JULLY BLACK and RAUL MIDON at the Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth), Friday (May 30), 8 pm. $27.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Having a conversation with Jully Black is like talking about life with a big sister. She’s the antithesis of the pretentious, self-absorbed diva, though her stock is at an all-time high. She picked up her first piece of championship hardware at the 2008 Juno Awards.
After rollin’ with pioneering hip-hop collective the Circle Crew and releasing her sophomore album, Revival (Universal), Black’s time to shine has finally arrived.
But don’t expect her to rest her bootylicious posterior on her blossoming laurels. From the Juno win to the ubiquitous media exposure, this has to be her biggest year ever.
“For ‘Jully Black the brand’? Yes. On television, radio, TV and doing records? Yes. It’s just [diversifying] while staying true to who I am. Cuz it’s really about Queen Latifah-ing this sucka.”
Latifah’s obviously a role model.
“C’mon, man! From Ladies First [her autobiography] to Chicago to Hairspray to producing movies to ‘Easy, breezy, beautiful CoverGirl,’ and she’s still a nice, thick black woman?!”
“Now, it’s just building the Jully Black brand, so when people see my logo or hear the name they don’t just think music, they think the whole multimedia conglomerate.”
Black has overcome numerous obstacles since her debut over a decade ago. These include the once-promising MCA deal collapse in 2003, the incessant album delays, the death of her sister at age 24 and the rampant bootlegging of her debut LP in 2005. Thank goodness This Is Me eventually struck gold.
“My mom says every disappointment prepares you for something better. I was being prepared for what’s happening now. Not to just represent myself and my family, but also Jane and Finch and a community of people, without the stereotype,” she says. “And I don’t compare my career to anyone. It’s just me. It’s not being cocky, it’s just how I approach my life, so I’m not trying to get other people’s blessings.”
Black’s gregariousness is a rarity. She’s able to keep up with Rosie O’Donnell’s gossip circle on The View as naturally as she can kick it with the yardies dem up on Eglinton West.
Speaking of expanding boundaries, her unreleased ready-to-blow single Material Things, featuring Queensbridge legend Nas, on 2005’s This Is Me album, should have pushed her into the superstar stratosphere.
“It just wasn’t the season for it. Regardless, whether in the UK, Europe or America, the song will come out one day. But know that you had it first.”
There are a multitude of shining northern lights singers who can blow with the genre’s best. And with so many diverse artists on the cusp of discovery, one wonders when, not if, the golden age of Canadian R&B will officially arrive.
“We can all shine at the same time if our community comes on board first,” says Black. “It doesn’t make sense that 90 per cent of the Mod Club aren’t my community. I feel that once the community steps in, things will change.
“When Jay-Z says ‘Stop wearing jerseys,’ everyone stops wearing jerseys! It’s the power of influence and credibility. If our community would step up and say, ‘We’re supporting Jully and Divine and Toya and Keyshia and Michie and Deborah and Glenn’ instead of just thinking, ‘I have to pick one or the other,’ then things would change. Support is support.”
She adds, “I realize many are called but few are chosen, and I firmly believe I’m part of a chosen generation. It’s just a matter of when my season is going to arrive.”
FIVE AMAZING CANADIAN SOUL SINGERS RAISING A RUCKUS
1. DIVINE BROWN Recently signed to Warner Music, now recording the follow-up album to her smouldering soul nugget, Old Skool Love. www.divinebrown.net
2. JENNIE LAWS Just released her debut EP, Introducing Jennie Laws, a stunning collection of soul music.www.myspace.com/jennielaws
3. TOYA ALEXIS This Farley Flex-favoured former Canadian Idol chanteuse is working on the follow-up to her debut, S.O.B. Story, a slept-on collection of smokin’ soul selections. www.myspace.com/toyaalexismusic
4. MELANIE DURRANT Besides her generous community contributions (HipHop4Africa show, CAP AIDS), she’s putting together the follow-up to her debut, Where I’m Goin’.www.myspace.com/melaniedurrant1
5. KIM DAVIS Best known for her Flow 93.5 chart-topper Sometimes, she’s released hit songs with Sizzla and J. Holiday and is working on an LP. www.mskimdavismusic.com