Alternative, electronic rock and opera, artists/writer/musician, Shahidah Omar, has a style of her own, and we DIG IT. Her song, “Stop the War,” makes you want to stand, pump your fist and chant the song’s title over and over again until the message is clear that we want our troops home and safe with their families.
Her album, “Freedom,” is music with cause; it is a movement…Shahidah’s movement.
The beautiful songstress is the wife of Comedian J.B. Smoove most known for his writing and skits on “Saturday Night Live.” While her husband fills our souls with laughter, she tugs at our heart strings with her purposeful gift of song.
– La Tasha K. Mason
Follow me on Twitter @Tash1216
Shahidah Omar is: “Electrifying”
You have been singing since you were only 3 years-old, most people start off singing in their church choir or humming along to their parents’ favorite songs; how did you at such a young age get noticed as someone who can really sing?
I didn’t grow up with a church upbringing. I was raised in a Muslim household. So, I didn’t get the gospel side of music (which I really respect) in my bones. However, My Mother is a huge arts lover and she played music from all over the world in every genre. She sang me to sleep at night. I was told she sang to me in her belly. I swear for some reason, I feel like I remember that. I was a closet singer, so it took a while for me to get noticed. I would go in our basement and sing, hoping no one could hear me. I got louder and louder over the years. My mother heard me belting out songs behind closed doors and decided to enter me into the school choir. I was very shy but the love and praise I received from the choir teachers, students and audiences I sang in front of gave me the confidence to finally claim it out loud.
You did a lot of work and gained quite a bit of musical experience in Chicago. Tell me about that.
Yes, I did. Along with the school choirs, I was in performing arts programs. I was a vocal major, and I became classically trained in opera. I participated in many opera competitions and was honored with many medals and awards. I sang at community events and so forth. I am also a trained dancer so I spent lots of time touring, singing and dancing in stage plays. I was a background dancer for platinum recording artist, Avante. I battled in many dance competitions with my street dance group. And, I was in several singing groups including one by the name of ENCINQ. We had to drop the name when our manager attempted to register it and discovered (NSYNC) had already been registered. I went through record deals and signing ordeals. I stepped back and decided to focus on my music only as a solo artist.
You’ve tried your hand at various genres of music and now have settled on a style that is being described as unique. Tell me about your attempt to go R&B and why that didn‘t work for you.
How do you define your musical flavor and your approach to creating what you are passionate about but also engage diverse audiences.
I love all styles of music. I have performed and recorded many genres so that I could find the sound I feel works best for and with who I am. I love vocally being in many places. But, I felt stuck when I settled on a sound that felt limiting. So, I infuse sounds. Now I get to sing the music that I identify with most. I have been an alternative/rock music lover forever. However, being raised with so many fascinating genres in my memory bank pushed me creatively to not just settle there either. The beauty in going independent is that it’s okay to do that. As long as my fans are interested in taking that ride with me, I am happy. So, far my audiences have been diverse and seek the out of the box experience.
You write, arrange, engineer and produce your own vocals in your own studio, HOT PINK STUDIOS.
Do you write and do vocal arrangements for any other artists? If so, who? If not, is that something that you’ve thought about doing or would consider doing?
Yes, I have been blessed to build a home studio of my own where I can give myself true quality time. I have worked writing with and for artists in the past. They were all on independent labels as well. I would absolutely love to do it today. I have a more mature way of thinking, and I focus on real issues. The creation process would be more experienced and much better.
Tell me about your album, “Freedom”. It’s been defined as a movement and liberation for you.
What is your movement?
What message are you portraying through your music?
My movement is exactly that, “FREEDOM!” I have the Freedom to be exactly who I am. So do you. So does everyone else. Having the Freedom to choose to live as your true self and being liberated through that…Whatever that is.
However, my personal limit is on those individuals who have no respect for anyone else, the world, or anything in this world. That’s not “Freedom.” That’s Wack! This is for personal Freedoms.
The authentic self that is most connected with the universe and contributing to the world as best we can. Also, my movement to “Stop The War” (a song from my album “Freedom”) of Father Less Homes, is my featured campaign of 2012. Stop The War* of Father Less Homes Campaign! Please bring fathers the clear mind of their necessity back!
Who would you say influenced you the most musically?
My mother influenced me the most musically. It was because of her desire to listen to music from all over the world that inspired me to appreciate all the arts as a whole. This is why I love to mix sounds in my music. I love to hear all nuances together as one.
She loved the smooth side of vocals with intricate musicality. She is really into clever movements and harmonies. A song like, “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” was played in my house a lot. I believe listening to songs like that contributed to my love of harmonies and background vocals. I now stay up all night creating those sounds using just my voice.
You’re married to Comedian, J. B. Smoove (he and I share the same birthday, by the way). How did the two of you meet and how long have you been together?
Oh Yeah the Beautiful Sag…Yes, my Amazingly Brilliant minded, JB Smoove. I am so blessed to have him, and we have been together for quite some time. It’s a beautiful thing. We consider our relationship timeless.
What role does your husband play in your career professionally and personally?
We are each other’s biggest fans. We both know the struggles of the business so we praise even the smallest accomplishments. We support each other.
If I were to ask J. B. Smoove who his favorite singer is, would his answer by Shahidah Omar? And if I asked you who your favorite comedian is, would your answer be J. B. Smoove?
You Damn Right!
I read somewhere that you are working on your merchandise line. What type of merchandise line are you working on? When can we expect to see and purchase your products?
Yes, I am working on some amazing ideas for my merchandise line. I am very excited. It will definitely revolve around the personality and energy of the Shahidah Omar brand. The line details are on the hush right now. I am looking forward to launching it very soon.
I know that you have been doing shows. Tell me about some of those performances and who you’ve worked/performed with. When and where is your upcoming performances and when can we look forward to a tour?
Yes, I have been performing for many years. I have worked with some great artists. Recently, the most exciting performances were at “Bonnaroo’s” music and arts festival in Manchester, Tennessee. It had 100,000 fans there and every artist/musician you can imagine performed there as well.
From Bootsie Collins to Eminem. That musician’s roster was off the chain! I loved it! In the past, I have performed concerts and opened for platinum artists such as Anthony Hamilton and KEM. I am hoping to tour the UK next.
Who haven’t you work with that you would love to work with?
Prince, Mos Def, Common, B.O.B. Lenny Kravitz, Sting, Seal, U2 and The Cranberries are among my ideal favorites to work with someday.
What artists/songs can we expect to find in your iPod?
The Cranberries, Dave Mathews, The Gorillas, Mos Def, B.O.B, Prince, Bush, OutKast, Common, Eurythmics, The Art Of Noise, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Juliette Lewis, Joan Jett, Stevie Nicks, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Peter Gabriel, Lenny Kravitz, U2, Bosa Nova, Marvin Gaye, Al Green… I could really go on and on now… Oh and there’s also this fresh new artist by the name of Shahidah Omar that I am very fond of
Are you an independent artist or are you signed to a label? If so, what label?
Yes, I am an independent artist released through my own label, “East Seventy-Fourth Entertainment LLC.”
Yes, I have had acting roles in films and television. Films such as “Graduation Night” and “Living The Dream” were films I had a more significant role in. Television such as Days Of Our Lives and Son Of The Beach were also. I also have done several online pieces with my hubby JB Smoove. You can see some of that on his website www.theruckus.com
Although this is your first album release, your music was heard on several TV shows, films, etc. On which shows, etc., might we have heard your music?
The most popular television show featuring my music is “Girlfriends.” It is still being played today through syndication. Films such as Emmy Nominated “Walking On Sunshine” and “Living The Dream” also featured my music. My operatic vocals were featured in a Venus Bridal Commercial as well. The best yet though was performing and debuting my album “Freedom” Live on “The Bonnie Hunt Show,” a network television talk show.
Now that’s a long way from singing in the basement.
Are there any charitable causes that you support and why are they important to you?
Absolutely! As I mentioned earlier, my own campaign “Stop The War” of Father Less Homes. This is extremely important to me. I was blessed to have a responsible leader as a father, home every night. My father started his own business, “Omar on the Nile,” a fruit and vegetable soft drink, which is a Chicago historical stamp to this day. He passed away, but my memories of his lessons hold dear to me in my everyday movement. That’s what’s important. Homes need parents that are present in mind body and spirit. It is extremely important for the make-up of the youth. “The Water Keeper Alliance” is also an amazing campaign that I hugely support. Their focus is to keep our waters free of pollution for the creatures that reside there, for our daily usage of water and also human consumption of seafood. (Although I am Vegetarian A “Green” life is important to me in all aspects).
Where do you see your life and career in the next 5 years?
Life: Hopefully being a part of change. Change in the world for the better. Career: Being accomplished in areas that I am working towards today.
So when I look back over those five years, I can say yes good girl… time not wasted!
Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for Shahidah Omar…