-Star Tribune’s Top 10 Albums
-URB Magazine’s Next 100
-Best R&B Band City Pages
-Best Live Act Star Tribune
-CMJ Debut #180
Minneapolis based Black Blondie is a band in the purest sense of the word: the tightly knit four-piece unit, formed in 2006, collectively writes and performs all of their music. Black Blondie's daring frontwoman, Samahra, has the attitude and charisma of a punk rock diva. She has a voice that would serve any American Idol three times over but lyrics that shock with wit and intellect. You may be reminded of the poetic confessions of a Midwestern emo boy who makes you wanna rip your heart out and cradle it in your hand, but in the next minute she will inspire you to put on your hot pink stilettos, party the night away at a grungy D.C. go-go club, and sign a check to the World Wildlife Fund with a quill tipped pen. Bass player, Liz Draper, plays her upright and electric basses as effortlessly as any conservatory bred musician would, yet still sounds like a dirty hip hop sample. Kahlil Brewington's drums lock in as one with the bass and are laced with sophisticated dub and dancehall stylings. Tasha Baron attacks percussive Afrobeat organ lines and plays keyboard atmospheres reminiscent of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Samahra's vocals intermingle enigmatically with this striking and raw musical environment.
Black Blondie's live show, distinctive song writing and innovative musical style has found them sharing the stage with The Roots, Jill Scott, Amy Winehouse, K'Naan, Meshell Ndegeocello, The Coup and J*Davey.
Black Blondie collectively wrote and produced their debut album "Do You Remember Who You Wanted to Be." DYRWYWTB is an intensely intimate and poetic album. The songs ride through a broad range of honest emotions telling stories with themes of self-examination, loss, and love. Daring front woman Samahra is at home with the pen. Perhaps it's something about the Midwest winters, but her songwriting is more closely related to Edgar Allen Poe than Beyonce. Black Blondie's music has traces of dub, old school soul, trip hop, and hip hop. People often ask where they find their "samples," but no samples are used on the album. The song "Dressed to Kill a Mockingbird" has obvious reggae influence, where "Bye Polar Bear" thumps with quirky 80s electro flavor, complete with a Dr. Dre West Coast influenced synth line. Each song on DYRWYWTB possesses a strong individuality, but DYRWYWTB is an album in the most complete sense, thematically and sonically cohesive songs from start to finish.
Samahra Daly: Vocals
Tasha Baron: Keyboards, Sound programming & effects boxes
Liz Draper: Upright & Electric bass
Kahlil Brewington: Drums
Debut LP: "Do You Remember Who You Wanted to Be" (C)2008 (P)2009 - Black Blondie
Radio airplay: yes. CMJ top 200 debut at #180. See below for a list of stations that put us on heavy rotation or charted us in their Top 30.
Single "Hunger" included on "Twin Town High X" Compilation (2008). ("Hunger" was put into rotation on MN Public Radio's 89.3 "The Current" radio station).
Stations that put Black Blondie "Do You Remember Who You Wanted to Be" on heavy rotation or charted us in their Top 30:
CILU Thunder Bay ON
CIXS Montreal PQ
KANM College Station TX
KAOS Olympia WA
KBSU Boise ID
KCSS Turlock CA
KDNK Carbondale CO
KFAI Minneapolis MN
KHOL Jackson WY
KNDS Fargo ND
KOTO Telluride CO
KSCL Shreveport LA
KSRQ Theif River Falls MN
KSTO Northfield MN
KSYM San Antonio TX
KUNI Cedar Falls IA
KUWS Superior WI
KWLC Decorah IA
KXUL Monroe LA
WBIM Bridgewater MA
WCCS Norton MA
WCFM Williamstown MA
WCLH Wilkes-Barre PA
WCRD Muncie IN
WCUR West Chester PA
WDPS Dayton OH
WDWN Auburn NY
WEGL Auburn AL
WGBK Glenview IL
WGTB Washington DC
WHFR Dearborn MI
WKPX Sunrise FL
WKWZ Syosset NY
WLFM Appleton WI
WLTL La Grange IL
WMLU Farmville VA
WQHS Philadelphia PA
WRFW River Falls WI
WRNC Ashland WI
WSIN New Haven CT
WTCC Springfield MA
WTTU Cookeville TN
WUMM Machias ME
WXJM Harrisonburg VA
Black Blondie has songs streaming online at many websites including: startribune.com, citypages.com, myspace.com, iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, and more. See sample links below:
http://www.startribune.com/audio/49352312.html, www.myspace.com/blackblondiemusic, http://blogs.citypages.com/gimmenoise/2009/03/post_6.php, http://home.napster.com/ns/music/artist.html?artist_id=12791382, http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?id=310885963&s=143441
URB Magazine "Next 100"
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Black Blondie's sassalicious frontwoman Samahra's look and sound resemble a drug- and beehive-free A...Black Blondie's sassalicious frontwoman Samahra's look and sound resemble a drug- and beehive-free Amy Winehouse…if she had a hip-hop background, better lyrics and killer style. The Minneapolis foursome are together a shining example of the soul-filled creativity coming out of the Midwest. With or without the beehives. Sounds like: Esthero and Amy Winehouse living inside Betty Boop's head. -URB Magazine
Best Albums of the Year
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Black Blondie - "Do You Remember Who You Wanted to Be" Like a cross between an over-achieving str...Black Blondie - "Do You Remember Who You Wanted to Be"
Like a cross between an over-achieving straight-A student and a kid with rabid ADD, the debut disc by this three-quarters female hip-hop/R&B/rock band offers switchblade-sharp musical performances even while jumping all over the music map. It's a disc that can't sit still. The one constant is the gripping personal touch of singer/rapper Samahra Daly, who lost her mom and fought to gain her husband during the writing. She sounds like she wants a hug but might also kick your teeth in. Best track: "Knife Fights and X-mas Lights"
Black Blondie's Dark Highlights: Perfectionism wasn't the only reason the group's stunning debut was three years in the making.
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Like kids tearing into a piñata, Black Blondie's leading ladies greet a new box of their merchandise...Like kids tearing into a piñata, Black Blondie's leading ladies greet a new box of their merchandise with uncommon zeal.
"I want this one for myself," keyboardist Tasha Baron said, pulling a striped skirt out of their stash before their "Making Music" appearance at the Whole Music Club last week.
The skirt was just one of many unique items of clothing -- acid-washed jean jackets, coolly used hoodies, etc. -- which the band scoured from thrift stores, discount shops and even their own closets. They then emblazoned their lips-shaped logo onto all the attire.
Singer Samahra Daly noticed a piece missing from the newest box, however.
"I wonder why they couldn't use my bra," Daly asked.
"It was probably too small for the printing," Baron deadpanned.
The colorful merch bin makes several symbolic statements about Black Blondie's DNA. Like the fact that the clothing was sassy and girly but not at all sissy. Or the way the band recycles vintage styles into something edgy and hip.
The best point to make, though, is how the women in the jazzy hip-hop/R&B/rock quartet (ages 27-28) clearly poured a lot of time and energy into the pile of clothes. So you can imagine the kind of thought and care they piled into Black Blondie's debut CD, which finally arrives with a release party tonight at the Triple Rock -- more than three years after the group hit the scene with an immediate buzz.
"We have a lot of nervous breakdowns in this band," admitted Baron. "We care too much about everything we do."
Effusively titled "Do You Remember Who You Wanted to Be," Black Blondie's debut is the kind you'll never forget, even if it's not your cup of bold, multiflavored tea.
Vocally, Daly comes off like a cross of Erykah Badu, Cyndi Lauper and the group's namesake, Blondie's Debbie Harry (the "black" refers to mood and sound, not race). Musically, the tracks veer from dark and steamy R&B grooves to jittery space-funk to -- in the standout cut, "Dirty Ashes" -- a frantic modern urban symphony. And lyrically, there's stuff here that could make your heart pound or your mouth curl up into a smile.
One reason the record took two years to make was simply the perfectionism. There were "probably a thousand sessions" with producer Ben Durrant, Baron exaggerated.
But, she added, "Everything in the world happened to us during the making of the album. We'd record some tracks and really think we were getting close, and then we'd have to break for something else."
That first something-else was the departure of co-founding vocalist Sarah White, the former Traditional Methods rapper who moved to New York in 2007. Without White, bassist Liz Draper said, "We had a lot of songs we had to just throw away."
Once Daly stepped out as the lone frontwoman -- which, she's not afraid to admit, she always wanted to be -- another round of recording was ruined when she came down with pneumonia.
Finally, the sessions were hit with the tragedy that already defined many of the lyrics: The death of Daly's mother, Sandy, following an eight-year fight with ovarian cancer.
"In the end, they told her she had two years to live," Daly said. "So I had to come to terms with it for two years -- sometimes angry, sometimes in denial. The album really helped me work that stuff out."
Several of the darker songs offer hints of what Daly went through. The soulful opening track, "Hunger," is built around a line her mom said as she struggled with treatments: "If we're not allowed to eat/ Why do we still have hunger?" And the gloomier-sounding "World Won't Rest" is all about grief. Said Daly, "The hardest part about grieving isn't what you feel. It's that everything else has to keep going in your life."
Daly is certainly happy the band kept going.
"I don't know if I would've been able to get through it without making music," she said. "It was one way I could express myself vs. standing in a room screaming my head off."
Although the Black Blondians are generally not interested in talking gender -- especially with a rotating cast of male drummers (Hyder Ali's Kahlil Brewington plays on the album, while Greg Schutte and Joey Van Phillips will fill in at gigs) -- they did say the group benefited from its femininity during their many trials.
"I'm sure we could all still be close friends with more guys in the band, but something about this made us closer-knit," Draper said.
Trained at Perpich Center for the Arts, Draper played around with Daly during high school and then got to know Baron at the University of Minnesota and West Bank School of Music, where both now teach. Baron also played for several years in renowned local hip-hop troupe Heiruspecs.
After three years in Black Blondie, the trio is able to laugh at some of its darker experiences now.
The members erupted over memories of Daly's rocky affair with her husband before they were married, a saga recounted in the long-in-the-making opus "Knife Fights and X-Mas Lights." When her man was in the crowd one night, Daly added some lyrics on a whim that are now permanently part of the song: "Oh, boy, don't you know what you want?/ Don't you know what you got?"
Said Daly, "When he finally told me he loved me, I was like, 'What were you thinking, you dumb ass?' "
With a subtler tone, Baron added, "So that song has gone through a few different transformations. But that made it better in the end."
You could say the same thing about Black Blondie.
Black Blondie demand attention with their stellar debut
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I can't stop staring at Samahra Daly's earrings. It's a recent Saturday morning and I've joined Sama...I can't stop staring at Samahra Daly's earrings. It's a recent Saturday morning and I've joined Samahra (she prefers to go by just her first, Arabic name) and her Black Blondie bandmates Liz Draper and Tasha Baron for breakfast at the Seward Cafe, but I'm having trouble following the conversation. I'm obsessed with these earrings, you see. They're huge, bright orange, misshapen rectangles and look like they're made of something spongy. They're lying heavily on the two scarves Samahra has piled upon her rather generous cleavage. Her hot-pink 1980s-era plastic shades lie on the table in front of her. She has a look that is a funky mix of burlesque singer, tarot card reader, and '80s pop princess. And I still can't figure out what the hell her earrings are supposed to be....
"I was a pimple popper and a pussy waxer."
What's that? Not surprisingly, I instantly snap back to attention at this rather unexpected phrase. Samahra just happens to be reminiscing about her training as an esthiologist at the Aveda Institute, but goddamn if this woman doesn't have a way of demanding your attention. Whether it's her fashion sense, the jarring words that come tumbling out of her mouth, or the music she makes with Black Blondie, Samahra's charm and mystique owe much to her unexpected nature. (Oh, those earrings, by the way, are an '80s throwback accessory known as "door knockers." Now you know.)
That unexpectedness permeates the debut album by Black Blondie, Do You Remember Who You Wanted to Be? Samahra, Draper, and Baron (along with recently departed drummer Kahlil Brewington) mash together alternative R&B, dub, '80s synth rock, hip hop, and more. The result is a sound that is genuinely—honestly—unique, but that maintains an organic, seamless sensibility. It's often eerie, foreboding, and somehow still sexy. It feels naughty, yet it's morose. It's the soundtrack to a desert caravan where wafts of opium smoke entice you while the cries of wolves in the darkness send shivers up your spine.
"I always write about really personal things. There are very few songwriters that I can really appreciate their honesty. My mom died last year, so a lot of the stuff I was writing about was going through the emotions of grieving," Samahra explains. "I like writing about being pissed off. It just comes way more easily to me than writing about nice things. I want to write some joyful, hopeful shit, but we'll see about that."
The album's title, Do You Remember Who You Wanted to Be?, is something that Samahra says her mom would often ask her. While most of us spent our childhoods vacillating between wanting to be an astronaut one day and a veterinarian the next only to end up in a fabric-covered cube, the members of Black Blondie are staying true to their lifelong ambitions. Samahra's mom would no doubt be proud.
Although Black Blondie "officially" formed in 2006, Draper and Baron have known each other since they were teens (they're in their late 20s now), and once upon a time played in a youth symphony together (both went on to earn degrees in music from the U of M). As for the band's name, it is indeed an homage to that Blondie, but the "Black" in their name is suggestive of the dark, brooding undertone of their music.
"I've always been a fan of Blondie's swagger," Samahra says. "But most of the stuff I've written about so far has been pretty dark; there are a lot of dark, ambient things about our music."
When you hear Samahra's voice, the comparisons to the likes of Amy Winehouse and Macy Gray are obvious and understandable. But although her voice is often bawdy, taunting, and gritty, it can effortlessly downshift to be sensual, intimate, and lilting. This woman has enormous talent.
The absence of guitars on the album results in a sound that is both stark and meaty. Baron's adventuresome piano, organ, and synth work fills the void and creates a vast otherworld of sounds (without using any actual samples), and Draper's intelligent bass playing, both upright and electric, is so confident it's almost a turn-on.
Black Blondie are equally expert at knowing just when and where to switch things up. "For the Taste," a rambunctious and soulful track, transitions perfectly into "Candy Cigarettes," spooky and ethereal with a Ray Manzarek "Riders on the Storm" vibe to it (and Roma di Luna's Channy Moon Casselle singing backing vocals). "Bye Polar Bear," with its '80s electro flavor and disco beats, is followed by the sleepy, reggae-influenced "Dressed to Kill a Mockingbird."
"There is rarely a time when Liz or Tasha plays something when I don't find it perfect," Samahra says.
Black Blondie have all the dreams and aspirations that you want a band with this level of talent and artistic ingenuity to have...and hopefully achieve. But in typical Samahra fashion, she explains why we won't have to worry about the band relocating to the East Coast anytime soon.
"I kept getting naked on the street while on tour in New York, but no one in New York seems to care when you are in your underwear on the street," she bemoans, recalling hopping out of their vehicle for a quick change of clothes. "I was like, 'I can't live in this city if no one will pay attention to me.'"
Black Blondie Knocks 'em Dead at the Uptown Pride Block Party
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The Uptown Pride Block Party on June 26 was an LGBT Pride Week affair, but you didn’t need to be les...The Uptown Pride Block Party on June 26 was an LGBT Pride Week affair, but you didn’t need to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender to get with it. For that matter, you didn’t have to have a dime in your pocket. All you had to bring was the willingness to enjoy a damned good time.
The concert site at Bryant Avenue and Lake Street was packed almost elbow-to-elbow with what had to be a crowd of a thousand or more, chock full of feel-good vibes. I dropped in to catch a few numbers by Black Blondie, then hustle it on back home for deadlines. In so doing, I came upon a delightful surprise: one smokin’ emcee, Foxy Tann, about whom I’d heard a great deal. It turned out that even the highest praise fell short in preparing me for the experience of seeing her live. They don’t come more artfully charismatic—not to mention hot as a sunburn—than this dynamic lady of the stage.
This was my first Black Blondie show and surely won’t be my last. Drummer Kahlil Brewington, tastefully sporting a New York Mets cap, nailing the skins with a sweet vengeance, was locked in the pocket with bassist Liz Draper in a pair of oversized shades, finessing her bass (a sunburst Fender jazz) tight as hard times. Tasha Baron truly worked the keys, doing what for all the world sounded like a pianist and guitarist playing in tandem. Vocalist Samahra Daly is not one of those singers who go in the studio and lean on special effects for her sound. She brings it live with every bit of her sultry, full-bodied strength wholly intact. Theirs is a unique style of classic R&B/pop that doesn’t quit.
In sum: Black Blondie killed. I got a chance to hear them do few cuts off their splendid CD debut Do You Remember Who You Wanted To Be. They did “For The Taste,” “World Won’t Rest,” and “Bye Polar Bear.” As I grudgingly left, they were breaking into “Candy Cigarettes” and had the crowd stoked. Regrettably, I must chalk the rest of their set up to probably one of the best times I never had.
It took Black Blondie for practically ever to release Do You Remember Who You Wanted To Be. They put in crazy roadwork, building a cast-iron reputation through sheer word of mouth. Now that the album’s here and the band’s supporting it with a strong stage show, look for this crew to blow up big time.
Black Blondie album review from the Onion
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The name Black Blondie implies it all: A mixing of cultures, an aesthetic juxtaposition, and a playf...The name Black Blondie implies it all: A mixing of cultures, an aesthetic juxtaposition, and a playful sense of self-awareness. Fittingly, the group's debut album, Do You Remember Who You Wanted To Be, cycles through jazz, funk, hip-hop, soul, and pop—with any or all of them appearing on a given track. It’s a masterful mixture, consolidated and controlled. From an emotional standpoint, these are often purposefully sour songs, written in minor and diminished keys with lyrical content that’s equally sullen—“I love you not for the buzz, but for the taste of strychnine,” sings Samahra Daly on "For The Taste." But then there are the sweet spots. A melodious riff in the otherwise bitter “Hunger,” for instance, is pure candy. These moments act as acoustic peroxide, frosting the top of a dark body of music, and—because the ear is constantly wondering what sound will come next—making Do You Remember irresistible.
Review of SOLD OUT CD Release Show: A house full of love
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Minnesota hip-hop may have yet to define a sound for itself, but maybe the sound of Minnesota is les...Minnesota hip-hop may have yet to define a sound for itself, but maybe the sound of Minnesota is less a sound than a mood: overall, we're feeling pretty good. From Brother Ali to Tou Saiko, we seem to have more than our share of happy hip-hoppers. Sure, we can muster a little righteous rage when it comes to politics or social justice, but in general, Twin Cities MCs seem to believe in the power of positive thinking.
Last night at the Triple Rock, I caught M.anifest for the first time, and my impression was: wow, he's one happy dude. Bearing witness to his African origins in song and dress, M.anifest was full of smiles as he bubbled through a bouncing set. Even when he urged us to thrust our (predominantly alcoholic) drinks in the air, it wasn't to celebrate crunkness: it was to toast the coming of a new and brighter day. He was flanked by a DJ and backing singer, both of whom were pitch-perfect—not just musically, but in the way they managed to be appropriately spunky without upstaging the main attraction. Further evidence of M.anifest's good manners was the fact that he frequently paused to pay tribute to the night's headliners, Black Blondie; at one point, he even refused to continue his set until he heard several specific Black Blondie song titles called out at high volume. What a gentleman. The Triple Rock show was also my first experience with Black Blondie, who packed the house for the release of their new album Do You Remember Who You Wanted To Be. It's no wonder they've found the success they have; I don't know why no other act of note has ventured so boldly into the undiscovered territory between Tori Amos and Nelly Furtado. It was a privilege to see them at such close range, but their sound might actually be better-suited to a larger, calmer venue like the Varsity (larger) or the Kitty Cat Club (calmer), where listeners could focus on their tough but intricate soundscapes—the toughness coming especially from astonishing bassist Liz Draper, whose supreme confidence on her instrument seems to help her resist jazz-rock's wicked temptation to overplay—without worrying about dodging elbows and unsticking sneakers from beer bogs on the floor. Fortunately, it seems inevitable that Black Blondie will soon be commanding whatever venues they please.
City Pages "Best R&B Band"
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The members of Black Blondie, a foursome now whittled down to three ladies, are as much memorable mu...The members of Black Blondie, a foursome now whittled down to three ladies, are as much memorable musicians as they are characters. Singer Samahra, especially, makes her mark—channeling the spirit of Neneh Cherry circa "Buffalo Stance" when it comes to fashion and, when it comes to skills behind a mic, taking on a thankfully imperfect merging of Amy Winehouse and Sade. Sultry and soulful, funky and in-your-face, Black Blondie have been on a slow but steady rise to the top of the Minneapolis music scene since their 2005 debut. Without a doubt, this slick triad will be an act to watch in the coming year, especially with the April release of their debut, Do You Remember Who You Wanted to Be?
Black Blondie album review Twin City Scene
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Black Blondie is one of Minnesota's most unique R&B acts. They take the classic rhythm and blues sou...Black Blondie is one of Minnesota's most unique R&B acts. They take the classic rhythm and blues sound you would find on such revisits as Amy Winehouse's Back to Black and steep it in a cauldron of eerie trip-hop. The result is ethereal, dark and haunting.
Black Blondie is a quartet made up of Rhodes, keys, and synthesizer player Tasha Baron, electric and stand up bass player Liz Draper, drummer Kahlil Brewington, and Samahra Daly whose vocals are reminiscent of Motown's female great singers. The band fuses psychedelic elements to jazz riffs and tempo changes, as Samahra uses her bouncy vocal range to call out in desperation and, at times, depression. There is a timeless quality to the mix that makes the music sound classic and new at the same time. Deep and tragic.
The album begins with Hunger in minor keys with samples of water trickling in the background. This is juxtaposed with xylophone jingles that shimmer like beams of light descending from a thunderous cloud. "Get paid a few benjamins to let him cook crack in your kitchen," Samahra sings. This is gritty material.
With the second track World Won't Rest we are led by Tasha's keys down a shadowy hallway where the ghostly vocals echo, "I wear a blood red dress, freshly wet". It is here Tasha shines, holding the listener in wicked wonderment that is both delicate and atmospheric.
The CD has glimpses of cheerful bliss like those found on Bye Polar Bear, which has a pop element to it. But even this song doesn't stray too far from unusual timbres and psychedelic concoctions. The following tune Dressed to Kill a Mockingbird pulls us back into the doped up & dubbed out caverns of Black Blondie psychosis.
A couple of tracks later and we are in over our heads with Knife Fights and Xmas Lights, a standout single from the disc. This song exemplifies Black Blondie's musical magic and shows how this band is so different than other R&B artists. It is dark and passionate, deep and layered. And in the background Liz Draper brings her bow to the stand up bass adding strung out emotive warmth as the music begins to scream.
The CD has a couple of notable contributions from local rapper Muja Messiah and Roma di Luna's Channy Moon Casselle. The latter being my favorite; Channy's vocal accompaniment on Candy Cigarrettes pairs up wonderfully with Samarha's. Their voices winding and intertwining over each other like vines overtaking a black cast iron gate.
In the neighborhood of R&B, Black Blondie is the large darkly colored Victorian house at the end of the block. The one the kids think is haunted. Beware!
2. World Won’t Rest
3. For The Taste
4. Candy Cigarettes
5. Bye Polar Bear
6. Dressed to Kill a Mockingbird
7. intro (bass)
8. KnifeFights and X-mas Lights
9. Dirty Ashes
10. Marla Singer
11. Love is Hate
12. Sex on a Hot Tin Roof
13. Gum Drop
14. Memory of a Memory
(Set is typically 35 minutes to an hour, but is flexible. Song order varies depending on the venue/show.)
There are no upcoming dates at this time.