The Journey to Finding Peace in Shaolinn’s Blackstone

Tap into your inner self tonight with the help of rising VA artist, Shaolinn as she premieres the latest in her soul-gripping musical collection with the “Blackstone” EP, out now on all streaming platforms. The show, specially curated by Shaolinn herself, will be held at the Bunker Brewpub in Virginia Beach, with doors opening at 8 PM and the show starting at 9 PM. Other featured artists joining the night’s celebratory events include Gee Litt, Boris the Lucid, Brooklynn, Tson, Khi Infinite, and DJ J-Rok. Read Sumone’s short and sweet conversation with the Heir Wave artist below.

Your release show for your upcoming EP, “Blackstone,” is [tomorrow]. What are you most excited about for the show since it will be the first show you’ve personally curated?

Just seeing all the talent and working with a band for the first time.

What were your thoughts working through the curation process when developing the lineup for the show?

Seeing my favorite local artists peeps and performing with a band for the first time.

Did you find growing up in the 757 to be influential in your creative process or musical style?

Yes, in the process, but not in a musical way. A lot of the artists I listen to aren’t from the 757, but more from the world. I do work with a lot of talented people from the 757, though.

How did you find time to record music prior to being signed to Heir Wave? Was it difficult recording during those times, or do you look back at those moments more fondly?

It wasn’t really different; because to get there, I already had a process in place. It can get expensive, but I had supportive people around me to lend a hand.

When do you feel you create your best work?

On nights when my mind is clear, and I can really dive into the music.

In “Heavy Heart,” you repeatedly mention “being free,” “letting go,” and “finding peace.” What are some words of encouragement that you or someone else provided that ultimately led you to let go and find your peace amidst your self-love journey?

I’m actually still finding my peace. It’s something we all need to work towards. Surrounding yourself with positive people helps a lot.

In a previous conversation, you stated that you did not think people would like “Heavy Heart” “but surprisingly listeners did.” Has your mindset changed when it comes to writing or releasing music after seeing a lot of people gravitate towards your music?

Yes. I didn’t think people wanted such a “talky” song. It’s not a catchy melodic song. I didn’t think people would care about me talking about my life. When I perform it, so many people come up to me and tell me how they relate to it. After that, it made me feel more encouraged to be open about my personal life.

On your IG live minutes prior to the visual premiere of “Vivian,” you expressed surreal excitement. What message did you hope fans would receive when watching the video?

The perspective of a drug addict and how hard it is for someone going through the struggles of it all. The harm isn’t malicious. It’s hard on everyone.

What are you most proud of thus far in your career?

I’m just proud to be here and have this opportunity and the inspiration from all of the people around me. I just want to keep going and, along with myself, make everyone around proud of me.

What do you hope listeners get from your music?

Anything. Anything that they feel. I speak my story, and I hope it makes people tap into their own story and bring something special out of them.


Featured image by: @playknows

Thank you to Shaolinn and her team for the interview, you can get your show tix here. “Blackstone” is out now on all streaming platforms.

Monthly Mix: Gabe Niles

We’re honored Gabe Niles took some time out of his busy schedule to grace us with this funk house mix. He’s always between VA and LA, either working with Sunny and Gabe or some of your favorite artists. He helped hometown hero D.R.A.M. hit it big and now perfecting beats for Eryka Badu and others alongside legendary hip-hop producer Rick Rubin. Enjoy this nice, long, danceable hour and a half narrated by DJ Sup Ladies himself.

Comparison, Consistency, and Crew Love With Max Fullard

 Photos by Marcel Hoke (@allencatell)
Photos by Marcel Hoke (@allencatell)

 

by jerome spencer

When I met with RBLE’s Max Fullard at Thank You Gallery in Norfolk, VA for this interview, he took a few minutes to go live on Instagram and talk to his followers. As he perused the gallery’s collection of books, zines and clothing, Fullard joked and laughed while he held his phone and coveted a Star Trak shirt in the collection. This was somewhat of a homecoming for Max since he relocated to LA in 2017 and he seemed happy to be home. He was quick to get down to business, though. And once we got the interview rolling, he was focused and genuine – a combination of qualities that is somewhat rare for someone who interviews musicians on a regular basis.

I’m assuming you’re already familiar with RBLE, but I’ll give you a quick refresher; Virginia-based hip hop collective came together around 2010 (don’t fact-check me, I’m going off of memory) and quickly became eminent in the 757 due to the hustle and grind they devoted to the scene. For a while, it seemed like at least one member of RBLE was performing on any given weekend and their name was on everyone’s lips. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the clique, you’re probably still well-aware of RBLE affiliates DRAM and Sunny & Gabe; the two acts have had a pretty big buzz for a minute now with momentum still building. Regardless of what impetus each member distinctly possesses, the RBLE fam stays close and diligent and Max Fullard is always in the mix; usually front and center.

Fullard has been consistently dropping tracks for the better part of a decade, most notably 2014’s A Rebel Named Max and 2016’s Nights of the Forth, but it was only in September of last year that he decided make the trek to LA. While Max’s reasons for moving to California may have seemed inconsequential at first – “Honestly, man, weather,” he tells me, “Anything drops below 70 and I feel cold” – his motivations were actually more specific and focused.

“One of the reasons I wanted to move to LA, I’m not gonna say I was depressed, but I was a little down,” he confesses, “Like everyday I’d wake up like ‘alright I gotta go to work’ and I’d spend unnecessary money trying to find happiness. That’s why I had to get some of those darker songs on Nights of the Forth out. Because I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.”

A stellar example of one of those “darker songs” is Hurt One, a somber record about feeling alone and looking for hope. But the beat is a banger and Fullard doesn’t want you to think he’s on that depressive tip. In fact, the guy is brimming with optimism and positivity.

“Not to knock anybody who ever thinks really dark thoughts,” he says, “but I was on the outside looking in at myself. I knew I was sad and I knew how to get rid of the sadness; I just wasn’t there yet.  You try to put all of your emotions in one song so I was just like ‘I need to get this shit out’. When I went to LA for the first time I was happy.”

So this really becomes a story about a man searching for himself and, for Max, a change of scenery was what he needed.

“I’m not saying it was Virginia that was making me sad it was just Groundhog Day shit,” he continues, “I was like I need to get out. I need to see some other shit. I was working everyday because I was living outside of my means. I bought a drop-top convertible. I bought jewelry. I was racking up my credit cards just trying to find something that was gonna make me happy and I knew I needed to stop or I was gonna fucking fold. So when the LA thing came around I was like this is it.”

LA also found Fullard on his own for the first time. Up until then, he lived in “the RBLE house” with the other members of the crew, a situation that could be a little overwhelming in terms of creativity.

“Now that I am away I get my own solitude and I can become more of who I wanna be,” he says, “As myself instead of who I am in the crew. We have the big RBLE House so – I’m in my room making music, Gabe’s in his room making music, (Artel) Carter’s in his room making music – you’re gonna hear each other making music. So naturally you’ll bust in like ‘what’s this’ or ‘you should do this’ or ‘will you listen to this’. So now that I’m by myself I’m able to form my own identity. I’m not hearing Gabe make his beats and telling him I want it so he’s able to expand and finish his stuff with Sunny & Gabe. Sometimes I’d be like ‘yo, that shit’s fire. Let me get that’. Now, I started using more dudes that I was finding. I utilize Youtube a lot more.  I like to straight up buy your beat for what it’s worth, get the stem, and get the contract. That’s it. I lot of Youtube producers give you that on the reg, you don’t gotta meet them, they don’t have to be involved. “

That creative environment also motivated Max in a different way, helping him shape who he wanted to be and what he wanted to get out of making music. “I would come home from work and I’d have a little bit of jealousy that these dudes get to sit around all day and play Madden and work on music. And Sunny & Gabe was popping off and DRAM was popping off and I’m at work, fucking waiting tables. You know, you make a song like this gonna be it and a week later it’s only at like 100 plays. But then I started appreciating 100 plays. When I wrote the song Ten Fans, I was like I have ten fans and that’s it. And those are the people that I’m gonna show my love for, those are the people that I’m gonna keep pushing for.”

Finding his identity outside of RBLE has proven very productive for Max. He released the Max EP on October 26th which showcases a clearly more ambitious and adventurous Max than we’ve ever heard before and he plans to follow that up very soon with two – yes, two – new full lengths in the near future. Max’s influences have always felt West Coast  – “the 2000 Myspace West Coast vibes,” as he puts it – so LA seemed like a logical second home for him. LA also puts him geographically close to “cousin of RBLE” DRAM, a detail that isn’t lost on one as motivated as Fullard.

“He lives ten minutes away from me. I see his crib and I’m like I can get this,” he says, “When DRAM blew up I saw that it was possible. So now I go a little harder. Not even in a jealous way, but like DRAM got it I can get it. Because he has the same exact resources that I have, obviously he’s on a label now, but he had Gabe, I have Gabe. He mixed and recorded all that shit in [his sister] Sophia’s kitchen. So he showed us that it was possible with the exact same resources that we have, you know? Same foundation, same fanbase, everything he had with Cha Cha… I just need a Cha Cha, or even if I get three-1/3 of Cha Cha. I just gotta be consistent and he’s showing me that as long as you’re consistent and putting out good product and just keep pushing, it’s gonna happen.”

When Max isn’t learning from his peers, he’s learning from his mistakes. The Max EP showcases the ambitions of a vet that is ready to step into the majors.

“I was very inconsistent before I met DRAM,” he admits, “I was going thru the wrong avenues, I was paying for PR, I was trying to get on blogs. I’ve been in Billboard, I’ve been in Fader and all that shit, but if you’re not consistent it doesn’t matter. Once they see the tweet at the end of the day, you’re at the bottom. So if you’re not getting people to post about and talk about you, you’re just gonna fade out. You gotta stay consistent. Once one song takes off, they’re gonna go back and listen to everything and then I’ll be fine. So that just keeps me going.”

These are words to live by, kids. My dude Max could do a TED Talk on perseverance and following your passions. Or you could just listen to his music and support his dreams. I know he’d do the same for you because he told me as much: “If anybody’s ever feeling lonely, lost, sad or even just happy you can reach out to me – dm, Twitter, IG, email – you can talk to me.” I’d do it soon, though, before he blows up.

Finding Sweet Peace with Sunny and Gabe

 All photos via Anjelica Jardiel
All photos via Anjelica Jardiel

Sunny and Gabe haven’t released a full length in five years, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy. Gabe Niles has been working with legendary producer Rick Rubin off-and-on in LA on secret project with big names. Sunny’s been jamming on side projects such as the jazzy dapzam and collaborations with Opal (which has been featured on a couple TV shows now), and solo stuff kept under wraps for now.

They blessed us with a few bites recently, with Vacay and Hadouken, the single off their new record. Now they’re serving up several slices with “Peace of Cake,” released this week. The first Time Traveler’s Ball last fall spun a few tracks in the DJ setlist, but now they’re performing entirely pre-enjoyed jams live at Origami this Saturday for round 2. Popscure caught up with them before the show to talk about where they started, their travels, and what inspired the long-awaited album.

 

Tell us a little bit about your origins – how did y’all get together to start making tunes?

Sunny – He ripped my song off of SoundCloud and remixed it. Soon thereafter, I recorded on the coolest beat I’d ever heard. We started e-mailing back and forth and had an album’s worth of music within a couple of months.

What music, art, or otherwise do you pull inspiration from generally?

Sunny – I just let it come through me. I’ve always played with word association and letting my mind go wherever it wants. Kind of like stream of consciousness. Whatever feels right is right. I’m mostly inspired by this and how it mixes with my own state and emotions, and how it can fit into whatever instrument or instrumental I’m faced with at the moment. I love so much music that I have no idea what is influencing me. Love weird shit and honest shit.

Gabe – Colorful things. Chaotic themes. Sci fi. High energy, jazzy moments.

What did you want to do differently with this record?

Sunny – Make it sound a little less dusty. I love Free Candy and the way it sounds but we wanted to clean this stuff up enough to be presentable and ingestible to a wider audience.

Gabe – This record we actually took our time lol. Not really, but the sense of it. Actually just made more songs and chose from a bigger pool of records…so we could be patient and hold on to some classic songs for the next rather than overload.

What scene do you hope to set with this album?

Sunny – Oh man, just a big run through time and space.

Gabe – Space casino latin bar called LNS-19 is pretty much the vibe. LNS-19 stands for Latin Nights Sector-19. Def kinda futuristic. 5th element/Cowboy bebop vibes

I know long-term partner D.r.a.m. is on this record. What are some Other exciting collaborations you worked in?

Sunny – I’ve mostly collabed with my own dark emotions.

Gabe – Oh ye, gotta dream team. Gary Donna from our band touches a lot, he is one of my main collaborators. Dude is crazy. Roget Chahayed on the keys for a couple records. He is a walking platinum plaque. Despo aka Los Hendrix, craaazy guitar player from Yonkers based in LA. He produces for Brent Fiyahz, one of the first musicians I met in LA. Pip, amazing composer. He arranged and played a lot of the strings you hear throughout the record. He produces as well, very well rounded. PaperDiamond mastered it, dude is a genius. Justin Battle and Mike Mizzle came in on “Sistermoon.”

You all are time travelers, what time periods influenced the music on the new record (past or future since you have seen it all)?

Sunny – A mix of everything at once. A lot of 70s I think. A lot of smoky jazz clubs as well. LNS-19 is a smoky jazz club in the future. It’s just whatever you feel; it’s right.

Gabe – Mesoteric Era meets Jetsons meets 2003

As for the present day, how do you feel about tunes coming out lately, for better or worse? What’s exciting you and what’s disappointing (if anything)?

Sunny – There’s a lot of the same shit that’s getting a whole lot of attention right now. There’s also a lot of GREAT shit going on. I’m a little disconnected and only occasionally find/am introduced to something I’m reallllly feeling. When I saw King Krule come out with a big ass buzz it was probably the most motivating thing I’ve ever seen.

Gabe – It’s a lot of good shit that comes out that just gets kinda pushed to the side occasionally. It’s kinda mundane when you hear a lot of the songs that sound exactly the same, but you also gotta understand the culture. It’s a great canvas tho, since it’s kinda flat lines. So it’s still as exciting as it is boring.

From when Sunny and Gabe began roughly 5 years ago to now, how has the industry changed?

Sunny – I have no idea what the industry even is because I’m afraid of it, but it seems like everything is about some playlist or something. I miss albums. I really miss like, guitar music. I don’t really use weird genre names to describe what I like but I miss GUITAR MUSIC. Some hard ass shit. There’s so much smooth shit. I get really tired of stuff that just sounds really good, smooth singers, smooth beats, just FUCK I wanna feel something. My bad, I’m like an old school person who likes shit nobody has ever heard of. But there’s a lot of good shit, again, don’t get me wrong.

Gabe – *Clears throat* it hasn’t. The only things that changed forreal are the gates and the gatekeepers. Play ball.

What does the future hold for music, and what are your efforts to push it in that direction?

Sunny – I want to help inspire others to be different. Straight up. I’ll fight until I’m dead if it’s going to help someone else do what they want instead of try to follow a trend.

Gabe – See above.

Seems like you all have been holding onto these tracks for quite some time… why is now the right time for release?

Sunny – We are SLOW AS FUCK. The tracks got too clean and had to get dirty again. We made SisterMoon last month. There’s so many reasons. We have no boss so for two creatives it’s a nightmare trying to get to a point where we call something “finished” Now is the right time because it just happened to happen. No idea.

Gabe – They forced their way out after holding us at gun point.

 

Peep “Peace of Cake” in it’s entirety below

Monthly Mix: Wivve

AT THE START OF EVERY MONTH, WE’LL BE FEATURING A MIX OF SONGS FROM DJS, WHIPPED UP ESPECIALLY FOR POPSCURE

The secret’s out – Wivve put out the call for this special mix on Instagram last month, and we took the bait. Hip hop heavy with house elements, it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser to thrown on at any function.

The Virginia-based DJ spins all over the 757 and helps put on poppin’ events through Extra Company. In the past, he’s teamed up with Shake, and working with No Preserves this weekend for a stacked lineup, featuring session scarlet Opal and Stones Throw Record’s Simulator Jones.

 Don't miss this one, secure your tickets now at  nopreserves.org
Don’t miss this one, secure your tickets now at nopreserves.org

tracklist

Breathe (Bass Mix) – Hollaphonic
Blazin feat. Sophiegrophy – Airwolf
Ultimate (Yung Noize Remix) – Denzel Curry
I Want (Braveaux Mod) – MADEINTYO
Na Hora (Ft Faktiss & Chris McClenney) – Sángo
Russian Cream – Key Glock
Move – Key! & Kenny Beats
Love Hurts (feat. Travis Scott) – Playboi Carti
Live SheckWes Die SheckWes – Sheck Wes
Hater – Key! & Kenny Beats
PHARMACIST – NOLANBEROLLIN
PHARMACIST [UZUMI EDIT] – NOLANBEROLLIN
DOESKIFROMDAPACK – DOE$KI
New Slaves – Kanye West
Nonstop – Drake
Skateboard P – elijah who
Get It (4801 FREESTYLE) – Kyere

What Glitters Isn’t Always Gold: Photos by Benjamin Boshart

by Shannon Jay

Benjamin Boshart finds the glimmer in the simple things. Overlooked sheen in everyday scenes or discards with the light caught just right captivate him — and he captures them with his camera. Resulting images show anything from intimate + candid portraits to abstract scenes deep in nature or right in the city. 

To see more of his work, peep his portfolio, and follow his Instagram. Catch prints of Boshart’s photos IRL at Virginia Moca until August 19th, as part of New Waves 2018. On it’s 23rd year, the annual juried exhibit sifts through hundreds of submissions to find Virginia’s greatest talents.

When did you get interested in photography?

In 2012 I took a photography class at the Portsmouth Visual Arts Center.  I really enjoyed it.  I sold my motorcycle so I could purchase a full-frame camera and I’ve kept it close ever since.

What do you shoot with?

My camera is a Sony A7 and I shoot with standard focal length prime lenses.

Who would be your dream model and why?

This is a tough one.  I can become incredibly compelled to take someone’s portrait if they’re in the right place and in the right light.  I try to stay open minded until the pictures come to me.

Whose stories are you trying to tell in your photos?

I’m telling my own stories.  It’s a game of geometry, light and time through the filter of my experience.

Monthly Mix: FAKE UZUMI

EVERY MONTH, WE’LL BE FEATURING A MIX OF SONGS FROM DJS, WHIPPED UP ESPECIALLY FOR POPSCURE

Benji Uzumi has already been noticed by bigger outlets for his remixes and edits, but is still down to give our humble blog a taste of his unique, seamless blend. He’s already worked with pretty major artists like Opal as a producer, but still finds time to spin around town. He’s at GameWorks every Wednesday to soundtrack free adults-only arcading, and can be seen around town any given weekend.  

This mix celebrates his hard work and could be considered an ode to other Virginian artists who work just as hard but still stay humble. Along with VA artists featured like Masego and N.E.R.D, Uzumi proves 757 stands against top hip hop and house music real well.

tracklist

N.E.R.D. – Everybody Nose (Remix)
KP & ENVI – Shorty Swing My Way
Erykah Badu – On & On (Remix)
Yaeji – drink I’m sippin on
Barbara Tucker – Everybody Dance
Yaeji – Raingurl
Masego – Girls That Dance
Azealia Banks – Licorice
Les Sins – Bother
Aaliyah – One in a Million (Remix)
Nightcrawlers – Push the Feeling
Azealia Banks – Van Vogue
Nightcrawlers – Fall in Love
Lakim – The World is Yours
Theophilus London – TNT
Goldlink – Meditation
Duckwrth- I’m Dead
The internet – You Know
Kaytranada – I Can Love You
Chynna – Switch It Up

Spinnin’ A Soulful Stew: Sitting Down With DJ Soup

by Jerome Spencer

While hip-hop has always given shine and recognition to the producer, it’s only in recent years that instrumental hip-hop has risen to prominence. Certainly, my go-to when I’m trying to chill out and find my inner peace, I tend to go for the sample-based tranquil stuff I can nod out to and get lost in my thoughts; Sunday morning vibes all week.

Norfolk’s own Richard Soup has seemingly come out of nowhere to become the Sunday morning favorite of hip-hop heads everywhere. The son of Vietnamese refugees, Soup didn’t have the same musical upbringing that many of us take for granted.

“Up until I was like 6 or 7, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of English-speaking music,” he tells me via phone, “most of the music that I heard was either my parents singing old Vietnamese folk songs or they used to get these really cheesy variety show cassette tapes from Vietnam. Pretty much Vietnam was two decades behind, so whatever was going on musically in the late-80s/early-90s hadn’t caught on yet so they were featuring artists like Boney M. Disco was huge in Vietnam in the early-90s so my first exposure to English-speaking music was disco, which I still really love.” Soup’s musical palette soon branched out to whatever he could find at the thrift store; “The Carpenters, The Beatles…” (the guy talks real highly of The Carpenters).

Left Unspoken by Soup

It’s important to mention that Soup was taking music very seriously in high school.  He played viola in the orchestra and was taking courses in music theory and composition, but he also started getting really into hip hop. “De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets was my favorite stuff.” And while a lot of his friends were rapping and beat boxing, Soup had no interest in rapping and couldn’t beat box (who can beat box, really?) so he took to producing, naturally.

“I started using the software that we had in our music theory classes to write beats using sheet music and assigning instruments to make beats that way.” Let’s pause here because how cool does that sound?

In college, Soup was a music minor and got to study under a visiting professor who was really into electronic composition and specialized in arranging field recordings into more traditional sounding compositions.  This is also when Soup got his first MPC and started sampling. Soup can talk for hours about all of the great experimental things he learned and did with sound in college, but one of his beats tells the same story. His music is purposefully repetitive so that you can zone out and just catch the vibe, deceptively simple boom bap that comes from a deep understanding of what makes a song work.

Soup took an inadvertent break from music to go to law school and practice environmental litigation in New York, but started making music again when he moved back to Norfolk about three years ago.  He met other supportive hip hop producers, started doing “For the Record,” a producer event at The Groove that grew into family-friendly party/cypher, and has recently  collaborated with Better Beat Bureau’s Ologist and Thank You Gift Shop to organize Thanks For Listening, a “producer open-mic” at Selden Market.

But let’s not let his community contribution distract us from his tapes. His tapes are incredible. On the surface, 2016’s “Left Unspoken” and this year’s “Together” can simply come off as stellar beat tapes; just some head-nod beats with deep pockets to freestyle along with. And, honestly, that would be enough, but there’s so much more.

While the obvious influences are there (Pete Rock, Dilla, No I.D.), there’s a certain brightness and innovation that transcends a standard hip-hop instrumental album. But it’s not the kind of thing one can put into words. It’s kind of like how Picasso understood painting so well that he could no longer adhere to the rules and produce a traditional painting.

Soup paints soundscapes the way Pablo attacked a canvas, with ease and vibrant imagination. Perfect for cruising in your Jeep or watching the rain with a cup of tea, Soup has filled the void that was left when trip hop went mainstream and hip-hop found that sizzle pad on the drum machine. Whether you knew it or not, it’s something we all needed.

Concert Diaries: D’Angelo @ The Norva, June 2015

by Shannon Jay

I arrived at the NorVa, welcomed by an empty stage just vacated by opener Meg Mack. From the floor to the VIP balcony, the joint was packed tight in anticipation for a rare sight. Within the past 20 years, D’Angelo had only released 3 albums and toured once for each. Anticipation was swirled with the feeling of fortune as the crowd waited for Michael Eugene Archer.

And wait they did, for over an hour. Most of the time was taken up preparing the myriad of instruments for his extensive and impressive back-up band, the Vanguard. The stage was littered with acoustic & electric guitars, keyboards & pianos, trumpets & saxophones, and a drumset with a custom spiral-cut cymbals. The rest of the time was spent building suspense, staring at a prepped stage that was ready to rock. While waiting, the crowd was graced with a soundtrack of beats by J. Dilla, an ode to the music legend and D’Angelo’s former collaborator.   

Finally, the band emerged, immediately taking their places and beginning an extended intro of “Ain’t That Easy,” waiting for D’Angelo to join them. Loud cheers ignited the crowd when he casually walked on stage. He donned a large velvet hat, floor-length knit coat, and one wicked looking electric guitar – one of several glamorous outfit and guitar pairings of the night.

The opening track was one of several singles played from “Black Messiah,” D’Angelo’s critically acclaimed and highly anticipated album – his first in over 15 years. “Really Love” was introduced masterfully by guitarist Isaiah Sharkey, who stole the stage and romanced audiences with his flawless Spanish-style playing.

Before playing the album’s activism anthem “The Charade,” D’Angelo took a moment to ask everyone to raise a fist, dedicating the track to the lives lost in Charleston, SC the previous week. Lights illuminated as the hundreds of raised arms, which remained in the air & bumped to the beat as the band begin to play.

D’Angelo’s carefully curated back-up band added an exciting new dimension to the show. Dancer and back-up singer Kendra Foster  illustrated the band’s melodies through movement in an artful yet playful way, sometimes stealing center stage from her right-hand corner. The band’s chemistry was a joy to spectate, skillfully milking songs with extended solos and seamlessly improvised jam sessions that lead one song into another.

The hardest, longest, and funkiest session of the night was during “Chicken Grease” from the encore. After countless minutes of wailing on guitars and horns, the band exited the stage and half of the audience left. Those who stayed noticed the house lights had not yet illuminated, indicating the jamming was not done.

Sure enough, D’Angelo & The Vanguard trickled back on stage to a more intimate, but still roaring, crowd. The second encore ended with possibly the most anticipated track of the night, D’Angelo’s biggest hit single “Untitled (How Does It Feel).” This time around, he kept his clothes on, but still played with our hearts by walking up to the mic once the melody came along and false starting three too many times. D’Angelo fed off suspense, and once his silky vocals started singing the 90s hit, ladies were practically sent to their knees.

D’Angelo put his multi-instrumentalism to work and stepped from behind the piano, repeatedly asking the audience, “how does it feel?” With each repetition of the iconic line, band members one by one headed backstage. Eventually, the audience was alone with Michael, the man we all came to see, playing us the song that made most of us fans in the first place.

Over the past 20 years and three albums, we’ve seen D’Angelo transform from sexy and soulful R&B to funky and jammin’ afro rock ‘n roll. This set was a perfect summary of all these years and all these albums, with the final song of the night bringing it all back home – a place D’Angelo said he was happy to be when he finally said goodbye.