Puma Simone
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Puma Simone

New Haven, CT | Established. Jan 01, 1931 | SELF

New Haven, CT | SELF
Established on Jan, 1931
Solo R&B Alternative

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May
19
Puma Simone @ Two Boots

Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States

Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States

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"A Short Walk"

I n the testosterone-driven world of hip-hop, the short walk up to the mic can be the most difficult steps for a woman to make. It’s a walk New Haven native Puma Simone makes regularly.

Not unlike the prowling cat which inspires her stage name, Simone is calm and strong-willed. As a woman, “you have to know yourself. You have to know the business,” and you have to combat “the assumption that you’re not good enough.” You have to “work harder than everybody else,” she says.

But in 2012, when Simone first started picking up the mic, it terrified her. Even in her slam poetry days at Boston College, Simone remembers getting up on stage, page shaking in her hand. “Back then I didn’t know the power of being on stage,” she says.

After college, she carved out a career producing music for other people’s words. In 2011, while at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival with The Paxtons—an experimental rap group Simone was producing for—she says the band’s manager heard her freestyling and asked, “Do you want to be an artist?”
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Answering the Call - Knights of Columbus Museum

Instinctively, Simone said no. But when she returned from SXSW, she found herself with an irresistible urge to perform—an urge she’s indulged heavily. She’s grabbed the mic during Hot Chocolate Soul, a variety show staged at the Bushnell in Hartford, and regularly appears at Stella Blues, where she and DJ Lokash started and ran Something2Do, a recurring open mic, for nearly a year.

Simone labels her music “experimental-soul,” and names influences like Lauren Hill, Stevie Wonder and gospel music, experienced in church from an early age. Her song “Reality” is a head-bobber, full of layered vocals, ambient echoes and evolving beats. She sings about trying to “laugh off” the troubles of reality, but the sorrow in her voice implies mixed results. Her song “Congratulations” has streaks of melancholy, too, about letting loose at a club and enjoying life despite the pressures of bills and “the bad business.” Like in many of her songs, she displays a colorful palette of danceable synth sounds along with several references to New Haven.

“I can’t really take credit for it,” Simone says of her work. “I don’t think anyone can take credit for what they do creatively. It’s just about how receptive you are… When someone’s story inspires you, you can’t take credit. You might just be the person elected to share the message, but it’s not yours. It just comes through you.”

The stories that inspire her most belong to those she sees struggling in her midst. Inspired by the difficulties of family, friends and those who usually don’t have a voice, her music is for anyone struggling. “And not just for people on the street,” Simone emphasizes. “It could be for someone who’s lived a pretty comfortable life.”

Simone, of course, has her own struggles. The work, for instance, “gets overwhelming, especially when you realize there’s not all that much money in it.” She feels too many young artists are being exploited by carrot-and-stick opportunities. “I’ve seen a lot of people spend a lot of money thinking they’re investing in themselves but really they’re investing in others’ business models.” She’s seen artists spend thousands of dollars for the chance to open for a well-known artist, thinking it’ll jumpstart their careers. But it doesn’t do nearly as much as they’d like, says Simone, who isn’t sold by visions of overnight success.

“You need to be smart about how you do things,” says Simone, adding that “there’s no fast way.” But instead of jumping at costly showcase opportunities on the off-chance that there’ll be someone important there to notice them, Simone says that new artists’ money is better spent investing in vocal lessons, studio time or a concert tour.

Simone is now busy working on her next project but doesn’t want to give too much away. “Top secret,” she says about it, laughing.

But if you want a taste, she’ll be premiering new material on Saturday, August 1st, at The Space. Defying easy classification, a wide-ranging group of artists are on the bill, including the slow, dreamy electronica act Bakkuda, the indie rapper Duzzo Dave, the quirky, dance-y Fox Child and of course the cool, strong-willed, grounded Puma Simone.

Written and photographed by Daniel Shkolnik. - Daily Nutmeg


"Hip Hop Master Offers Something 2 Hear"

Puma Simone owned the stage. With DJ Lokash behind her, she delivered a fast, ricocheting flow over a fleet-footed beat to a crowded house at Stella Blues. She finished to claps and hollers. And that was just the first act.

Drawing from African, Cuban, and pop music, the New Haven-based Simone has been everywhere from the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival to SXSW. As a performer, she was a shape changer, switching from partying to contemplation, and rapping to singing, on the fly.

She also doubled as the master of ceremonies last week at “Something 2 Do” at Stella Blues on Crown Street, an event she put together because, as she put it, “people kept complaining that there was nothing to do, so here’s something to do.”

Following Simone was Medusa, who recited poetry into the microphone while hula hooping. Only she herself broke the spell once, apologizing for the rhythmic clicking. “It’s my belly button ring,” she explained.

Something 2 Do is a bit of a variety show. It’s also explicitly a community-building exercise. But it’s mostly about hip hop—New Haven’s own.

Ibn Orator was born and raised here. He said at first that he didn’t think he would be performing, a bit of modesty that belied how accomplished he is. He did his songs, a cappella and with Lokash, first from the stage and then from the floor—dense, allusive, polyrhythmic, and hard-hitting stuff, swerving from the streets of New Haven to full-blown prophet mode.

After a quick set from Lokash—Simone invited everyone there to introduce themselves to everyone else—The Quantum, a team from New York composed of Bill Cosmiq and Salvador, took over.

Loose and direct, The Quantum brought big energy to the room as Cosmiq and Salvador traded verse after verse.

Simone came back after another break to perform a couple numbers—the upbeat “Unconventional” and contemplative freestyle “East Rock.”

Simone then introduced Siul Hughes. Born and raised in Bridgeport and now living in New Haven, Hughes started off seated on a rickety stool that he squared with his feet.

Soon, though, he was standing and the jacket was off. Hughes was a dynamic performer, his hard-edged material interspersed with stage patter about hip hop as therapy—for us and for him. The audience gathered in close to hear it.

The night ended with Ghetto Guitar, a shy, self-deprecating man who transformed himself into a hypnotic soloist as soon as he played his first note.

It was a fitting end to a great night of music. For those wondering how New Haven’s hip hop is going, how it’s doing, Something 2 Do is something to hear.

The next Something 2 Do is happening again at Stella Blues in just a few weeks. Keep an ear out for it.

Ibn Orator will appear as the featured performer at Free 2 Spit, an open mic at 37 Howe St., Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. Free 2 Spit will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. - New Haven Independent


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

I am outspoken but quiet. I will fly/drive/bus/walk anywhere for an opportunity- no matter the time or resources. My short-term goals for this year are to: effectively release my project "I Have Yet To Try", perform in at least 25 of the 50 states, throw one (epic) "RnB x Street Art" event, and secure an opportunity to teach my songwriting class in either the US or Abroad under "Teachers That Do".

2014 DJ Khalil Songwriter Contest
Trinity Hip Hop Festival
SXSW
Bushnell Theatre
Shade 45 Radio
The Lopsided World of Jonathan L
Boston College
Public Assembly of Willamsburg, BK
Pyramid of New York, NY



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