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Element

by Tanya Cromartie Twaddle Element

For those who ain’t heard by now, Element’s solo song, “Show and Prove” is featured on the sound track of rapper LL Cool J’s major motion picture, Deliver Us from Eva. Her soul-deep vocals and innovative style make her a crucial force on her own as well as an essential member of the dynamic musical poetry group, Black Elephant. Originally from Detroit, Element has been a Milwaukee resident for the past nine years and began performing early on. “I remember listening to my mother’s records and singing along…she thought it was so cute! I started performing when family would come over and ask me to sing. I said no until they offered me money! She laughs. Deliver Us From EvaSara Vaughn, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield, Zap Ma Ma…these are just a few of her legendary influences. Neo-soul artist is the tag I discovered when digging for the 411 on this artist. Neo-soul is a term being used (and debated) by some in the industry to describe a supposed “new movement.” The name suggests that it is a new version of classical soul…jazz fused with hip hop, rhythm and blues, soulful vocals…spiritual, enlightened groove. How does Element feel about this description? “I don’t mind being compared to an artist that I feel has made some type of contribution to the industry…such as Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Jil Scott, Bob Marley, Last Poets, Dead Prez. I would describe my style as MESSAGE MUSIC.” For real…it is. The art she delivers solo and co-creates is raw and relevant. She addresses socio-political issues in her music. Unapologetic, she shines serious light on society’s ills and her art seeks to BUILD. “We have enough party joints. The industry used to provide a balance in the type of music it offered listeners. I have to be able to balance it out…I have to be the one to speak up for the people who are often unheard and unseen.” Does Element write about LOVE? Yeah…but not that sappy violets-are-blue, predictable I -love-you junk. Her song selected for the movie’s sound track is a meaningful piece on the subject. “Show and Prove is a song written about the type of love that only comes from a supreme elevated understanding of another person…when your partner’s goal is to teach you and surprisingly love grows as you grow. This song speaks to all those people who were searching for love and found a teacher, a friend, and much more.” Element has showcased her talent at venues nationwide and performed at several Milwaukee Venues — most recently Onopa, Velvet Room, The Globe, and Thai Joe’s. She is a singer, songwriter, poetess…rising, phenomenally, not without encountering the entertainment industry’s challenges. “Gaining respect is the biggest obstacle. When people hear me….they realize that I have talent…their faces change. It’s hysterical that a lot of women get by on the fact that they are WOMEN.” Amen to that! So many of our “starz” are corporate…commercially designed packages of eye-candy…appreciated more for revealing sensational flesh than thought-provoking rhymes…words. Element is the real thing. She strives to stay true to herself, to create and disseminate useful poetics. She’s got definite opinions on Hip Hop in Milwaukee… “There is so much competition to grab the ear of the Hip Hop audience here in Milwaukee. It becomes more difficult if you are not doing watered-down Hip Hop music. If your music has a message of self-empowerment as mine does, it’s a huge challenge. Some are smart enough to understand. While others are preoccupied by the fact that you make statements that they don’t agree with. Being here offers the chance to use Milwaukee as a microcosm for the United States. If you can catch the ears of those who wouldn’t normally listen to you here, you can do it throughout the entire country.” You can bet inspiration for material is abundant for an artist testifying and protesting on the mic in our city which many believe is racially divided…with certain segments feeling oppressed. Element shares: “I don’t plan on living in Milwaukee forever. It remains a great place for writing material…with everything that’s going on here. Police chief being verbally attacked, Klan rallying, political scandals downtown, police brutality caught on tape and nothing being done… Yeah, Milwaukee will always keep me busy writing.” Advice from this profound lyrical sistah? “I was constantly reminded that the MESSAGE IS GREATER THAN THE MESSENGER. To all the new artists, the best advice I can give is be yourself. Labels already have a Nelly, a Jay-Z, and a Destiny’s Child. Create something different for them to sign and don’t compromise your art or yourself.” IN THE WORKX FOR ELEMENT? A project with Hollywood Records…a spoken word CD scheduled to be released summer 2003. Element will be touring on the university circuit this spring with Black Elephant. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 4 – April 2003
by Tanya Cromartie Twaddle

Element