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Black Culture Experience: Black Voices in music

For centuries, black Americans have been the driving force behind some of the most influential music in history, from classical to rap. It's an honor to shine a spotlight on the exceptional talents of Fayetteville artists Judy Clay, Tina Brooks, and J. Cole in this edition of our Black Culture Experience blog. Their contributions to the music industry are a testament to the power of creativity and drive, and a reminder that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.

Judy Clay (Fayetteville, NC) was born in St Pauls and was raised by her grandmother in Fayetteville. In the early 1950s, Judy Clay's life took an exciting turn when she relocated to Brooklyn. There, she was taken in by Lee Drinkard Warrick of The Drinkard Singers, a gospel group that featured Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney Houston) and Dionne Warwick as members. Despite facing various obstacles, Judy landed a spot as a regular performer with the group at the tender age of 14. As she continued to hone her craft, she eventually launched a solo career, although she didn't achieve much commercial success. Judy's passion for music never waned, and her hard work eventually paid off when she collaborated with Billy Vera to create the groundbreaking single "Storybook Children". This record was significant as the first racially integrated duo in the United States, and it became a source of inspiration for the music industry. Despite facing numerous challenges and rejections, Judy never lost hope and kept pursuing her dreams with determination and resilience. Her story is a powerful reminder that we can overcome any obstacle if we stay focused on our goals and persevere through adversity.

Tina Brooks (Fayetteville, NC) Harold Floyd Brooks' life is a fascinating story. He was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and moved to New York with his family in 1944. Harold's passion for music led him to study harmony and theory under Herbert Bourne. He started playing the C-melody saxophone and became proficient in it.

Harold's first professional job was in 1951 with rhythm and blues pianist Sonny Thompson, which opened many doors for him in the music industry. He played with Lionel Hampton in 1955 and received informal guidance from "Little" Benny Harris, a renowned trumpeter and composer, who led Harold to his first recording as a leader. Harris recognized Harold's talent, and his recommendation to Blue Note producer Alfred Lion in 1958 proved to be a turning point in Harold's career.

His first album, "True Blue," was recorded soon after, and it established him as a prominent jazz saxophonist. Harold's favorite tune was "My Devotion," and he was known as "Tina," a variation of his childhood nickname "Teeny." Harold's story is a testament to the power of dedication, hard work, and perseverance.

Black Culture Experience | J Cole
Black Culture Experience | J Cole

J. Cole’s (Fayetteville, NC) journey to success is a story of hard work, talent, and determination. He first burst onto the music scene with the release of his debut mixtape, The Come Up, in 2007. The tape garnered attention from critics and fans alike, and set the stage for Cole's future success. 

In 2009, Cole signed with Roc Nation, Jay-Z's record label, which gave him the opportunity to release two more mixtapes: The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights. These projects showcased Cole's growth as an artist and earned him even more critical acclaim. 

Cole's debut studio album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, dropped in 2011, and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. The album was a commercial and critical success, featuring hit singles such as "Work Out" and "Can't Get Enough". Cole followed this up with Born Sinner in 2013, which also debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. The album received widespread critical acclaim and featured hit singles such as "Power Trip" (featuring Miguel) and "Crooked Smile" (featuring TLC). 

Despite his commercial success, Cole refused to rest on his laurels. He shifted his focus away from pop-oriented sounds and began exploring more socially conscious themes in his music. This resulted in a string of critically acclaimed albums, including 2014 Forest Hills Drive, 4 Your Eyez Only, and KOD. The latter featured a record-breaking six simultaneous top twenty hits on the Billboard Hot 100, tying Cole's success with that of English rock band the Beatles. 

Cole is not only a talented rapper and songwriter, but also a self-taught pianist and producer. He has collaborated with a wide range of artists, and has produced much of his own music. In addition to his musical achievements, Cole has also made a positive impact on the world through his philanthropic efforts. He founded his own record label, Dreamville Records, which has signed emerging artists such as JID, Ari Lennox, and EarthGang. Cole has also used his success to give back to his community. He began housing single mothers rent-free at his childhood home in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 2015. This act of kindness inspired others to support his efforts, and led to the creation of his non-profit organization, the Dreamville Foundation. Cole's accomplishments serve as a reminder of the power of hard work and dedication. He has achieved incredible success in the music industry while staying true to his artistic vision and using his platform to make a positive impact on the world.

Which Artist Did You Already Know?

  • Judy Clay

  • "Tina" Brooks

  • J Cole

  • None 🤯


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