Algebra Blessett
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Algebra Blessett

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Sep
26
Algebra Blessett @ The Kennedy Center

Washington, District of Columbia, USA

Washington, District of Columbia, USA

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ALGEBRA BRINGS THINGS TOGETHER PART II
Story By Raven Ekundayo

There is only one Algebra. Lol. If you didn’t know after Part I of our talk you’ll truly agree after this one. We talk about her time on tour with Keyshia Cole and the drama and blessings that came from it. We also discuss her time at Motown and her journey to a new label along with the Kedar Massenberg. She also talks about her music and the emotional toll some songs take on her. This sister is a joy to chat with…. Here’s the conclusion of my chat with Algebra.



Raven – Right. Lol. So, what was it like touring with Keyshia Cole? I assume you were opened up to a much wider audience with that tour.

Algebra – It was educating. Keep in mind I had just jumped off a tour with Kem, and like maybe 3 days later I was with Keyshia.

Raven – Wow.

Algebra – The fan base was like black and white.

Raven – Yeah, those are two very different artists.

Algebra – Yes, very different. The one element that kept me going was what I have in me. So, it was very educating. I had a very strange experience the 1st date of the tour. When I was with Kemistry, I performed with a live band. I love performing with a live band. So, you know I did a couple of weeks like that and then 3 days later I jumped onto the Keyshia Cole tour and our 1st show there was a lot of drama. They didn’t want me to have a band. They wanted me to just jump on stage with my guitar. Now, because I’m from a certain area of Atlanta, I know what’s going to go over [with the crowd] and what’s not going to go over.

Raven – Right.

Algebra – The hood sometimes will not jump on with something that ain’t hood. Especially visually. One thing that I do love about Keyshia is that her fan base are mini-me’s of her. That’s an audience that really really loves her and what she brings to the table. That’s an amazing thing. However, I’m Algebra…. and I do me. I cater to a broader demographic and I was forced to not have a band. I was like, “Are you kidding me? You want me to go out here and strum this guitar with my natural hair and all that? You really wanna do this?” So, the statement and the sermon that was given to me was “They stripped Jesus of everything he had.”

Raven - ….Wow.

Algebra – So, you know I took heed to that and I went out there with the DJ and drama and we rocked the house every night. It was a great opportunity. It’s kind of weird because after jumping from a very adult, very contemporary crowd to a more urban crowd, I saw some of the same faces and same people. What happened was—and this goes back to your 1st question—Algebra tends to bring things together and I’m very calmed by that. There were some parents who were bringing their kids to the Keyshia Cole concert who had seen me at the Kemistry concert. So, it meant something that they saw me in both elements. The parents were please at one concert and the kids were really pleased too.

Raven – Wow. That’s wassup.

Algebra – And If I hadn’t done both of those tours, I wouldn’t have been able to cater to both of those audiences. It made me think about what I do some more. I’d never done anything like that before.

Raven – Well, look at God and how He works things out.

“EXCAPE THE FEELING OF GAS PRICES RIGHT NOW BECAUSE WHEN YOU WERE 12 YOU DID NOT THINK GAS WAS GOING TO BE $5.00!”

Algebra – Uhn huh. It was hard, but it was fun in hindsight.

Raven – You made the best of a different situation.

Algebra – Of course! I got a lot of MySpace messages from people in the Keyshia Cole audience and what they said made me feel appreciated. At the end of the day, some people just want to hear good music, regardless of what it looks like.

Raven – Right.

Algebra – My rose just grew a little different from other people rose in the concrete, but we’re all from the same concrete.

Raven – Yup.

Algebra – Mmm hmm!

Raven – LOL! Well, I personally love your remake of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. Do you have any songs that you personally love to perform?

Algebra – You know, I’ve never performed that song in a show. I may start having to do that. I did that song because I love it so much.

Raven – You did a great job!

Algebra – Thank you. It was very personal. The song off the album that I love… Well, I love all of them, of course, but I love performing “Comeback” and “What Happened” and “At This Time” and “Run and Hide” and… I feel like I’m about to name every song….

Raven – That’s what I was thinking. Lol.

Algebra – I’ve recently started to enjoy “Now and Then”. I usually sing that song to myself in my bedroom, but I rarely ever perform it live in public. I was recently in DC and someone screamed out for me to sing it and I was like, “Oh, Lawd! For real?” So I’m sitting there trying to remember the words. It felt good that someone knew that song.

Raven – I’ve had a lot of artists tell me how humbling it is to have people know the words to their music.

Algebra – Mmm hmm. That - Excape The Matrix



05/16/08
Category: VFGrooves
The Color of Algebra

by Lisa Birch
photos by RHagans

All photos, except album cover, were shot during a live performance at SugarHill in Atlanta, March 29, 2008

The science of math has never intrigued me. As a writer, I’m wooed by creativity. Math is so exact; freedom is more appealing. But I’ve been drawn to a concept of Algebra that has revealed hues of color I haven’t seen before.


That color is brilliance in the sounds of indie soul lady Algebra Blessett. Yes, it’s her birth name; her mom loves math. And when I listen to her music, see her perform and chat with her about life and her debut project, “Purpose,” I better understand that this svelte woman of smooth song could only bear a one-of-a-kind name that stirs curiosity and commands attention. It wouldn’t be right any other way.

Here’s another of those rare CDs that has earned my press on play for all 14 tracks, consecutively. “Purpose” is the point where poetic lyrics, modern-vintage soul, effortless delivery and charmed vocals paint portraits of fearless self love [“Now & Then”]; lost love [“What Happened?”]; love right now [“At This Time”]; got-your-back love [“U Do It For Me”] and other lessons of life and relationships.

What inspires your lyrics?
“‘Purpose’ is about my life and my experiences, period. I write songs to get through to the next phase of my life, whatever that may be. My lyrics are about life in general. I really can’t say what one process is. I’m still learning. I try to continue to learn more about life itself, more about myself and how to just communicate better. I probably put things in songs that I want to say to certain people but can’t…I don’t know how to tell them face to face because I’m a chicken,” she laughs.

Contrary to the pallid connotations her name suggests, Algebra is quite a chameleon; she has a different, vibrant look every time I spot her online, in print or on stage. So just minutes into our conversation, I was surprised to experience a very reserved side of her personality. But the more we talked, the more I felt that what appeared to be “caution” is really another quiet facet of her creativity. Algebra later confirms that she’s very watchful over her words because she never wants to limit herself or her reality.

Would you consider yourself an introvert?”
“I think so. I am pretty private. But I’m very honest. You can be private and honest at the same time.”

Raised in Atlanta by a family of singers, Algebra and music grew up inseparably. While she admits that she sounds like her mother, she describes her musical style to be acollage of everything audible she’s ever been attracted to.

“People kind of want you to compare yourself to certain people,” Algebra explains. “In my eyes, I can’t really compare myself to anybody, but everybody that I’ve ever listened to is probably in me. Because when you like or love something, you begin to internalize it. It’s like clothes—if you like the way something looks in a magazine or if you see someone wearing something you like, then you try it on, and if it looks good on you too, you want to get it and make it your own. It’s the same thing with music. As an artist and as music lovers and consumers we all do that. We are attracted to certain types of music, certain types of singers and certain types of dance moves.”

The list of artists she loves is too long to call off, but Algebra mentions a few: “There are so many, even from this era of the newer soul singers …the Erykahs [Badu] and the Lauryn Hills—Lauryn is a phenomenal female lyricist; I think by far she is one of the dopest female rappers. I love the men too, Jodeci, Donny Hathaway, Aaron Hall…if you can sang and make people move, I love it!”

Before her debut CD hit the streets in February, Algebra had already made a mark in the world of indie soul, giving off that veteran vibe. She has worked with the likes of Eric Roberson, Tye Tribbett, Brandon A. Thomas, PJ Morton, Joe, Kwame, Bryan-Michael Cox, Duane Basiani, Johnta Austin and others. When it comes to songwriting, Algebra loves to collaborate, and on “Purpose,” 12 out of 14 tracks feature her talents teamed up with others. “I try to pull in great writers that I have abundant respect for, or producers that I know are just amazing at what they do,” she explains. “I am kind of picky, but it wasn’t hard. I’ve never had to say, ‘no, I don’t want to work with anybody.'”



Whether writing a song or playing an instrument, music has always been a lifeline between Algebra and her Mother. In fact, her mom would play the bass guitar close to her belly when Algebra was inside. The transfer took place, and decades later, daughter picked up the guitar—no training—and started to play.

When did you actually teach yourself to play guitar?
“A few years ago. I only taught myself a little. I don’t really go out and just start playing, like Santana. I can’t take that credit. But you just pick up instrumen - Vertical Fix


Algebra Blessett doesn't really remember meeting Kedar Massenburg for the first time. Massenburg, founder and CEO of Kedar Entertainment, Algebra's label home, says they first met in New York, when she was helping her friend India.Arie record the vocals to "Talk to Her," a song Blessett had written for India's second album, Voyage to India.
"I don't remember that," she reiterates with a short frown. "But I know it was somewhere around that time."
She does, however, remember the exact moment she got the call in 2004 that Massenburg, who was then the president of Motown, had left the label. It had taken him well more than a year of coaxing to convince her to sign with the legendary imprint, and just 10 months after she finally signed the deal, he was gone.
"I got a phone call like, 'Kedar just left Motown.' I'm looking at my phone like 'huh?'" she remembers. "I was just stunned. Then two days later he called and said he wanted me to come with him and that's how I got to where I am now. That's how I got to telling folks [my debut] album was coming out in 2006!"
She laughs, a short melodic sound that's a mixture of relief and frustration. For years, Algebra's name has been synonymous with Atlanta's soul scene – brought to life by her electric live performances. And for years, she's repeatedly been asked the same question: "When is your album coming out?"
When she made the decision to leave Motown with Massenburg and become his flagship artist, she didn't know it would take four long years for her debut project, Purpose, to drop.
"I was disappointed and I feel like other people that were looking forward to that '06 album were disappointed," she says of her last phantom release date. Although she pressed up an untitled EP that she handed out for free at shows, she was still anxious for the real thing to drop. "When it didn't happen it was like, 'OK, what do I say to the people?' I think that was the hardest thing."
Already accustomed to playing the waiting game, Algebra signed her first deal with Dallas Austin's Rowdy Records in the late '90s, fresh out of North Atlanta High School. But she still hadn't found her sound.
About a year later, she left the label (though she remains cool with Austin), started writing her own songs and picked up a guitar. She hit the open mic scene – or rather, the Apache Café, since that was the only spot she really knew – and started performing her material.
"The closest I had come to an open mic was when the preacher would call me up to the pulpit to sing," she says, laughing about what she now calls a "learning experience."
Cultivating her sound, she began building a buzz and forming relationships with producers and songwriters along the way. Eventually she started touring extensively across the country, and even in Europe and Japan. That was nearly eight years ago. Now, with the label business finally situated and a stable staff in place, her day has finally come.
Her debut, Purpose, was released in early March and features work from friends including producer Bryan-Michael Cox, Johnta Austin and Eric Roberson, along with a few self-produced tracks, such as "At This Time."
While she kept some of the songs that were supposed to be on her unreleased '06 album, much of the project is new. Pushed along by her current single, "Halfway," a soulful track defined by a grooving bassline and strong horns, the album has strong soul, R&B and gospel influences.
Although she's associated with the man who coined the term "neo-soul," her sound doesn't fit readily into any one box, which is exactly how she likes it.
"Sometimes you really don't know what you're getting until you open the book," she says, while waving a hand over her deceptive hipster attire, which includes a pair of busy purple-and-black plaid pants and a printed red shawl. "But all the feedback I've gotten back from the album has been pleasant," she says. "I feel like my fans are very honest."
Just like her.
Raised in a strict household in Atlanta's Summerhill area by a mother who is a bass-guitar-playing minister, Algebra's upbringing is evidenced by both the veracity of her lyrics and her open-ended sound.
In her house it was OK to ask questions, and her curiosity seeped into her musical taste. She's written a gospel song for Debra Killings, yet she isn't afraid to "shake a tail feather or two" during her own shows.
Now that her debut is finally available, her mission is to let people know it's out and further develop and define her ever-expanding audience.
"It's like now I can work. Now when people ask me if I have the CD, I can actually say yes," she says, before releasing a quick grin. "Now I can answer the question differently, with a smile on my face."
music@creativeloafing.com - Creative Loafing


Discography

Purpose - LP
"U Do It For Me" - Single
"Run & Hide"
"What Happened"

Photos

Bio


Ironically there are no textbooks or classroom instructions that could help one balance the equations of Kedar Massenburg's newest protégé, ALGEBRA. The Atlanta native insists that one can only discover her sonically. As an R&B solo artist with such a simple solution, when mainstream success seems to be more about the right hair, nails and make -up, Algebra is the perfect curriculum for breathing life back into a genre overwrought by factory made clones.

No stranger to performing, Algebra has been lending her melodic voice to projects by Monica and Bilal for years and her signature songwriting can be heard on the Grammy© Award winning CD Voyage to India by India.Arie. However, singing and writing for other artists was about as out of character for her as having someone write songs for her. "Even when someone else wrote a song specifically for me, I felt like I was still being a background singer for myself."

As the music scene in Atlanta became the hot bed of popular music, Algebra taught herself to play guitar and performed regularly at open mics. This pivotal point in her career afforded her the time to develop her writing and performance even further without the harness of a prescribed format. "Soon you learn not to care what others think, you learn to perform for you. I would come back week after week and I learned to perform for balance and for freedom. I was becoming alive."

This organic approach permeates her debut CD Purpose. Algebra can easily be pop, rock, rap, funk or crunk, yet she can breathe ballads effortlessly. The debut single “Run & Hide,” one of two hits produced by super producer Kwamé (Mary J. Blige, Christina Aguilera,) hits home for many with its message of the often tricky road of finding one’s true love. But once he’s found, “U Do It For Me,” finds the songstress boasting her willingness to return to her man all the love he gave her by catering to his every need, confessing “I do it for U, cause U do it for me.” Collaborating with award-winning songwriter and producer Bryan Michael Cox (Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Usher) on "What Happened," the song quickly proved to be a true showcase of her brilliance. This soulful ballad is delivered so honestly and with such vulnerability that it appears as an autobiography. Her debut CD Purpose also contains collaborations with Carvin & Ivan (Faith Evans, Musiq and Jill Scott), Dwayne Bastiany (112, Lil’ Mo) and Ronald “P-nut” Frost (Boyz II Men, Jill Scott, Miri Ben-Ari.) Algebra's definitive voice and identity is one of full disclosure. "I don't want to be boxed," she asserts. The litmus test of what she would create lies in being relatable and in offering complete truth in every word she sings.

After opening on spot dates for Common, Lyfe Jennings, The Roots and Vivian Green, Kem quickly added her to his “So Into You” tour which led to her opening for Keyshia Cole’s Spring ’07 tour. Since then, she toured internationally with R&B heavyweight, Joe, and diligently created the masterpieces you hear on Purpose.

— over —

As one of the first artists to be released on the revamped Kedar Entertainment Group, Algebra enters the contemporary soul music landscape following legacies created by artists like D'Angelo, Erykah Badu and India.Arie, all of whom developed under the watchful eye of Massenburg. However, her sound is stands alone. Algebra, at first, is unassuming, but it takes mere moments for you to recognize that she is not just a tempest in a teapot but more like the catalyst of a paradigm shift.

With there being only two universal languages in this world - Mathematics and Music; fate would have it, southern songbird Algebra represents both!

Besides a world of talent, Algebra has universal law on her side!