The Taste of Soul has done it again, this time with rock star celebrity performances from some of the greatest artists in hip-hop and RnB. This year, the StarQuest stage brought the heat, lighting up the scene with performances from Grammy-Award winning artist Melanie Fiona, the beat-box king himself Doug E. Fresh, Kool Moe Dee, and the incomparable Brandy, who closed out the evening. Artists Raffia Ford and Candace Coles, and The CJ Legacy Band also hit the stage, while DJ B-Hen kept the crowd grooving with incredible sets throughout the day.
While Raffia Ford gave the audience a taste of her original pieces and jazz vibes, DC native Candace Coles belted out powerhouse covers of Beyoncé’s “Freedom” and Lauryn Hill’s “Sweetest Thing”, giving the crowd a touch of GoGo music as well. Kenny Lattimore added to the block party turn-up with a surprise performance of his latest single, “Push”, from his new album “Vulnerable”, along with an a cappella version of his classic song, “For You”.
Melanie Fiona then blessed the crowd with her powerful voice, donning a free flowing tribal ensemble and singing a medley of her hit songs, including, “Give it to Me Right”, and “Fool for You”. Behind the stage, Fiona said that celebrating amongst beautiful people of color is something that she lives for, and that music allows her to empower, especially in the times we live in.
“I feel that it is my responsibility as an artist to always express what I feel, whether that’s personal, social, consciously, unconsciously, and right now, I just feel like the world is in such a time where the weight is heavy of negativity and past history that we want to break free from and I feel like love really is the foundation for everything,” she said.
“This is just a wonderful and beautiful gathering of so much love and positivity. It’s wonderful for us to see what we can do positively when we come together,” she continued.
Hip-Hop legend Kool Moe Dee and his crew also had the crowd rocking, performing hip-hop classics like, “I Go to Work”, along with a mini-tribute to the late rapper Heavy D. As one of the first rappers to ever win a Grammy-Award, Kool Moe Dee appealed to the audience that rap music doesn’t have to be vulgar or promote violence to sell. The rapper made it clear that while young artists have their own style, old school hip-hop is something that was built to last.
Doug E. Fresh added to the affect of pure artistry, as he adlibbed an incredible beat using only his voice while minor technical issues were worked out. “See now, I’m a very rare person because I really don’t need the music, but I use it,” he said. Doug E. Fresh proceeded to demolish the stage, doing an impromptu teaser with Brandy and letting the youngsters know who really taught them how to Dougie.
What makes the Taste of Soul unique is that it’s is a homecoming of family, friends, loved ones and complete strangers. Brandy experienced this head-on, reuniting with an old classmate whom she had been trying to locate over the years. “She was the first person that I looked like in school, and I felt she was so confident and beautiful, it just made me feel confident,” Brandy said.
Meanwhile, Brandy’s father, Willie Norwood, testified to his families’ deeply -rooted connection to the Taste of Soul and the Bakewell family. “Over the years, the Sentinel has meant so much to my family. I remember back in the day, when it was the way that the community got word of what everybody was doing, and that all goes out to Danny [Bakewell Sr.], who had the courage and the vision, and foresight to see what Black people were doing, and how we could be more of a community to help change, to help make things better,” Norwood said.
Norwood also shared that it was Danny Bakewell, Sr. who gave Brandy the rare opportunity to perform on stage when she was a little girl. “He let my little girl come up and sing, and I thought that was one of the greatest things, and to come full circle and here today, I’m so impressed with this year’s Taste of Soul, it’s the best and the Bakewell’s are the best, we just love them,” Norwood declared.
This year’s StarQuest stage was sponsored by Hyundai, made possible by Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity Inclusion for Hyundai, Zafar Brooks. To see exclusive interviews and coverage of the stage performances, visit www.lasentinel.net for more information.