by BREANA BACON
This year’s Homecoming Juke Joint got off to a quick start, with students and alumni flooding in the doors starting at 7:15. The Grand Ballroom of Stamp was quickly packed with only standing room available when neo-soul band Marlee in the Mixx began its set.
Monday’s Juke Joint was hosted by the class of 2014 alum duo Morgan JL of Philly’s Good Girl, and the ‘tatted and employed’ Wendell “DJ” Alston, who were the perfect pair to get the crowd hype and ready to enjoy the talent of UMD.
Several resident dance teams like Dynamics, Phunktions and Prima Dolls performed, along with The Echelon Fashion Society. But the real point of the event was to showcase some of the hidden, or not so hidden artists on campus. The crowd was wowed by favorites Ashley Lyles and O-Slice, but many new faces got an opportunity to expand their fan base as well.
In addition to the musical and spoken word performances of the night, the contestants for the 2014 Miss Unity Pageant were announced and a raffle for an Adidas book bag was held. All proceeds for the raffle tickets will go to the Miss Unity Pageant, taking place November 16.
Class and hometown shout-outs were a part of the transitions between acts and as per usual, there was a friendly competition to see which class was the livest and who could represent their hometown the best.
These fillers were long enough to keep the crowd interested but the length of the whole event proved to be a bit of an issue toward the end, as the last act didn’t go on until well past 10 o’clock, but overall, Homecoming Juke Joint can be marked in the books as an absolute success.
Now for the performers I thought were the best of the night (in order of performance).
First, Freshman Tiffany Blossom. A Miss Unity contestant, Blossom performed a medley of some of my favorite songs, “Listen” and “Drunk in Love” by the one and only Beyonce Knowles Carter, as well as snippets of Jhene Aiko’s “The Worst” and “Thinking About You” by Frank Ocean.
Not only did she sing but she was on the keyboard too! For this to be her first Juke Joint performance, Blossom blew me away. I am forever in awe of anyone who is blessed with the gift of voice but this young lady is musically multi-talented and she definitely captured the audience’s and my attention. Well done, Tiffany, you are definitely a performer.
Next on my list is Abisola, a realer than real poet who promotes “radical self love.” Performing at her final Homecoming Juke Joint, the senior hit us with a dose of reality with her poem.
My favorite line in her infomercial-styled piece was “Are you too light to be taken seriously? Are you to dark to be taken beautifully?” That was SUPER relevant, especially with all of today’s light-skinned/dark-skinned debate. If you didn’t quite understand, her message was really that the answer to your view of your self worth is in YOU. Big props to you Abisola, you have a new fan in me.
Now for Ashley Lyles. The songstress finished what Tiffany Blossom started, tackling an incredibly tough ballad, Queen Bey’s “Listen.” I’m a Bey fan until death so I’m VERY particular when it comes to covers of this song.
With that being said…PSA to Ms. Ashley Lyles: If you don’t go try out for The Voice, American Idol, Sunday Best or some type of talent competition, I will take you myself. Lyles has such a soulful voice with a church-like feel, reminiscent of former American Idol contestants Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia, mixed with the smoothness of Lauryn Hill.
She sang with so much passion and conviction, I had goosebumps. I think I can speak for the entire audience when I say that performance was moving, so much so that she herself was emotional by the end. If she had gone on any longer, I most likely would have shed a tear too. Ashley’s mom was in the audience Monday night (so adorable), which if nothing else, probably gave her a huge confidence boost. Lyles has an amazing career ahead of her and an incredible voice inside of her.
Fan favorite O-Slice also proved her impressive talent, debuting a new song with a slightly different feel than usual. Her versatility makes her even more of a star. From the beginning, the crowd showed approval of her lyrics and rocked along with her band, who were another positive staple in her performance.
With a talented group of musicians behind her now, O-Slice takes her musicality to new heights. During her performance, she took us on a walk down memory lane to the residence of our childhood, recollecting waking up early on Saturdays to watch cartoons and idolizing television families like the Cosby’s.
Staying true to her Prince George’s County roots, O-Slice brought in a slight go-go beat at the end of the song that definitely got the rest of the natives in the audience excited (including me!) Her ability to get the crowd so involved and remain humble while chasing stardom is astonishing.
Last but not least on my list of favorites, is Kosi…or Not Kosi? Another PG-bred poet performed two spoken word pieces Monday night and, as usual, kept it so real that it hurt.
His words and courage to speak what’s real, not what’s popular reminds me of rapper Lupe Fiasco. You can see by Kosi’s tweets that he is certainly an intellect whose mind knows no boundaries, but with his second poem “She’s Cute But…”, he relates to the average guy.
The average guy who sees that same girl in McKeldin Library every week and wants speak to her, but doesn’t. And according to Kosi, that guy in the poem is running out of excuses not to speak. Kosi always comes with the truth and will continue to have me as a fan.
I have reached the conclusion of my favorites of the night, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give a huge shout out to the members of Phunktions Dance Company.
The group’s performance was interrupted because of technical difficulties, but being true performers, they were able to start over and execute the routine with as much passion and energy as they started with. Although the snag was rather annoying, Phunktions was able to keep the crowd engaged and was easily one of the best group performances of the night.
Kudos to all who performed at Juke Joint, as it takes incredible courage to make yourself vulnerable to that large of a crowd and allow your talent to be displayed. The UMD community salutes you all!