Our subject for April's Brave Soul Artist feature is a dynamic young woman whose approach is not powerful or pop-polished, but rich, mature, and effortless. She's also a great songwriter, and has a knack for coming up with odd but catchy lines. Her songs not only make you think and feel something, but they make you remember. "All of the music that I make," she explains, "is from the soul and so the best thing to call it is soul music...all I need is my beat, that mic, the stage, a crowd and I'm good..."
I first heard Choklate's music in September of last year while in a record store in Atlanta. I was in Little Five points when I heard this song called "Incredible" playing and I immediately asked the clerk who it was. Once she located the disc, I looked it over and put it back, thinking it may have been just one good song on an album full of filler. (We're tellin the truth here--right? RIGHT!)
Once I got back to DC, I managed to get a more full listen of the album online, at which point I quickly rushed to the store to buy it. After listening to the full project, I knew that Choklate was indeed a rare breed and something special. Her songs grabbed me off the bat because of
the lyrics, and her thick, soulful voice. The tracks with such hard, catchy beats and lush instrumentation were the final sell.
About three weeks after I bought the album, I saw a sign outside of a local record store (Kemp Mill Music) in DC which said that Choklate would be doing an in-store album signing about a week later. I was determined to stop by and meet her, especially since I work right around the corner from Kemp Mill. When the day came, I came by and got the opportunity to meet Choklate in the flesh, and from the moment I met her I knew she was good people, with an amazingly warm spirit. That day I spoke to Choklate about my appreciation for her music, as well as about BSC and the work we do. From the beginning, she was extremely supportive and encouraging of our efforts and expressed interest in contributing and becoming involved.
Choklate and I spoke over the next couple months at great length about getting her back to DC to perform as part of our first performance production Brave Souls Unplugged (last November), but we were unable to make it happen due to scheduling. Since then, we've remained in touch and last month here in DC, I finally got the opportunity to witness her perform live, while on tour as part of the HUSTLE HARD TOUR 2007. She was even more fascinating live onstage than she is on her recorded material. Choklate has a way of connecting and communicating with her audience that feels very genuine, honest, and inspiring, which is something is rare these days. She joins a short list of others, like Lalah Hathaway, Rahsaan Patterson, Ledisi, & Eric Roberson who are able to do the same thing LIVE. Choklate is an artist who cares about 'the artistic' part of what she does more than the technical stuff and that's an asset these days. Shortly after finishing her long stint on the road, Choklate answered a set of questions for us about her musical upbringing, her dream collabos, her thoughts about HIV/AIDS and a few other intersting topics. We are honored to showcase this beautiful, dynamic sister this month on the Brave Soul site...so please read on to get a glimpse of life inside her world.
Brave Soul Fam, we present to you......Choklate
"I like flaws. Hell if I didn't I'd not be accepting myself. Most human folks got 'em anyhow. To accept them is freedom if ya ask me, but then that's just me."
You've just come off the successful "Hustle Hard Tour 2007", which you headlined. What was your experience like while out on the road?
I experienced a lot of love. Like mad love that I didn't expect AND I went certain places in my performance that I'd never gone before as far as expression of the music. I felt really free on stage.
Can you talk to us about your process as a songwriter? How do your songs typically come to life?
I live life and the songs show up from living life and the different experiences that I have day to day or the people around me...I hear things and I write them down...maybe a melody or a concept...I lose a TON of ideas everyday because I don't oftentimes have the means to record them but I always think that if I let them come and go as they please that the good ones will always show back up...
Our topic for the month of April on the BSC site is sex. Please finish the following sentence (with the first thing that comes to mind): Sex is...
...a physical expression of one's love, passion or lust (depending on what boat you're in) for another. Sex can also be an unhealthy addiction, a boring routine or unpleasurable experience as well...all depending on what boat you're in...the first thing that came to my mind though was definitely a 'physical expression of ones love or passion for another'.
In your most recent press release for the Hustle Hard Tour, you were described as having grown up with " music deprivation disease (meaning she was only raised on good gospel)". Can you talk to us about how that influenced the kind of music you make today?
I don't really know HOW it influenced me. It's just my truth. I wasn't allowed to listen to or introduced to greats such as Earth Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin etc. as a child. I was only allowed to listen to Gospel...I didn't always like it so I didn't grow up listening to or around much music in my earlier years. I ran the streets a lot and as I got older and eventually ended up listening to a lot of gangster rap for a period of time...but as I grew a little older I found myself appreciating all kinds of music...I would have to let someone who studied that kind of thing tell us ALL how that may have influenced the way that I make music now or the kind rather. I would be honest in saying that I have less of a musical 'ledger'. I'm not always aware of the 'rules' of music, so I hear that I break them a lot...I wouldn't know though cause I don't have anything to 'go' by. No real point of reference...I hope that makes sense...
What impact has the HIV/AIDS epidemic had on your life as a young black woman?
It's just something that can't be avoided. It's a reality that is present from day to day. If you're lookin for a partner with which to spend time, you cant just say you wanna spend your time with someone 6"3, dark brown skin, sexy, a beautiful creature who loves music and has similar interest and makes me laugh a lot...you find all that or find yourself with someone with all that and if you decide to go a certain path physically, with that person then a trip to the doc together is a part of that journey as well...so HIV/AIDS has affected the way we date, how we see potential partners...I've lost friends because of being unable to cope with the reality of someone having it...it's affected the entire world...and everyone I know in it in some way...matter of fact I think I'm due for another testing pretty soon here...it's just become a real part of our lives. Everyday life.
Your live shows tend to be very interactive and energetically charged? Can you tell us what the act of performing live means to you as an artist, particularly a new artist?
To me, it means expressing the music physically. With your whole being. It means going back to the moment that song was created and remembering exactly what it was you felt that made that particular song materialize or remembering that exact experience and then physically 'telling' or 'expressing' the story (rather) live.
A long time ago I was in the studio with my brother and some friends of his who were recording at the time and he'd (a young man by the name of Youngsta) referred to me as Chocolate Angel in a verse he was delivering in the booth and I was quite the tomboy at the time and hated it...it didn't take long for me to get them to drop the Angel but the Chocolate part stuck cause I was most brown of all the ladies in the circle I'd assumed at the time, and because I'm a product of the Hip Hop generation I felt like I couldn't just spell it correctly... Anyway, I'd wanted to change it after some time but by then it was too late and in my city I was officially tagged as Choklate. The nickname stuck and I've not been able to get rid of it.
If you could pick three artists to work with living or dead, who would they be and why?
Marvin Gaye because I believe he was really one of the ones that wanted to see the world & see themselves.
Lauryn Hill because I just wanna pray with her and create something that could give us both some sort of release and escape.
Brandy cause I just have always been a huge fan of hers and am an Aquarian myself. I think we'd enjoy being goof balls together.
India Arie cause she seems to be one of those straight shooters and it seems she'd not sugar coat anything with me which I would really appreciate and we'd really SAY somethin in the song. Something really meaningful that is a little against the grain...or so I think.
Sam Cooke...cause I've heard I'm sort of a young girl version of him...wonderful compliment right???? Geese...wait...you said three right? My bad....ok one last one...
Curtis Mayfield...cause he was just dope.
How much of a role do you think SILENCE has played in the way HIV/AIDS has affected the black community in recent years?
There are a lot of folks scared to deal with it and those that may have it that will never know because it's such a taboo subject. It's scary because of the silence. If more folks talked about it, how to detect, stay safe and live with or without it in a healthy fashion and atmosphere then I think we would deal with the reality of it a little bit better instead of spreading it so rapidly and so many of us being so ignorant about it.
Talk to us about the importance of flaws as they pertain to the expression of your artistry.
Awww heck, flaws keep me in check. I get nervous, I get scared, I've got visible scars, I say goofy things sometimes, I'm in no way a commercial image by any means but I dig it that way. Being perfect is a huge responsibility. You gotta keep up with perfection. ALL the time. That sounds kind of boring and overwhelming I'm sure at times too...
I've always been a flawed being in either my own eyes or someone elses so I've accepted that it's just some real life. I like flaws. Hell if I didn't I'd not be accepting myself. Most human folks got 'em anyhow. To accept them is freedom if ya ask me, but then that's just me.
Being an independent artist, do you feel any pressure to feed into the idea/concept of competing with other black female artists?
Naw. God gave ME what HE gave me and others what HE gave THEM. Compete for what? I'd rather make some friends and be inspired. There's enough room for everyone.
What is your absolute favorite song on your debut album and why?
Awwww geese...I hate this question. I only hate it, though, because I have no favorite. I haven't listened to that record in so long...I have new faves that no ones heard yet...I'd never pick out a fave. That's like havin a favorite child. That's not right. Right?