DREAM GIRLS – NYC Interviews: Melanie J.B. Charles
What do you do?
Im an artist. Singer/songwriter/producer/flutist and actress.
Talk about style, who or what are some of your style influences?
I call my style “Pepe Redefined”. In Haiti, most people can’t afford nice new store bought clothes. So Haiti gets these shipments of second hand weird clothes shipped from the US called “Pepe”[pronounced "pet pet" but without the T ] . People usually wear mismatched patterns and colors; basically whatever they can find. My style intrinsically has been really influenced by that. I love colors. I hate matching, I love wearing things no else is and I love being comfortable!
What role does music play in your life?
Music is my everything. Everything I do leads back to music. Music is not only what I create but also my therapy. There are times when hearing Miles Davis play can literally give me hope.
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Do you think style and music interplay with each other? If so, how?
Style and Music definitely interplay. Music is expression and so is what we put on our bodies. We can say so much with words and notes but sometimes what we put on our bodies, can be way more “loud and clear”.
How would you define style as it relates to hip hop culture?
I think style in hip-hop is comfort meets, self expression,meets community. Jeans, T’S, hoodies and sneakers are definitely “Hip-hop staples” but the the expressions comes with fit, colors, brands, and graphics. And even within the originality, there is a sense of “this is what we wear because we are in this together”.
Who are some of your favorite hip hop artists or groups?
My fave hip-hop group hands down is Slum Village. Between Dilla and the whole crew, the music that was created is so strong that they will always be revisited, referenced, valued, and respected. Classic.
90’s hip hop – what are some thoughts that come to mind – artists, groups, style, aesthetic?
90′s hip-hop I think Mary J, I think LL Cool J, Tupac, Biggie. I think of a time when Hip-hop was very much a reflection of real life. I don’t think Hip-Hop will ever be the same. I’m not saying its a good thing or bad thing. Just sort of a natural progression I think.
What are your feelings about jazz? Do you have any favorite artists or groups?
I love Jazz. I studied it in school and it is sort of a foundation to what I create and what I like to listen to. My heroin is Sarah Vaughan. I love Nancy Wilson, Coltrane, Nat & Cannonball Adderly, Ahmad Jamal, Herbie Hancock, Jaco, Carmen Mcrae, Nat King Cole. I can go on for days. As much as I love Hip Hop, I am definitely a “Jazz Head”
What are your thoughts regarding the relationship(s) between jazz and hip-hop?
I think the relationship between Jazz and hip hop is in a way more than the sound but more of where and how they are birthed. Jazz was born in a time where people of color just needed an outlet to speak their truth. A space where there is organized/ united “melody” but there will be a point where “I” will tell you about where I’m at, or how I’m feeling [improv element] And hip-hop is the same way. People creating a cool way to speak about whatever “the issue” at hand is; wether it be territory wars, drug wars or sex. Both styles of music come out of a longing to survive and to express. Real Hip-Hop and Real Jazz are two genres that honestly reflected the social climate at the time. And obviously the “Free-style” tradition is a direct response to the improv element which makes jazz, Jazz. No wonder towards the end of his life, the great jazz Man himself Miles Davis put out a song called “Doo-Bop” feat.rapper R.I.F; In my eyes that was a step towards blending the different forms of black music.
What are your thoughts regarding style as it relates to jazz culture?
In my observation it seems in the time when “Jazz was really Jazz” say 20′s to 60′s. The black musicians were dressed to impress. Almost like a way to say, “look at us, we are good classy people. we are not bums, we are artists and we have a craft”. I think people like Wynton Marsalis and the whole Lincoln Center Jazz moment are great examples of that. Redefining how people view musicians. Rejecting the stigma that we are sloppy/careless. “I’m wearing a suite and tie or a cream colored cocktail dress, yet I am plating a very very dirty sax solo.”
What do you think about the Shaolin jazz project?
I think the Shaolin Jazz project is a necessary project in the art scene, especially today. We are living in a time where many jazz lovers/ and musicians are questioning if Jazz will survive. Jazz is definitley having a “Nas- Hip hop Is Dead” moment. Bringing the two together is not only natural but I believe a way to maintain the tradition and perhaps give it a new face and help it trickle down to the next generation. The Dream Girls series also really is an awesome lens to show the masses a different side of black culture, Hip hop culture, and jazz culture.
Lastly, what are some of your upcoming projects and how can people find out more about you?
I’ve Partnered with Canadian Guitarist/Producer Jordan Peters to form a group called Rat Habitat; which blends electronic, hip-hop and roots elements. We will be putting out our debut EP called “Guns that Shoot Bubbles” with a show at The Historic Blue Note Jazz Club in NY on July 5th. I’m also starring in a new webseries called “3L Live Laugh Love”. That will be out soon!
You can check www.melaniejbcharles.com to find out everything
FB: @Rat Habitat.
To see part 1 of the DREAM GIRLS – NYC Summer 2014 photo shoot click here.
To see Part 2 of the DREAM GIRLS – NYC Summer 2014 photo shoot click here.
To see the SHAOLIN JAZZ T-Shirt Melanie’s wearing and our full range of SHAOLIN JAZZ Apparel click here.