Cornfed’s Corner: Everybody’s Got Soul; William Scott & Billboard’s Wayna

lmgSo, how much does it suck right now to be Ryan Shaw, Ricky Fante or, even going further back, Dallas Austin's girl group, For Real? To be two or even several years ahead of a trend must bite. As many a pioneer will tell you, being ahead of your time doesn't really pay the bills. With rocker Seal now entering the increasingly crowded fray with a new all 60s soul album, apparently everybody does indeed have soul.
lmg While Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson are sure to get all the undeserved credit for this latest soul revival based purely on sales (these soul cycles do seem to happen every ten or so years, no?), I imagine Sharon Jones and the Dapp Kings, Quantic Soul Orchestra, and their under-valued compatriots are gnashing their teeth in much the way soul fans everywhere chafed when the LA Times called Robin Thicke "the current King of Soul." "King"...really now? Can someone please get me my inhaler!

Seriously, I love that others are now appreciating my passion for churchy gut-bucket voices and sweet inspiration harmonies, but I can't help worrying that this rush to embrace only one type of soul will be read by consumers as an overdone gimmick. We've learned in the past that narrowing the definition of soul and overly celebrating that solitary version can look much like the stock market on an October day, rising high one second and plunging the next. Remember how quickly neo-soul dissolved into a stereotype of incense and Fender Rhodes? Remember how quickly consumers abandoned the formula when everyone tried to get in on the action? Now the second folks hear a jazzy horn accompanied by a Wurlitzer, they're rolling their eyes. I'd hate to think of a funky horn chart or a drum-tight rhythm section being thought of as commercial tactics. An overdose of 60s soul contrivance and the audience will quickly tire and run for the next trendy hills over there, in much the way - I pray - they one day will over "T-Pained" music. At least we've got this good old fashioned music to enjoy in the meantime, right? While I'm wringing my hands, I'll operate as a squirrel, collecting as much of this music as I can in preparation for that long winter of soul scarcity I see looming ahead.

In this installment of Cornfed's Corner: Climbing the Billboard charts, Ethiopian-born, DC-based artist Wayna shares an intimate moment on IM with us about her hit album, Higher Ground. Detroit's William Scott joins an increasing number of "out" gay soul artists whose music is innovative, politically blistering and universal in its themes; he gets a long-deserved Cornfed spotlight. Lean in for the 411 on Green Tea, Kameron Korvet and other Camper-worthy artists. Sit for a spell and get Cornfed!

Intimate Moments on IM: Wayna

waynaCornfed: What does it feel like to have Stevie Wonder call you "incredible"?

Wayna: Stevie! Let me just say that he said those kind words about me a few years back and it still hasn't sunk in! He's just the ultimate artist in my view, and the validation was so gratifying. He actually called me on my birthday a few days ago and sang me the Dr. King version of Happy B-day to you. So, we've kept in touch and will hopefully have a chance to work together soon.

Cornfed: Now that's incredible! Artistically and in terms of the commercial results each project has received, what's the difference between your new album Higher Ground and your debut, Moments of Clarity Vol. 1?

Wayna: Maturity, really...I think I'm more in touch with who I am as a writer and producer, and I was able to get closer to the vision I have for the work.  I'm proud that a lot of people tell me they can hear the growth on this album.

Cornfed: Does being a member of the Ethiopian community impact your music or artistic themes? How? 

Wayna: Absolutely, because it influences my outlook as a person.  I spent about three months performing in Ethiopia last year and really got a chance to soak up the culture and music scene more. I wrote one song on this next project called home that has a verse about a woman who is missing her native country.  That piece was inspired by all the immigrants I've seen living and thriving here, but still feeling as though a piece of them is back home.

Cornfed: Sounds powerful. Are you seeing other Ethiopian artists trying to enter the indie soul/hip hop game and are you mentoring any artists?

Wayna: Yes, there are quite a few.  I just finished a compilation record with two Ethiopian emcees, B Sheeba and Prophet of BurntFace. It's a mixture of traditional Ethiopian instruments sampled over hip hop tracks. The production is all influenced by Ethiopian sounds and a lot of the subject matters are cultural. There's also an amazing young talent out of Jersey named Zewdi who I hope to work with soon.  She's going to be the Ethiopian Beyonce mark my words. She did a version of my song Slums of Paradise on You Tube and nailed it! That song is also inspired by an all too common Ethiopian story of young people living with poverty and AIDS.

Cornfed: There is a stereotype in the African American community that the Ethiopian community is more unified than ours; do you find that to be true? How about in the music game?

Wayna: It is a close knit community no doubt, but...

Cornfed: But?

Wayna: ...there are a lot more bridges being built between Ethiopians and African Americans as we spend more time here and become more integrated American life. There are far more similarities between our cultures than differences, but I think with more exposure the stereotypes will become just that and not a basis for real understanding.

Cornfed: I hear that you are blessed to work as a full-time artist. What steps are you taking as an independent artist to protect yourself and further your career in this new economy?

Wayna: We're offering more free music to folks on-line as a way to draw in new supporters who might be less prone to buying a new artists work in these trying times. One such download is currently available on your site. It's for my new single, "My Love." We're also making it more affordable for folks to get to know me, and I'm also doing a string of FYE in-stores in DC/MD/VA/PA and selling a single that costs $3 as opposed to the whole album. So folks can get a chance to listen to 3 of my songs and decide whether they want to buy more. This also gives me an opportunity to build a fan base at the grass roots level rather than relying on label marketing.

Cornfed: Gotcha. wayna and stevie wonder

Wayna: Speaking of the single, I just learned that we moved enough units this week to chart on Billboard. We're ranked on the Hot 100 Singles Chart and the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles chart.

Cornfed: Congratulations! That's impressive for an indie artist without label backing. Given that hard-earned success, I wonder what's been the hardest thing you've experienced being a woman in this game and how have you dealt with those issues?

Wayna: People are usually surprised when they learn I executive produce my projects, it's a role women are not usually seen in. It means that your role as a decision maker is challenged. So, that's forced me to learn to be very decisive and to have faith in my instincts more.

Cornfed: You're involved in domestic violence prevention efforts, yes? Talk to us a little about why and how you got involved with this particular issue.

Wayna: I came across an article in Essence about my hometown, and it surprised me how many black women who were living the American dream in most other respects were hiding this horrible secret. I'm a lot more interested as an artist in telling the untold story, and it was a perspective that I felt was really powerful and tragic...a woman who looked like she had it all together, but was really crumbling inside. So, I wanted to try to tell that story.

Cornfed: You've written or collaborated with several hip hop artists including Kev Brown, Cy Young and W. Ellington Felton is there a Wayna hip hop album on the horizon?

Wayna: Lol...they would probably clown me if they heard that. Yeah, I think hip hop makes its way into a lot of my work, and I'm really influenced by some of its lyrical legends.

Cornfed: Gospel and theater were early first loves of yours; do you ever look to return to either of those mediums in the future?

Wayna: Absolutely.  There is a great sense of purpose and connection you feel from singing gospel, and I would love to do a gospel project one day.

Cornfed: A Cornfed Camper has 99 cents and wants to hear the best of Wayna, which single should he or she purchase and why?

Wayna: "Slums of Paradise" off of my first album, Moments of Clarity. It's probably the most in-depth story I've been able to tell in a song, and it has a twist that surprises most.  Moreover, the production is wonderful. DJ Roddy Rod, who's so innovative, blended some beautiful sounds on the track.

Cornfed: Sounds divine. Well, our time has come to an end, Ms. Wayna. Thanks for sharing this IM on IM. Tell our readers how they can keep tabs on next for you and keep abreast of your concert dates.

Wayna: They can visit me at www.myspace.com/waynamusic and drop me a line. Thanks, Michael, for your time; great, probing questions.

Cornfed: Much welcome! We try.

Cornfed Notes

william scottIt always rankles to get hip to a project a couple of years after its hit and been slept on. Conventional wisdom holds that once a project has been worked with that initial burst of promotion and marketing, it's dead if it doesn't quickly find an audience. Listening to William Scott's wonderfully fresh debut LP, Who's Afraid of William Scott?, I hope that wisdom is dead wrong. Scott's 2006 debut is endlessly dynamic, lyrically profound, and has enough heart to save the world. An obvious peer to Donnie, Scott bests the ATL superstar on the production front by offering a better mix and mastered product, making every blessed word audibly clear. Who's Afraid of William Scott? is a must-have disc.     

  • Speaking of neo-soul, for those still wanting that Love Jones vibe done right, indie songstress Green Tea has returned to the scene with her sophomore disc, The Dosage II: Choices. A fine collection of smooth ballads and laid back grooves, Green Tea is serving the perfect refresher to awaken the spirit and speak to the soul.
  • Been missing Martin Luther and Cody Chestnut? Well the folks that brought you both those soul rockers are introducing a newbie to the scene, Kameron Corvet. His sophomore LP, Korporate Rockstar, is a crowd-pleasing romp of soul and pop rock. It's sure to have you sliding across your floor in Ray Bans and your undies, head-banging all the way.  

Track/EP

Artist/Duo/Group

Project

Available To Buy?

Genre(s)

Leave It All Behind 

Foreign Exchange

Leave It All Behind 

Yes

Soul

U Turn Me On

Yahzarah aka Purple St. James 

The Prelude 

Yes

Soul

Set Free

Kindred The Family Soul

The Arrival

Yes

Soul

Come Down In Time 

Kenny Lattimore

Timeless

Yes

Soul

How Long

Labelle 

Back To Now

Yes

Soul

Live A Lie

Jazmine Sullivan

Fearless

Yes

Soul

Fix The World Up For You

James Morrison 

Songs For You, Truth For Me 

Yes

Soul

Beautiful One

Terry Dexter

Listen

Not Yet

Gospel/

Inspirational

It's Over (feat. Kanye West)

John Legend

Evolver

Yes 

Soul

Please Come Home For Christmas

Ledisi 

It's Christmas

Yes

X-Mas/Soul

Sun Star

Jesse Boykins III 

The Beauty Created

My Space

Soul

Peace and Blessings

Nhojj 

Soul Comfort

Yes

Soul/Dance

_______________________________________________________ 

L. Michael Gipson is a cultural critic, music journalist and a lover of all underdogs; poverty becomes him

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