Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Singer To Singer: Yazarah aka Purple St. James

To find a word to describe Yazarah aka Purple St. James, is a silly idea. She's a performer you must see live. She effortlessly makes people blush and has no shame while doing so. It is so exciting to witness this energy on and off the stage, still living and breathing in 2010. She's petite but struts a mean stiletto and possesses a voice filled with opera,rock,and soul.

Ledisi: So.. Ms. Purple St. James....Where are you originally from?
St. James: Washington, DC Proper Born and Raised :-) All day honey!!! And a proud graduate of Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

Ledisi:What inspired you to be in this business?

St. James:It wasn't the business at all that inspired me to
live for music...
My story starts in the church at 7 years old,I was so short that the pastor had to hold me up so the congregation could see me when I sung. I had a very mature voice which made it so moving. But, they swore I was in the tot's choir until I was 10 years
old...lol But it was there, were I saw how music could change a heart.And I wanted to be part of what did that, changing a heart and mind for the better. I knew God had given me something special and I wanted to use it
to please him and help people....
When I was 10 I started singing outside of church and my first gig was the Kennedy Center in a youth talent search.
I ended up winning first place and I don't know if it was winning first place, the roar of the crowed or that life size
trophy. But, it was at that moment I knew I wanted to perform for the rest of my life....

Ledisi: You sang background for Ms. Badu, done recordings with Marcus Johnson and most recently formed a partnership and in a group with Grammy Nominated Foreign Exchange, how does it finally feel to complete "The Ballad of Purple St. James" and tell us about the process and the meaning behind the title.

St. James: Yes grace of God I've been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. (Give thanks)
But I feel that I have been really fortunate, to enter into friendship and partnership with Nicolay and Phonte' because out of every musical venture I have been a part of this is the one where I have had the most autonomy.
I've been writing songs with Phonte' now for almost 10yrs now and Nicolay has become a music brother as well...
They believe in my talent and the vision I have for my career.... Working with them brought back the joy I had previously lost for making music.I didn't have to write the perfect record for the music business working with them, I just had to write the best record for me. They really set out to help me produce my truth... And it's resonating with people.
Gotta admit it's excellent middle finger to the previous situation I was in where I was told that people didn't like my first record "Hear Me" and that my image (lack of racial ambiguity) was why I couldn't sell records....
God be thanked nether of those things are a problem now. Weren't then, and now I have proof that truth sales records... (Humbly sticks out tongue)

It was after my last deal that Ms. St. James was born....The very mention of my name caused me so much pain I went in to writers block and then depression. I had been forced to put out a record that had confused my fans I almost lost everything I cared about.... Including the joy of making music.

After a while I emotionally recovered and decided not to quit completely,folks like you Ledisi and Anthony Hamilton particularly made me jump back in the saddle again.Your encouragement and that of others was priceless.
But I still wasn't sold on making another record. I started writing songs in hopes of landing them on other artists, as well as singing hooks. And started writing under the name Purple St. James.The name triggered something in me, I was writing songs without boxes (meaning without worrying about what people thought) And eventually got the courage to start working on my own project and because "Purple" was the key to my brand new freedom I decided to dedicate this
album to her. Later I teamed up with Phonte and Nicolay to finish the remainder of the project and the rest is history.
I almost feel like I'm introducing myself for the first time.
Because this is the type project I've always wanted to do...

Ledisi: When people come to your live shows it's very erotic in a Grace Jones kinda way and your energy is electric.Lol!What do you hope people will take from seeing you live and experiencing your music in their ears?

St. James: Well....lol I really believe that my fans deserve my absolute best so I take what I do on albums and turn it up ten notches. I'm willing to work myself into an asthma attack to make sure leave full and satisfied.
I've always said my shows are half juke joint, half church service.

Ledisi: Yes, Half juke joint , half church service.(Laughing)

St. James: You'll leave my show energized,spiritually full and yes maybe even ready to make love...lol

Ledisi: (Laughing)What do you love most about being a woman and being a chocolate woman?

St. James: Hemmm...What I love about being a woman is the opportunity to be just as strong and fearless
as my male colleagues. But to quote "LL. Kool J" also "surrender act tender be gentle and kind".-Round the Way Girl
Now what I love about being a chocolate woman, is that now that I've grown a little.
I don't focus as much on others making it handicap. I am Ghanaian and in Africa we come in many shades shapes and sizes. Just like here in the states.But being an american born african I feel like the states is the most guilty of dividing up our beauty by shades...
So I guess aside from representing my more chocolaty sistah's (who don't get as much shine as I would like to see) I'm glad to just represent beautiful African women as a whole.That's the angle I want to focus on now, because there are already enough people trying to make Africans and the afro-american community divide itself by color cast....
And our little brown babies of all shades need desperately to see us shake this off so we can focus on the real issues.
Like economic diversity and equal education and strengthening the black family...

Ledisi: Wow.. great answer! What have you learned that you wish someone told you before becoming an artist?

St. James: It's okay to say no, and to let go of things that glitter but are not golden.Please me first than I can focus I the rest of the world around me.I've learned how to protect my peace and make it important to me tell my truth and not worrying so much about what the world thinks about it.
So glad I know that now...

Ledisi: Alright here comes a bunch of quick questions. What is your favorite word?

St. James Awww....I don't know if I should say....My favorite word is Shiiiiitttt! and when I say it I mean it.May I use it in a sentence....

Ledisi: This is your interview you say what you want!(laughing)

St. James: "Shit I wish they would"...lol or " I was laughing like shiiiiiiit!"
I know I'm wrong but it feels so right when I'm saying it, smh (hanging head in shame)

Ledisi: (Laughing) What is your favorite sound?

St. James:The Ocean at night.Brings me so much peace, I really get some of my greatest revelations at the beach or lakeside.
Could be because I'm a Cancer and we are most relaxed near the water...

Ledisi: What do you love?

St. James:God, Music, Family (In that order)

Ledisi: Who do you listen to the most?

St. James: My Heart (Trick Answer)...lol



  1. Thanks so much Led for sharing my work and letting me tell my story....
    In a world where many do not use their platform to share you did and I will be 4ever appreciative of that.

    Love Always

  2. Great interview. Coming from someone that knew both of you in your early stages & have watched you go through the fires & grow into STELLAR artist, I felt where the interview was coming from. Continued success to both of you.

    Love ya
    Duane Powell