In a world that is often a dog-eat-dog boy's club, one of our favorite promoters for hip-hop events in D.C. is a lady. Laura Westley-Williams, who with her partner Abby was the heavy lifter beyond H.E.R., the key event in the scene's last surge of activity.
She's still making things happen, just not on a weekly basis. Her most recent venture is Brushstroke at DC9, the second installment of which features Shambhala, Deborah Bond and Kokayi of Opus Akoben.
Deborah started out as a shy American University student and has since grown into a powerhouse performer who is causing a lot of excited vibration on the independent modern soul scene. Backed by a band equally agile as it is powerful, she conjures up a little Chaka, a little Anita and a whole lot of mesmerizing energy in any room she plays. Shambhala came up with her in the late '90s, balancing her sweet song styling with rugged but thoughtful lyricism. Kokayi is the veteran of this show's slate of performers, with an artistic curriculum vitae incredibly at odds with his low level of notoriety. He's most at home when improvising, as Opus shows are best known for the thrilling hairpin turns they can take. A groove launched simply from his beat machine can soar through any style as propelled by his percussive scatting and freestyle rapping, from African rhythms to drum 'n' bass to free jazz and back to straight boom-bap.
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