Of all the genres of music I listen to, the one that I’ve slowly but surely become disenchanted with is R&B. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few artists whose music I can get down with, but for the most part, it’s the same old song (pun intended). There are only so many “I’m in love” or “He/She broke my heart” songs I can take. Not to mention how some artists have taken a more pop approach to their songs giving them this whole techno, fist pumping music sound. Weak. However, every now and then the game breathes a breath of fresh air and one artist who is currently on the radar is Miss Lolah Brown of Cleveland, Ohio. I recently got the chance to interview her and it was only right that I share it with you, the readers. So read along as she and I chop it up about how she got started, the creation of her debut project Black Lily, and much more.
Now, I got hip to you about 3 years ago on fellow Cleveland artist Bravo’s ‘Terminal State of Mind’ track. For those who don’t know, that song is like Cleveland’s version of the Jay-Z & Alicia Keys joint. Although that was MY first time hearing you, how long have you actually been doing this?
Lolah Brown: Yeah, that was a while ago! It was actually my first time collaborating with a Cleveland artist and getting that type of recognition from it. I’ve been singing for a while now. My earliest recollection of knowing I could sing was about 5 years old. Professionally, I’ve been singing since about 2006-2007. I started with my fellow Cleveland artists Conya Doss and Tarsha Hamilton. I started singing background for John Legend in 2008 and the rest is history.
John Legend? Nice! Now, let’s talk influences. We all have those who influence and inspire us to do what we do. Name a few of yours.
LB: Beyonce and Brandy are probably the two artists who have influenced me the most vocally. I listened to Full Moon and Dangerously in Love my entire high school career *laughs*. Now, there are so many artists that inspire me, not just musically or vocally but by their work ethic and just how they maneuver in the game and balance being true to themselves and success. John Legend, Nicki Minaj, Frank Ocean, Elle Varner. There are so many more but those are the first that come to mind.
Black Lily. Solid from beginning to end. Explain the title, as well as the overall sound you were going for while creating this project.
LB: Thank you. I appreciate that. I came up with the title Black Lily about half way through the album. It was one of those light bulb moments. Honestly, I really didn’t have a clear direction for the album when I started. I didn’t want to put myself in a box and try to make a certain type of song or create a certain sound. I just went in and wrote whatever the music made me feel. I started seeing a pattern in my topics. It just happened. Black Lily was the best way I could describe the album as a whole. Lilies are flowers, beautiful ones at that. So is love and the anticipation of love. Black usually has a negative connotation, so does heartbreak, love lost, and disappointment. So, I used Black Lily to describe me as a woman; as many women can as well. A beautiful delicate flower that has been tainted and mistreated but is still beautiful nonetheless.
Very well put… Now, Fly Union, who happen to be one of my favorite production teams, had a huge hand in the creation of Black Lily. What was the energy and vibe like working with them?
LB: I absolutely love Fly Union, their team and everything they stand for. Finding genuinely good people in this industry is not something one comes by easily. I will ALWAYS appreciate and respect them for that. They really offered up their gifts and more importantly their time to invest in this project, and that meant so much to me. Seeing how invested they were made the experience that much better. Just imagine being around warm loving people who share the same interests as you, have no ill intentions or ulterior motives, and just want to create great music. It was amazing.
In addition to working with Fly U., you’ve also worked with artists like Ray Cash and BJ the Chicago Kid. You even have an intro from GLC on the album. Who are some other artists that you’d like to work with?
LB: Yeah man, some really great people helped me out with this one! I find myself looking at the track listing and features like, “Wow, that’s crazy!” *laughs* Frank Ocean and Pharell Williams are the first that come to my mind in terms of people who I’d like to work with. There are many other producers and writers that are considered “underground” that I’d love to work with as well. Some of which are my friends! So I’m sure that’ll happen.
Lolah Brown and Skateboard P. R&B needs that, for sure. Speaking of which, R&B can be very redundant at times. To me, anyway. What are some things that you would say separate you from the others in your genre?
LB: I feel like there’s nothing new under the sun. Everything is recycled over and over, but how you interpret it is what makes it different. I always get the question “Who do you sound like?” I honestly don’t have an answer. I don’t think I sound like anyone. Yes, we may all talk about love, heartbreak, and how it affects us but I think women have had this “I can do bad all by myself” stance in music for quite some time now. My music is much more vulnerable. I’m a lady. I don’t make it seem like I don’t need a man and that I can do it on my own. That’s not my reality. I don’t believe we were created that way. I think my point of view is what will separate me from others.
Again, very well said. I think if there are any aspiring singers reading this, they should definitely take heed to that message… Now, I’m not a musician, but I can imagine that there are many ups and downs to being one. What do you love the most about the game? What would you say the biggest challenge for you is?
LB: There are going to be ups and downs in whatever you do. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. If you love something, you will fight for it. So although I face some struggles and road blocks, I don’t really focus on them. I focus on what I know God has for me and what I love. I love what I do and it is all I know. I can’t imagine my life without it. That’s what keeps me going.
No doubt about that. Recently you appeared on BET. Please elaborate for those who may not know.
LB: Ahhh yes! I performed in the BET Music Matters Showcase this past Tuesday, August 14th in NY! I was so excited and it was such an honor. The Music Matters showcase is where a lot of artists (like Elle Varner and Luke James to name a few) first received national recognition. I’m extremely delighted to have been chosen to be apart of it.
That’s a really good look. I can remember when Elle Varner appeared on there and you see where she is now, so the future definitely looks bright for someone as talented as you. Since we’re on talent, what advice could you give to any aspiring musician?
LB: My advice is to keep God first, stay true to yourself, don’t compromise who you are to be accepted, and have great work ethic. There are MANY talented people. But only a few are recognized, and that’s because they work hard. No one wants to deal with lazy people or people who are too arrogant or think that their talent is enough. Also, believe! Believe in yourself because sometimes you may be the only person who believes in you. No one can take that away from you. Surround yourself with great people. Lastly, BE PATIENT! Nothing comes overnight and you should never expect it to.
Yeah, I’ll pass on the overnight success. Mostly because it usually fades as quickly as it came. Great things take time, for sure. That leads me to my next question; where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
LB: I see myself continuously growing and evolving. Being better than I am now. I definitely plan on being amongst the new favorites in this resurgence of R&B. I have visions, dreams, and expectations, but I like to keep them to myself until they actually come into fruition.
I can definitely respect that. For those haven’t heard Black Lily yet, describe the album in 3 words.
LB: Honest. Pure. Rich.
And there it is. This interview has been great. I hope the readers were as entertained as I was. Shoot, you might have even gained you a few new fans after this! In closing, is there anything you’d like to say to the people?
LB: I just want to thank everyone for their support thus far. It really means a lot to me. For those that are not familiar, Black Lily is still available for free download at LolahBrown.com!!!
There just might be some hope for R&B after all.