Everyone seems to have a different opinion of what exactly it is that Adia Victoria does. One of the more imaginative descriptions appeared in Rolling Stone magazine, where they suggested she sounded like, ‘PJ Harveycovering Loretta Lynnat a haunted debutante ball’. Somewhat less cinematically, her Wikipedia page has Adia down as ‘Gothic Blues’. What she’s definitely not, though, is ‘Americana’.
“I was at the Southern Literary & Arts Festival in Memphis Tennessee,” she explains, “where I was being introduced by a young, white lady, probably in her twenties, as an ‘Americana’ artist, and I felt I had to step in and correct that.”
Adia describes how she had leaned into the mic and said: “Adia Victoria does not sing Americana; Adia Victoria sings the blues.”
There was a long queue to get in Bush Hall on a cold January evening, for a film screening and acoustic set by Michael Franti. Then again, everything this lanky troubadour from San Francisco does is full-blown and – it soon transpires – the same goes for some of his fans.
After we’d watched his latest documentary – the touching and thought-provoking Stay Human– Franti appeared for a short Q&A session. There was no mediator and the first member of the audience to speak stood up and launched into a monologue with no mention of film or artist, and which didn’t include any questions either. Five long minutes later and the man – who turned out to be from Amsterdam – proudly announced that he’d sprung a surprise on his confused looking girlfriend by asking her to marry him in front of all those people. I probably wasn’t alone in wanting to shout out, ‘Say no!’ when he popped the question… but still cheered when she said yes, just like everyone else.
“I think some people have forgotten a lot of things about hip-hop,” declares Jerry Beeks, one half of duo Bronx Slang.
Named after Beeks’ solo single from 2001, the pair’s name is a shortcut for what to expect from their debut album: Beeks and his partner in crime Ollie Miggs make classicist New York rap. In short, it’s not a new chapter for the famed New York borough, but one that ruggedly picks up the baton for the place that birthed the music, though it’s more ‘Diggin’ In The Crates’ than hip-hop’s first wave.
Still, if anyone hasforgotten where hip-hop was born, Bronx Slang is an ample reminder of the borough’s infamous pedigree.
“We felt like the name ‘Bronx Slang’ stated who we are,” says Beeks, “where we come from, what we represent, what we’re saying and what we want you to hear, all in one name.”
“I’m a believer!” exclaimed country music star Blake Shelton, coach on the US version of televised singing competition The Voice. To the roars of the crowd his was one of two chairs to turn – along with that of talent show queen and originalAmerican Idolwinner Kelly Clarkson – during DR King’s belting, soulful rendition of the Imagine Dragons’ pop anthem Believer. “Ah wow!” said fellow coach Alicia Keys upon seeing D.R. after the blind audition was over. King cut a striking figure, wearing a green suede jacket with black lapels, white t-shirt and skinny black jeans, his short length dreads held up with an orange & paisley bandana. “Yeah, you killed that,” added Keys. “So is that DR, as in Doctor King?” asked Blake. Watching the Youtube clip back – it’s had over three million views – you can understand where Blake was coming from. Google makes the same mistake too, confusing DRK with MLK.
“My full name is Donald Ray King Jr.,” says DR to me over Skype, taking a short break from tour rehearsals in LA for an upcoming run with his former Voicecoach Kelly Clarkson. “People have called me ‘doctor’, but I always corrected them for clarity.