It has been long suggested and sometimes documented that following one’s true passion can instinctively and naturally lead one into circumstances and places – amongst like-minded people –that ultimately guide a person to their truly determined successes in life…sometimes resulting in a series of full-circle experiences. Bursting out of the musically-fertile D.C. area (which actually comprises the so-dubbed “DMV,” which also entails metropolitan Maryland and Virginia), naturally-gifted, multi-talented writer/musician/producer/vocalist BEE BOISSEAU (last name pronounced “boy-so”) knows of this phenomenon all too well, having rode the wave of a childhood steeped in musical encouragement into a young adult life of honing his craft and not-so-by-chance encounters (most notably with veteran R&B star Raheem DeVaughn) that placed him squarely where he needed and was destined to be. The culmination of his lifelong musical journey of following his passion all lie within the oh-so-contemporary, musically-rich fusion of modern-day R&B, hip-hop and jazz that comprise his forthcoming DMG (DeVaughn Multimedia Group) debut set, Back To Love.
Born and raised on the south-side of Richmond, Virginia during the ‘80s, BEE was amongst the first generation of kids actually raised on hip-hop. Though it may have initially been hip-hop and later smooth jazz that opened his eyes to the possibilities of being involved in music-making, his first actual introductions to music were in the church and at the family piano. “The family figured out early that I had musical ability because we had a piano in the house,” BEE recalls. “My Mom would be in the kitchen saying ‘Who’s playing the radio?’ And it would be me [legit]. I would hear something on the radio and play it on the piano by 6 or 7 years-old.” At the suggestion of his live-in great-grandmother and grand-mother, his musical interests were fully encouraged, resulting in learning other instruments (including violin) and being enrolled in contests. As it turns out, it was the reaction from audiences that made him catch the “entertainment bug.” “Truthfully, I liked the applause of it all,” he recalls. “I was like ‘Ok, I can do this.’ I thought it was fly that people would applaud me and all that. So I kept doing it.” This early epiphany and newfound confidence would soon thereafter be applied to the hip-hop music he found himself exposed to by older family members and friends around the way. “You had those 12” hip-hop records back then,” recounts BEE. “My Mom bought me a Smurf record-player that I could play those 12” records on. I had things like the Fat Boys, the Rappin’ Duke and my own Kangols at like 6 or 7 years-old…I was that dude! And I could rap too. I didn’t really understand it all until I was a little older. But I was smart, I could put ideas together and my memory was good. I was doing things in school like reciting Martin Luther King speeches and all that other type of stuff. I was quick; if you showed it to me I got it. That was a gift I didn’t realize until later. So hip-hop came along and I was all in.” Once word of his reputation for dropping good rhymes circulated at school, a young BEE found himself being sought out as “the one to beat” for battles with other rap wanna-be’s at school. Nevertheless, even as a youngster he kept his focus on the creative aspect instead of the competitive aspect. While merging his newfound love for performance, applause and hip-hop, he linked up with a local partner named Justin, who exposed him to making music on computers. “I totally lost my mind,” he recalls of that learning experience. “And then I found out that you could make money doing it!”
Consequently, his passion and fixation on music and performance followed him to college, during which time he was focused on his keyboard playing. “A good friend of mine introduced me to this band called the Fuzz Band,” BEE recollects. “Ironically, the keyboard player was leaving the band to move to D.C., so they were in a search for another keyboard player.” Though he admittedly didn’t quite yet have the professional musician mentality, he jumped at the opportunity to simply get on the scene, meet more ladies and possibly make some connections. Hence, he auditioned, hung out with them and played a couple of gigs with them. Although he wasn’t exactly crazy about their “kinda bourgeoisie,” khaki-wearing Hampton University style, playing with the Fuzz band afforded him the experience of playing for the likes of Lauryn Hill, Faith Evans, Avant, Jill Scott and other notable music names. “Anything coming through the ‘757,’ we were on it,” fondly recalls BEE. “The Fuzz Band was very well-known in that area. I was amazed with the gigs and clothing endorsements this band was getting.” Having made some firm connections, he soon found himself propositioned with the opportunity to do some shows in Denver, Colorado, where he not only gigged regularly but stayed to live for nearly ten years. “I made good connections [there] on the smooth-jazz circuit,” he recounts, “and that’s how I got respected on the professional circuit in general. I was playing with the likes of Nick Colionne, Gerald Albright and Jakiem Joyner…just major smooth-jazz artists.” Soon thereafter, a cruise ship gig with Eric Roberson resulted in him making the acquaintance of actor/wordsmith Wes Felton (one half of the socio-conscious hip-hop/R&B duo The CrossRhodes, alongside Raheem DeVaughn). “He came and did a show, they called me to play and we just remained in contact. Wes took me to New York City and I did some shows with him. So when the time came for somebody to sub as a keyboard player [for The CrossRhodes], he already had me in mind. It wasn’t by chance; it was divine…everything happened in an order I can’t explain.”
Hence, that scenario of following one’s passions into the right environments at the right times resulting in meeting the right people proves true. As it turns out, connecting with The CrossRhodes lessened the fabled “six degrees of separation” between BEE BOISSEAU and Grammy-winning R&B star Raheem DeVaughn. Though they had mutual friends and had met each other in passing a few times, they finally made a real connection. “I had a rehearsal to perform with The CrossRhodes,” BEE remembers, “so when I re-met him we were doing a sound-check at Bowie State University. I guess I did a good job because afterwards he asked if someone had my contact info.” By the time The CrossRhodes played at Chicago’s House of Blues just barely over a year ago, Raheem suggested that it was time for a BEE BOISSEAU record. “It’s really his passion for the culture and for the music,” says Raheem of his decision to sign BEE to his DMG imprint. “I knew right away that “I’ve gotta work this dude, whether it’s with artists, production or whatever. As it relates to Bee, this is how we preserve the culture. Invest our time to the art and other people. There are people out there we can throw the assist to that aren’t really appreciated – but worth it – who have the talent and have the chops. For me, it gives me the opportunity to make a bold statement for the DMV [as you call it]. I’ve felt for far too long that they won’t let us in. So we have to form our own family and mutual closeness here in the city.
Hence, BEE BOISSEAU’s soon-to-be-released Back To Love serves as not only an introduction to his multi-faceted talents and musically-rich “jazz-soul-hop” sound, but those of other fast-rising, soon-to-be-noteworthy talents coming out of the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area. Be it the “Me Too”-friendly hip-hop/soul of the title track (featuring Raheem DeVaughn and Eric Roberson); the brisk-paced, jazz/spoken-word/drum ‘n bass-fused “Young Bumble Bee” (featuring Roscoe Brown); the dreamy and atmospheric vibe of the simmering “Potion” (featuring Yahzarah); songstress Carmen Rogers’ featured vocals on the neo-soul-reminiscent “Moon;” or Bee’s vocoder-laced vocalizing on the chilled funk/R&B groove “Rock With You” (featuring Mad Skillz), Back To Love has got something to titillate the ears of contemporary music listeners of real music. Previewing the set with a most timely message atop a chunky hip-hop/soul beat is “NFL” (featuring lyrical commentary from The CrossRhodes’ Wes Felton) which is told from the perspective of a player. “The message is not so much about the National Football League; it’s about the injustices and police brutality against people of color. I don’t want that message to get lost at all.” Meanwhile, core fans of Raheem DeVaughn will no doubt delight in “Stay the Night,” an intoxicating, Marvin-esque collabo with BEE which the award-winning R&B star describes as “something special. It’s like Gil Scott Heron, Marvin Gaye and modern-day Jill Scott making art together!”
“Everything comes full-circle,” says BEE BOISSEAU, while reflecting on his Back To Love debut set. “It encapsulates my experiences before really becoming a professionally-minded musician, and then my experiences with the band as a professionally-minded musician. A lot of the influences from all of the places that I’ve learned, things like church, were my earliest influence. Then jazz and being a hip-hop head….all of that came full-circle with what you hear on Back To Love. When I listen to this record, it’s the first time in a long time I really love my craft.