on September 15th.

Driver’s Ed

by R. Skye Lambert

My driver’s ed teacher used to prompt me all the time:

Accelerate at the apex of the curve.

Not before the curve.

Not after the curve.

At the apex.

I just couldn’t wrap my 15-year-old brain around the concept.

Why would I quicken my movement at a pivotal moment?

Shouldn’t that be the slowest?

Before the turn was never the question, at least not for me.

Maybe it was for the boy who sat in the backseat.

Too shy to say my name, but when he was behind the wheel he would go.

What I gathered from Ms. Carns’ description of him – potato sack foot.

I never got to see him drive

but I imagined the weight of his silence

would confront

a gas pedal

with force

wheels

with questions about how

they handle a curve with speed.

Questions I had no desire to search out answers for.

I wanted to learn the curve, feel the curve, breathe it

before deciding what to do with the wheel next.

I wanted to see the trees that swept over the road

straighten their gangly branches

to chase wild fields and poppies floating.

How could I possibly decide on an appropriate speed

without allowing the landscape ahead to unfold first?

And so, I guess, it makes sense that I still lilt

in learning, breathing, feeling moments

because there is all the time in the world

for cruising once the curve has straightened

and the stage opened.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: R. Skye Lambert holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology with a minor in English. Skye is a social worker at a New England hospital, serving clientele with pervasive mental health diagnoses. Skye is also a musician and songwriter.

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Features, Music Reviews

Dark, Brooding, Fierce, Powerful: Racquel Jones’ IgnoRANT is No F*cks Given

DISCLAIMER: IgnoRANT is not for the pansy class. Middle-aged white dudes, beware. This album should be blasted in residential neighborhoods at peak volume. Anything else is unacceptable.

On her latest album, IgnoRANT, MC Racquel Jones weaponizes stereotypes against women and hurls them in the other direction. She’s not afraid to puncture an existing wound or stab a man fresh off a new transgression. The trip-hip, R&B, calypso, and electronic hip hop album is hyper-conscious, hyper-sexual, and highly stimulating. Her daggers are her words, the music a sounding board for higher frequencies of high-speed voltage to bounce off of, and Racquel has the power to flip the switch.

“Manic” gives off mucha Latina vibes (Maybe she borrowed a cue from Saudade, the Bossa Nova album by Thievery Corporation), and the music sucks you into a dream, and you’re losing your footing on a winding staircase that keeps spiraling and spiraling, never reaching the floor. The feeling of insomnia, of sleep walking, a never-ending problem. 

“Siren! Violent!” we hear Ms. Jones shriek on “Arrogant,” the sixth track on IgnoRANT. With a snarl not to be messed with, Jones brings memories of Steflon Don, Foxy Brown, and Lil Kim rolled into one song, proving that the goddess MCs of today’s generation can’t be pigeonholed into one sound, one vibe. They can be girly AND rough around the edges. Like manicures AND slamming a six-pack down. They can be angry and don’t have to apologize for it. 

“Queen,” the final track, is a discotheque of epic proportions. Ms. Jones flaunts her crown in the video proudly, and here, pride is celebration, not perceived as arrogance. She calls on other women to show up as they are, without fear of consequence, and names off famous icons, queens, and goddesses in history who have owned their shit. That’s a beautiful message: No competition, only celebration. All in the name of fierce women. 

IgnoRANT is the opposite of its name. It’s the got-damn truth. It’s an invocation. This is a philosophical work of art by Ms. Jones, who celebrates her Jamaican and Black roots and addresses issues with religion, on the album. This is not your ordinary dance album. It’s deeply personal, and in listening, you can feel the blood and sweat that was poured into its creation. Bravo, Ms. Jones, Bravo.

For the full album, listen here.

Connect with Racquel Jones: Website | Instagram

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Features, Music Reviews, Race + Culture

How the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’ Changed Pop Culture Forever

By Katiee McKinstry

Upon its 25th anniversary, the Spice Girls Wannabe is being re-released for your listening pleasure, begging the question once again, what is a zig-a-zig a?

The Spice Girls have done a phenomenal job at being internationally recognized for the past 25 years, without having to do much or release any new music. The iconic band dropped Wannabe in 1995, and have been topping the pop charts since that.

What exactly is it about the Spice Girls that make them so insatiable that fans are still bopping their heads in 2021?

It’s the idea that every young woman can find themselves in one of the spices. Think of it like Sex in the City or Friends; we look for ourselves in characters and identify with their personalities. The Spice Girls are no exception, and people today still try to figure out which one of the band members they are. That’s why, in 1998, when Halliwell left the band, it was so devastating to fans around the world. While many other girls tried to replace her and her esteemed position as a pop culture fixture, it was never quite the same.

The Spice Girls turned a band of five women into one, each adding their spice to an already special blend of magic. As Wannabe celebrates its anniversary with a new physical picture disc and cassette (dropping August 27th) it makes us wonder, where are the Spice Girls now?

Here’s a breakdown of what the members of the original group are up to now:

  • Emma Bunton, Baby Spice

    Baby Spice is all grown up! 45-years-old with her two children, Beau and Tate, and still with her partner, Jade Jones. Most recently, Bunton served on a reality series from ABC called, Boy Band. Pretty cool stuff!
  • Gerri Halliwell, Ginger Spice

    Ginger Spice is doing well! Halliwell has two children, she’s 48-years-old, and she has still been creating music here and there. Back in 2017, Halliwell released a song in memory of George Michael.
  • Melani Brown, Scary Spice

    If you watch America’s Got Talent, you know that Mel B has been gracing the screen! Alongside Heidi Klum, Scary Spice has been out here thriving and performing, never giving up on her music career. We love to see it!
  • Melani Chisholm, Sporty Spice

    Sporty Spice is now a solo act! While still working on her music career, Chisholm is also mother to Scarlet Starr, and working hard to balance it all. In 2017, Chisholm opened up about her eating disorder for the first time, and her story is truly inspiring.
  • Victoria Beckham, Posh Spice

    You probably know Posh Spice is married to the one and only soccer star, David Beckham. They have 5 children together, and Beckham has currently been focused on the fashion world and prospering there. Love it!

The Spice Girls continue to be icons in our pop culture world, because their music is timeless, and their specific brand of fashion and feminism will always be a stable piece. Everyone knows their songs, and as Wanbee celebrates its 25th year, it’s no secret that the girls will keep on singing their way into our hearts. 

Connect with Katiee: Twitter

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Features

Fall Issue On the Way

Image
Uncategorized

Interview: Monique DeBose

By JD Brant

THE MULTI-HYPHENATE

Monique DeBose is a storyteller with intent, this much is clear. As I listen to her album You Are the Sovereign One I hear a resilience in her voice, years in the making, that only a true-to-grit jazz singer can upholster into a luxurious 16-track music anthology, each chapter in her story more intimate than the last.

The award-winning musician, entrepreneur, and coach is breaking free from any singular definition of “artist” and reinventing what it means to be MORE in today’s entertainment age. Monique is a multi-hyphenate wielding the universal power of music to champion social justice and human rights causes. Through the creation of her viral #BrownBeauty hashtag, the singer assembled a mosaic of strong women of color to feature in her self-empowerment ballad of the same name (below):

The video unfolds like a Zora Neale Hurston novel, swirling with movement and tempos of the body, a temple to be treasured and admired. “Brown Beauty” is just one of 16 tracks on her album that speak directly to the Brown and Black experience. Monique is of mixed race herself and draws on her life to reach a personal breakthrough, which she hopes others will reach, too, through her artistry.

“Human Condition” is the third single released from You Are The Sovereign One and features spoken word by life coach Preston Smiles. As part of her commitment to uplifting others, Monique is also offering a course that teachers women to live their best and most fulfilling lives, which runs in theme with her song release.

“Human Condition” is a plush, mid-tempo bop bringing hip hop, caberet, soul, gospel, and 90s R&B tones to life, featuring a swelling choir that drives the message home (below):

Monique answered a few questions for me regarding perhaps her most pivotal single, “Brown Beauty.” The track speaks to Monique and women like her on a deeper level of connection. And in reading Monique’s responses to my questions, I learn more about her as a woman behind that track.

As a woman who is fiercely candid about the career decisions she has made, Monique strikes me as someone humbly regal, with maybe a tiny case of imposter syndrome. But, as with all risk-taking, a growing nervous sensation in the stomach is proof of our own human condition, a sign that we’re on the right path, because the right path is never easy. Yes, she is courageous. Yes, she is strong. But what she represents is the new normal for so many women in the arts in America. Women who are more informed about their own options in business and their right to choose the life intended for them because of people like her.

Here are her answers to my questions:

Can you tell me a little bit about the concept behind “Brown Beauty” and the process of seeking participants for it?

So the concept behind brown beauty is to celebrate, acknowledge, and to celebrate and acknowledge black women and women of color. Because in my experience, I feel like I have been asked to play multiple roles that are arduous, that are challenging, that require so much grace, and sometimes so little reward. And I felt like that really is the story for a lot of Black and Brown women in the world. The song originated when I was working on a body of work around my experience as a mixed race woman. And what “Brown Beauty” really spoke was a song that spoke to me navigating distinct worlds, and really taking a moment to acknowledge that it is a conscious effort, or is my conscious choice to.

I have a lyric that says, “Walking the line, Master of which face to show protector of all counsel for the seeds that you sow, consciously choosing to forego that quiet rest, consistent confrontation to that call. She answers yes.” And I feel like that is really what a lot of Black women and women of color are, are being asked to do and are consciously doing. And so this song was really about celebrating that and acknowledging that and saying “I see you.”

So my manager and I really talked about this and thought it would make sense that we invite other Black women and women of color into this visual representation of the song and video. And so we set out to do a social media campaign where we reached out to Black and Brown women…We reached out to a great number of my friends and asked them if they would want to submit a picture and tell us what Brown beauty meant to them…So there’s 50 women in the video [and] some I didn’t know before, and some I knew…It’s a beautiful acknowledgement. One woman wrote me and said that her daughter was happy to see her in it. But she said it struck such a deeper chord than just “Ooh, my mom’s in a video.” She said it was like medicine and healing for her and her daughter, and she had wished that she had had that when she was a child.

What kind of feedback have you been getting about the video for “Brown Beauty”?

I’ve been getting feedback that it is gorgeous, visual. I’ve been getting feedback that it’s such medicine for women and for their daughters. In that they are feeling like they wish they had something like this when they were growing up. I’m getting feedback that it’s time for…women of color to be unapologetic about their own beauty, their own grace, and that it’s time for black women and brown women to get to define what their beauty is really about this.

I listened to a podcast episode of “MORE” and I really thought it was entertaining. In terms of value, what do you think you bring to the market/culture that is different in the format/style/conversation of the podcast?

What I think I bring that is different is that we’re getting an opportunity to hear women tell their own stories about things that women care about. Each week, the podcast focuses on a different theme of choosing more something. So each week I have two women share their story. So (in a previous) week, I have Kermit Bakar from the Pussycat Dolls and [we] went to high school together. So she has a story about healing…I have stories about faith. [I have] one of my best friends, people I know and I love and I have a deep connection with [on the podcast], so I feel like that in itself makes the podcast that much more entertaining…You get to sit in and be a fly on the wall and listen to friends talk. And when, I think, friends speak, you just get deeper immediately…We spend time with listeners to give them a tool to help access more of what that theme of the week was. So it’s not just storytelling for the sake of storytelling, it’s storytelling and an opportunity for people to integrate for their own specific lives. 

What kind of artists (jazz or otherwise) did you grow up listening to, and what about the genre of jazz specifically attracted you?

Ella Fitzgerald is one of my favorite artists. I’m going to say this really quickly. Just how she grew up, you know, and how she decided to become a singer. How she was able to be a young singer with an all-male orchestra…and how her voice just bounces across. Across melodies, her scanning abilities are phenomenal. Ella Fitzgerald is somebody I listened to growing up. I used to listen to Marvin Gaye a lot. This is music in my household. Stevie Wonder a lot. Sade a lot. I’m trying to think what else but I also listened. I was that kid who also listened to K with 101 like the oldies. I was the kid who listened to the 94 seven the way before it became kind of like an old school station now what it feels like today, I was listening to like, just contemporary, like, adult contemporary music as a young child. But then I’d also listened to like, those dinner albums that I’m imagining a lot of like…I would say probably more white families would listen to. So I had albums from my my grandparents’ house. I love Duke Ellington. His answer is all over the place. Just for what he represents, and the music he wrote, I love that he had Billy straight horn as his, you know, right hand man who was a gay man, a gay black man back in the day, and he had a place to really just share his creative juices with the band. So I love Duke Ellington even more for that reason.

Jazz was really attractive to me for a couple of reasons, some positive some not positive, but however you get there you get there…  Jazz was very complex and yet it was very simple. Like you can do the 251 come right back chords, the two-chord, the five-chord, the one-chord. So there was some real like mathematics to it in my brain. And then it was also extremely complex. Like some of the solos you hear like Charlie Parker, just some of the solos and some of the scatting that Ella Fitzgerald did, is just really out there for me. And so I really wanted to understand it, it pulled me in. But then as a singer, I found jazz was, you know, because there was a lot of the Great American Songbook, I found jazz was something I could use my voice towards, because there were other singing going on in the world, you know, that was contemporary, that I was growing up with. For example, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and I was just like, my voice doesn’t do that. I don’t have a voice that can do all those runs…So jazz was a really beautiful safe harbor…for my voice. [Jazz] was my way into singing and music. 

The pandemic has greatly shifted American thinking, in that many people are quitting traditional jobs to pursue interests in passions like music, art, and the humanities. As someone who left a corporate role for the music industry, were you given any career advice early on about making this move, and did that advice influence you?

Yeah, actually…I left a corporate job 53 weeks after I’d been hired to do that corporate job, because I’d moved to Philadelphia after I’d done internships at a pharmaceutical company, and I knew after like, the first two weeks, I was like, oh, oh, no, this is not my path. And there was a lot of pressure from my dad, because as a Black man growing up in North Carolina, these are his words, you know, you don’t leave a good job, you know, you got a good job, you keep a good job, they’re paying you this much money out of getting out of college, and you’re going to walk away. But I knew after two weeks, I was like, Oh, this cannot be my life. And so I had a real choice, I decided to save 53 weeks, because after a year, you didn’t have to pay back the move. So I was like, I’ll live in Philly for a year and just see what Philly is about. I started going to open mics. I started just kind of looking into what does it mean to be a singer. And so after 53 weeks, I left and I thought, Oh, I could come back to Los Angeles, which is where I’m from, and not pay rent. I could live in my parents house. Or I could go to New York, and you know, pursue dreams there. I came back to LA. And that was a good thing.

You know, financially, I do sometimes wonder what I would have done if I had gone to New York. I think when I’m put in situations where it’s more challenging, I think I thrive, like I just rise to a challenge more. So I’m talking and I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be telling you as someone who left the corporate role in the music industry. Was I given any career advice? Yeah, don’t do it. that was the advice I was given. And it influenced me by making me, you know, keep trying and keep pushing, because I didn’t want to fail. And I honestly don’t think I’ve made it yet. And I’m still hoping one day I make it. But yeah, some of the advice I was given was, you know, make sure you have a backup plan, which I don’t always agree with. Mind you, I’ve always had a backup plan. So I’m speaking from that position of having it but I sometimes think if we don’t burn the boats, we won’t really put ourselves 100% in it. That’s it. That’s what I had to say. Burn the boat. But make sure you have somebody’s phone number of [someone else’s] you can sleep on.

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Poetry Talk, Race + Culture

Poetry by Michael Grandsoult

Artwork for a track, “Turtle Island” by indigenous artist David Strickland


           

G.B.C.

By Michael Grandsoult

2 22,

born and raised in Scarborough Ontario.

Dual/duel,

2 nationalities I bear and hold

carried over the border

by my parents through customs

cultural baggage of a Guyanese substance,

bubbling in my body

tropical hot blood

like casareep in pepper pot.

Declared not native to this nation

foreign fruit that doesn’t take root,

“climatic unsuitability.”

Snowbound by cold racism, withholding growth.

Soils used to maple,

palm trees be gone please

rejecting me to go

back home.

But home is unknown.

Only folklore fork loads of food

musical milieu,

cultures much more.

My exotics whitewashed, lost

before I ever got it.

Foreigner here, there

searching for where?

I fit in the hyphen.

Division partitioning

Guyanese                    Canadian.

Imprisoned within limbo

or,

is it a bridge

connecting the 2

creating something new?

not Guyanese

not Canadian only,

GBC.

So I soar Kaiteur on my ladder Niagara

to reach full height.

Making bull’s-eye mark on maple leaf

with golden arrowhead darts.

Synthesis of existences

my identity’s recipe.

Guyanese Blooded Canadian,

GBC. 


Michael (MikeAll) Grandsoult is a Scarborough, Ontario native and hip hop educator. He began writing poems in the primary years of elementary school and started rapping in the junior grades. He has released three solo albums; “Mike Check” (2008), “Mike Support” (2015) and “Mike All” (2018).  MikeAll’s goal is to put the poet back into rhythm and poetry.                

CONNECT WITH MIKEALL: Instagram | Bandcamp

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Poetry Talk

Poetry Submissions Now Open

Submissions are now being accepted for the first Fall 2021 digital ISSUU of Eloquent Mag.

Theme: // N O S T A L G I A //

  • Each writer can submit up to three poems.
  • If we print your piece, you will receive an honorarium.
  • Submissions will be published in the first Fall 2021 ISSUU of Eloquent Mag.
  • The publication will cost $2 to download, but published writers will receive a free download.
  • Email your submission with a small bio and photo/headshot to editor@eloquent-magazine.com.
  • Google docs format is preferred, but we will also accept Word format.
  • Deadline: August 15th.
Photo: furbymama courtesy Pixabay

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Features, Music Reviews, Race + Culture

Social Justice in Music: Emerging Indie Artists of the Pandemic

By JD Brant // Contributing Writing By Saliek Ruffin

Hip hop has come a long way since the OG days of “Rapper’s Delight.” The track was the first hip hop song to reach Billboard’s Top 40 at a time when music by young black musicians was easily misunderstood. Now, almost 40 years later, hip hop still dominates Billboard charts. Streaming numbers have nudged the genre, yet again, into familiar hybrid pop/rock territory (Does anyone remember Blondie’s “Rapture”? That’s where it all started). 

At its core, hip hop is a political movement, and contemporary artists’ attempts to smash the status quo offers glimmers of hope for Gen Zers, millennials, and other lost generations. Here we’ve compiled a list of standout artists who’ve emerged victorious during the COVID-19 pandemic and have taken on social justice causes as influencers in the music industry. We will post one new artist a week throughout the summer. 

1. H.E.R.

Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson is her government name. Her stage name, articulated “her,” is an abbreviation for Having Everything Revealed. The Filipino/African-American vocalist and musician rose to prominence at the height of the pandemic, and has been soaring ever since. 

After initially releasing music under her government name, Wilson reappeared in 2016 with the H.E.R. persona, delivering her introduction EP H.E.R. Volume 1. She at that point delivered resulting EPs H.E.R. Volume 2 (2017), The B Sides (2017), I Used to Know Her: The Prelude (2018) and I Used to Know Her: Part 2 (2018). 

2020 was the year of H.E.R. She was designated for five honors at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year for her album, I Used to Know Her, and Song of the Year for “Hard Place.” In September, she sang Prince’s tune “Nothing Compares 2 U,” for the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, and during the pre-game celebrations for Super Bowl LV, H.E.R. performed “America the Beautiful” while playing guitar. 

What makes H.E.R. a beautiful soul is her passion for activism. Laced throughout her discography are reflections of her beliefs. “I Can’t Breathe” was the singer’s premiere social justice song, an emphatic statement on the current global policing crisis. She also contributed a song to the soundtrack of Judas and the Black Messiah titled, “Fight For You,” last August. 

Listen to “Fight For You” here:

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