BY BRiAN LUSH
Washington-based soul rock songstress TOMEKA WILLIAMS
delivers the sort of debut album that sets her apart from the rest of
divas that have followed the BEYONCE business model to a tee.
Her SIR MIX-A-LOT produced
HOOD’ eschews the frills and the
benign pop psychological heartache that has come to typify much of the
pop set and embraces a rock sensibility that is all piss, vinegar and
stand out track ‘HO’ (I’m hoping this is going to be the first single)
sexual politics as usual. Armed with an irresistible groove and a
similar to BLACK SABBATH’s ‘IRON MAN’, WILLIAMS exposes the disparity
relationship that isn’t going anywhere and proudly proclaims ‘I can’t have game if I don’t play!’
SHE GAVE’ tells the story of a young woman’s loss innocence and trying
on despite having grown disillusioned by love. ‘HEROES’ is more than a
song “for the troops”. On the plaintive ballad, she portrays the troops
as the complex
men and women that they are and not the G.I. JOE action figures that
hear about in KID ROCK and TOBY KEITH songs.
the gospel charged chorus, she pleads the
current president to bring these heroes home.
ROCKWIRED spoke with TOMEKA
WILLIAMS over the phone. Here is
how it went.
HOOD is an
interesting title for this album.
BLACK HOOD is basically one of the songs off of the album
and to be honest, I couldn’t think of anything else to title this
album. It was
one of those songs that took a lot of time to work on and I felt like
be interesting to have an album called BLACK HOOD. I figured that a lot
would look at the title and go ‘what is that?’ and would get people to
that the album is
out there for people to hear and all of the work that has gone into it
behind you, how do you feel about the finished work?
I love the finished work. I’m really proud of the work that
we did on this album. I think it’s a solid album and that it has many
sides to my personality. It’s like my baby so it’s kind of hard to let
out into the world, but I was glad that I was able to do it and to
Hopefully it will get people out there talking and having some
stemming from this album.
and SIR MIX-A-LOT
made a beautiful baby. Now I think I’ve got a title for the article
Yeah! What a beautiful baby! That’s a good one. You’re gonna
get a rumor started that I’m having SIR MIX-A-LOT’s baby! Oh great!
think you’re the
second artist that I’ve interviewed that was produced by SIR MIX-A-LOT.
OUTTASITE was the first.
Oh yeah, he’s awesome – awesome guy.
MIX is a like a big brother to me. I love him dearly. We met
through a mutual friend a couple of years ago.
He heard my demo and I actually didn’t hear from him
again for a couple
of weeks and then he called me up. We actually didn’t talk about music.
talked about what I wanted in life and what I was doing and then we
talk about music. He was very, very patient with me. He was actually
first person that I ever went into the studio with and worked on my own
He groomed me into becoming a better artist and it was just awesome to
totally different from what I expected. You hear the name SIR MIX-A-LOT
think of ‘BABY GOT BACK’. That is the first thing you think about.
thinking that he’s this really cool, intellectual guy. He doesn’t talk
butts all day. It’s been great. We’ve got our moments where I just want
choke him and vice versa but that is what you do when you care about
drew you to
music in the first place?
I’ve been singing since I was about seven. Both of my
parents were very influential in my career as far as music. My dad
all throughout the house and my mother was in the church choir. My
sang and my great grandmother sang so it was just always around me. For
music tells a story. I can relate to it more than anything else. Some
can relate to art and drawings and things like that. I relate to songs
the melody comes to play and the vocals. Every emotion that I could be
I could play a song and reflect on that. I can gather something form
could either feel as if the artist is talking to me or have a sense
that I feel
the same way. Music can do so many things and it’s so universal. It’s
for me to fall in love with.
sort music did
you listen to growing up? What informed the kind of music that you’re
My parents were always very open when it came to music. For
me, R&B and gospel were a big part of my life and when my
family moved up
here to the Northwest, it was a lot of alternative music. There was a
west coast rap here and then through my parents, I listened to a lot of
and R&B and old soul. All of those sounds became infused for
me. I love
live instruments. I love going to a show and seeing someone sing live –
lip-synching – and instruments playing. As far as people that I’ve
it was a combination of everybody from JANIS JOPLIN to PINK to WHITNEY
– who is my idol – to MAHALIA JACKSON. I could name so many people that
been influential in how I view music and how I present myself as a
because in listening to BLACK HOOD, I notice that the album has a
sensibility that – to be hones with you – you don’t hear from a lot of
I agree. I think that we as a society – even black society –
are so used to black music presented as R&B but R&B is
rhythm and blues
and a lot of that comes form rock. We have a lot of that in us. We’ve
LITTLE RICHARD. He rocks! That there is rock! You’ve got JAMES BROWN.
got so much out there. I don’t look at rock as being one category.
There are so
many aspects of it. JIMI HENDRIX is rock n roll and he is a big deal up
The way he could play a guitar was amazing. For me, rock music feels
it carries a lot of emotion in it. You’ve got these huge guitars coming
it makes your heart go ‘wooooooo!’ I wanted that. I wanted to be
norm is to see a pretty black girl out there singing ‘Oh baby I love
home I miss you!’ and I’ve got my own thing. I really wanted to talk
was going on in my life and in the life of my friends. Rock made it
what point did
songwriting figure into your life?
With MIX. I used to try to write. My cousin and I would try
to write songs when I was young and believe me, if you could read some
things that I wrote, you would just die. It was so corny. It was pretty
I thought I could get a deal by singing these songs and they were just
horrible. When I met MIX, we did a lot of talking. All of the songs
conversation and experiences. One
was coming into the studio to record and he was like ‘You know, let’s
here and write.’ We actually wrote the songs on this album together.
how I really started writing and I loved seeing how he would go about
song. It was a great experience.
songs stand out
for you the most and why?
I love the entire album, but ‘HO’ stands out for me the
think you have
a hit with that one.
I really love that song. I think that it’s a really fun song
and it’s catchy. Personally, I love ‘WAY BACK HOME’. It’s a tribute to
roots. It’s dedicated to my grandfather. I love that song. It reminds
home in so many respects. I love the title track ‘BLACK HOOD’. It’s an
face type of song and I like in your face type of songs. I like songs
you think. There are so many songs on this album like ‘GIRLFRIEND’. The
that I always had issues with was ‘THINK ABOUT ME’, which is the last
the album. I love that song, but I was so afraid of how it would come
that it’s actually on the album and now that I’ve listened to it a
times, I think that it’s a really good song and definitely one of my
songs as well.
there any live
shows at the moment?
We’re gearing up for some live shows now. I’ve just put
together this awesome band and we actually did a few rehearsals this
and we’re going back into rehearsal made this weekend and we’re looking
more shows next month and the month after. Hopefully people will get
and start requesting to see me. I definitely have a really good show. I
it will be great for people to start going back to seeing live shows
hearing great music. It’s all about crowd participation with me.
you gotten any
feedback with regard to the sound that you’re putting out now? Has it
along the lines of ‘what is this’?
Most of the feedback that I’ve gotten is mostly good
feedback. A lot of people are saying that it’s very refreshing and that
different than what the norm is right now. I know that tin this
not everyone is going to like what you do but I make music for the
will like it. I personally think of this as soul rock. My music is soul
because I’m not a hardcore rock person. That’s not who I am but I do
good music of all facets. For this album, we wanted live instruments.
what many people think, MIX is a rock guy. I was so shocked. You would
that because he is a rapper and did ‘BABY GOT BACK’ that he wouldn’t be
things like KORN and SLIPKNOT. He’s actually turned me on to more rock
than I was into before I started working with him.
gonna have to
interview him one day just so I can get a sense of this myself.
time I think of
his name, I think of two large, brown, butt cheeks squished together.
not the first to tell me that MIX is a rock guy, so I’d love to talk
He’s a great guy and he’s very open. As a society I think we
need to get to the point where music is music. I love country. I love
of music. If it’s good music and it touches my soul then I like it and
care what color the person is. If we could get that going, then there
so much damage out here. There are a lot of talented people out here.
came out, she was R&B but that wasn’t her. Then she came out a
and did it here way. I love music. She’s true to herself and is still
get that back audience or that R&B audience. The music she is
is good music. For me that is the biggest thing – putting out good
opening of ‘HO’,
is that you and MIX on the phone?
Improvised! Definitely improvised! He is not a scripted
person, believe me.
was too funny!!
That’s why I was like ‘Darts? Are you kidding me?’ That’s
how we are. When we get together, we talk and that is always the best
us to do things. We knew that the song was great but we needed a way to
it in. We had to gear people up for it. He was recording and I didn’t
that he was recording. He is not a scripted person at all and that is
love about him. He has taught me so much by being on the road with him
learning to be able to be on the fly and to be able to relate to your
Prior to meeting MIX, I used to sing at talent shows and the church
everything there is so confined and perfect. You had to look like this,
like this and act like this. With MIX, it’s an audience that stands up
screams and moves. They don’t just sit there and watch you. It’s
different. I got to put a little bit of myself in there and what I know
past. It’s been a wonderful ride so far and I can’t wait to get out
do some shows and see what I can do.
would you like
someone to come away with after they’ve heard this album?
I would like people to come away realizing that there are
many side to a person and that it’s okay to talk about these things.
that these songs bring about conversation. Maybe someone could listen
sing like ‘HO’ and know that they’ve been in that situation or maybe
listen to a song like ‘WHAT SHE GAVE’ and a young woman can come to the
realization that they don’t want to be in that position. I think the
every personality that I have and everything about me and hopefully it
touch someone else.