My first memory of music is one I will never forget. The memory is not my own but rather a collaborative narrative shared between my mother and her mother. Once my mother brought me home from the hospital, a trigger was set off. Or as my mother would claim, “I made sure to put her and everyone else within a five mile radius to work.” I cried during the drive home. I cried once we arrived. I cried and cried for hours, days and nights on end. The light from my mother’s eyes dimmed with each passing moment, and she had just about given in.
My grandmother did not.
She knew there had to be something that would pacify me and hopefully, a load would be taken off of my mother’s shoulders. One night, I wailed as loud as a siren. My grandmother laid me over her chest and instead of rocking me, she clicked on her boombox to play the disk settled into the compartment. That night I had been silenced for the first time, and my family had “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” to thank for it.
Music had done for me what it does for everyone. Music builds bridges, empowers people as well as their ideas and tells a unique story. For me, that experience began with Lauryn Hill.
However, music has broadened into something else entirely in this day in age. Digital technology has not only altered the way music is heard but the way it is distributed and marketed to the public, making it easier for local artists to have their shot. It’s easy to get lost amongst the one-dimensional sounds of popular music and forget what music is truly about. It’s storytelling on an intimate and raw level. These three Jersey artists understand what it means to truly hone their craft and deliver it in a way that is raw and undeniably powerful.
Local artists Bazz Valencia, TLB Capro and Scion Rae share different stories of how they came to be the people they are today. Yet their message of performance as an artist and remaining true to themselves could not be more similar.
Authenticity Is Part of Who You Are, Not a Selling Point
Bazz Valencia is a Colombian R&B singer, who learned the power of music through his experiences of losing himself — only to realize he had known who he was all along.
He carried a torch for music even as a kid. In an interview, he described the saga of how he came to love music and the way it brought people together.
“Biggie had just put out ‘Juicy.’ My brother and I would always do push-ups to it. I’d learn the whole chorus, and he knew the whole rap part. So we went to our neighbor’s house,” Valencia said. “It was my best friend. We were like ‘Yo, look at this song that we wrote.’ Then we performed Biggie for them.”
If he had only known then that performing would become his life.
It was and continues to be a long journey to becoming the authentic artist Valencia aims to be. In high school, the pressure to chase radio and a large audience seemed unrelenting. The singer had gotten lost in the rhythm of generating music without proper cause. There was no message other than getting on “every rapper’s album and singing every hook” just to be heard.
“As I got older, I began to change my mentality. Now I’m very cautious as to what I’m putting out into the world. I understand my influence.”
It took a little more maturing for him to see the person he wanted to be. Valencia attended college and went into an architecture career for three years, but something still was not right. He decided to quit to pursue music as a full-time career. It was one of the biggest decisions he had ever made, but I heard nothing short of pride as the rising star talked about his journey.
“People didn’t really see the vision that I saw as a youngster. It’s becoming clearer for the people who didn’t see it, but I always have. It’s a beautiful place to be as an artist, to be with yourself on this journey and to develop the confidence.”
Music Is Impact, and Impact Is Power
TLB Capro, formerly known as Damier Daniels, is a hip-hop enthusiast and rising artist from Camden. The local artist strives each day to represent his city and show it in a different light than what others might know of it.
“My community has made me the person I am. So all of that ties in and makes me an even better artist,” he wrote in an email.
Capro is motivated by the different experiences he has had growing up and the people who surround him in his day-to-day. The “Big Fish” rapper is all about owning who he is and allowing others to pursue the same narrative because anything you put your mind to is possible.
Capro loves being able to help other local artists and build them up in moments where it seems as though no one else will. While the process of growing as one of many local artists can be difficult, he has expressed nothing but excitement over the things to come.
“I don’t believe you need a major award or you have to headline a festival to say you’ve made it,” he said. “I think I would be able to say I have made it when I can come back to my city, give back and show love.”
A Voice for the Masses
Scion Rae is a hip-hop artist, who is no longer afraid to speak. He faced a period of time when he could not recognize the power of his voice, let alone being the voice for other people just like him.
“I never spoke up. Because I never spoke up, things used to happen to me. I used to be on the reactive side of things instead of the proactive side of things,” he told me. “I love performing the last project that I put out because it’s meant to encourage people to say what they have to say. You have to speak up even if your voice shakes.”
Rae battled with himself for years about what message to deliver and how. What people would say or think was a constant reminder that his voice was powerful, yet it was the one thing hindering the artist from making music he was satisfied with.
Change is not easy. Change is, in fact, one of the hardest things that we’ll ever have to do in our lives.
(A Working Thread)
— All Might’s Knuckles 🤛🏿 (@ScionRae) May 29, 2019
The “Guilty” artist is adamant about connecting with his audience. There is an exchange between the artist and the audience, especially as he is performing. He can rap, sing and walk into the crowd knowing he has affected someone simply with his words.
“Feel is very important to me because I could have all the lyrics and crazy bars in the world, but what will people gain from this?” He asked, thoughtfully. “It’s just [about] being myself. The world works very hard to put people into societal boxes, to show them what they should be doing and tell them what they need to be doing. The purpose of my music is to let people know that they have the answers for whatever they want to do or however they want to be.”
We Are All Interconnected
These three local artists are genuinely writing music that relates, builds people up and transcends what is considered to be the norm. Unlike most mainstream artists, they are embracing the intimacy of connecting with others whether that be at a small pub or a fundraising event for a friend.
The opportunity to speak with each of them opened up a door to something I had been missing from the music industry — honesty. Music should be unrefined and break boundaries. Local artists Scion Rae, TLB Capro and Bazz Valencia are doing just that.