Next month, Singer, Songwriter, Tawatha Agee, is touring on the West Coast. She's giving fans a few ditty's from her principal album, Welcome to my Dream, as well as hits from collaboration efforts with group, MTume.
Agee retired as a chanteuse during the late eighties, but she still traveled and sung background for other legendary artist that were poppin back then. So, technically, this is the first time in a long while that she's presented new music as a soloist.
"During 2018, I'll be working as a solo artist," Agee shared.
"I'm really looking forward to that because we are going to have a lot of good things. People that loved Mtume are going to hear Mtume songs, [and] they are going to hear some of my songs. Everybody's going to love it because I'm going to have something for your mother and [music] for you.
I'm looking forward to singing— The joy of singing. If I can touch just one person in the audience, I'll be happy. That one person might be myself," laughed Agee."
As for our readers who aren't familiar with Tawatha Agee's musical catalog, she is the stunning voice behind Mtume's adoration track, Juicy Fruit.
Agee released more singles alongside Mtume circa 1985, and she finally released her own album called Welcome to my Dream in 1987.
Of course, Agee had a couple hits spinning from that solo debut. For starters, Thigh High and breakup-to-makeup tribute, No More Tears, they both served as sensual offsprings from the record.
Afterwards, Agee sang background with the industry's most celebrated, like Aretha Franklin, Lenny Kravitz, the late icons, Luther Vandross and David Bowie.
Keeping a rapport with her infinite day-one’s, Mtume, Agee continued to tour with them, as she has for several decades.
In fact, their melodies are still being sampled by musicians and record producers. During a recent interview with the Breakfast Club, Mtume said that Juicy Fruit was swatched over seventy times.
The late Notorious Big (featuring Total) used the instrumentals in 1994 for his breakout album, Ready to Die, with "Juicy " being that relevant mix for generations.
Juicy Fruit Video/Music
Tawatha Agee and James Mtume
Low and behold, it resurfaced again in 2007 for Keyshia Cole’s single (featuring Missy Elliot) “Let it Go.”
Agee said that she hasn't heard any samples using her vocals, but she's listened to the mixes from other artist.
"I like it when they sample [Juicy Fruit] as along as they get permission," laughed Agee. " The main thing is that they get permission, and not just do it. I think we were one of the first [albums] to be sampled.
It was a process. Finally, people realized that you needed permission [to sample a published recording], and not just take the song. I love it because when they sample, like with Biggie and Keyshia Cole, they always added something that made it more musical.
Keyshia Cole and Missy Elliot changed the melody of the track, but you can still hear Juicy underneath. For me, that was a perfect marriage."
Agee is no stranger to making everlasting hits with a certain contrast for communication and romance.
She agrees that songs like Thigh High, You Me and He, as well as Juicy Fruit imparted provocative mystery, more than music that's played on airwaves today.
"I loved it... Obviously, I've never had a problem with being blunt, and compared to today, ‘Juicy Fruit’ is tamed. We were very tamed compared to what's played presently. Radio stations said, ‘Juicy Fruit’ was risky back in the day, and they didn't want to play it in the daytime because it was more of a quiet storm [bedroom musical] format.
After people heard the song, they started requesting it in the daytime. The people loved it so much that the radio stations were forced to play that song— And then it just took off.
Music, now, it's different in the name of art."
Agee confirms that ‘Juicy Fruit’ is just a song that people loved. She also shared that the melodies represented freedom of expression.
"It was a conversation... I think when a child listened to it, the song was one thing; but when an adult listened to it, Juicy Fruit was something else.”
You, Me and He
No More Tears
The latter song above, [our favourtie] is a romantic ballad from Agee's freshman album, Welcome to my Dream.
“No More Tears” is a melancholy melody that pleads to listeners with both sultry and groovy tempos.. Agee’s soothing libretto exposes the misleading elements of love from one broken heart to the next.
"I wanted to write something that everyone had gone through. Everyone is hurt one time or another. I tried to do it from that perspective of hurt. It's things that you would hear in a beauty salon, or things about life that's compiled."
Agee said that she's making more music, and hopes to release it during the later parts of 2018.
"I'm about to embark on a tour and I'll be on the West Coast staring in February. That's what we are doing now. We are also starting a solo project on me. That should be out by the end of the year. I'm looking forward to doing that. It'll be with Mtume, and some music standards, soul standards, maybe a jazz piece or two.
There are many facets to my voice. I'm going to do more than what you heard back in the day. It will be a nice cross- selection of music. It's going to be great. I can't wait to do it. It's a very exciting time for me.”
Agee crossed the milestone if there is one to be had, for working consistently with the same band members and artistic crusaders for the last thirty years.
She said that she and group founder, James Mtume, met when she graduated college.
Mtume looked for members so he could form a group, so during that time, Agee worked alongside Angela Wimbush and Richard Smallwood.
Agee said that she was honest with her musical goals when she met Mtume. They both were honest with their craft.
"We were very honest, and we never tried to blend in with whatever was going on. I think that we tried to stay independent and innovative.
I think it's wrong if you're a new artist, and a record company is interested in you— You got to maintain your individuality. That's the key. Don't let them put you in a cookie cutter thing. The new people that are coming out today, or back then, like Erykah Badu— She changed the landscape. D'Angelo, he changed the landscape. Then, there was Mint Condition. Now, there's Ro James and Robert Glasper, Lalah Hathaway and Ledasi.
Overall, those people are very unique, and they have a unique style. I think that's the key to maintaining your individuality in all this sameness of the music company'"
Agee preached from a knowing and familiar place, didn't she?
If Agee could change something in musicianship today, she'd like to see a variety of styles instead of the same tempos.
"I think you should develop your greatness. Keep that and hold on to that. Do it because you know you have something to offer, not because you look like the last three girls that had hits. Eventually, you're going to have to sing or play. It's not always about looking the part. You must have talent in addition to that. If you focus on your talent and presentation, I think you will go a long way, and without a record company because there are a lot of underground things going on," Agee assured.
Speaking of other things...
“It’s the next chapter of my life. We all have chapters, and this is one of my chapters. For instance, "Juicy" was a chapter. Now, with the continuation of working and living, those are chapters of our lives.
This is the next chapter of life for Tawatha," she spoke eloquently.
Agee is starting this new chapter as a new artist...
"As an old artist returning, " joked Agee.
"It's an exciting time right now. When I was coming up, before, there was a big record company that took care of everything. Now, it's like we do it on the internet. Now, I have more control over what I want to do, and how I want to present myself. I don't have to be the cookie cutter thing that the label wanted you to be.
I remember back then, Jody Watley had a song, "I'm looking for a new love," and all the girls started looking like that [She’s not lying]. When women had the big hit record, every artist after that, had to have something similar to what people already heard, opposed to being innovative. They wanted something that already worked, opposed to doing something different.. Music was about being the same."
Agee said that if she could share the stage with anyone, she'd want to tear it up with Bruno Mars, Jay Z, Luke James, Bilal, D'Angelo, Donni Hathaway and Marvin Gaye.
"I would love to work with the Temptations. I already worked with Aretha Franklin. I'm a background singer for her occasionally. I worked with Aretha, a woman who sings so well that sometimes, I forget to sing. Sometimes, I'm in tears. She will sing me to tears because she sounds so amazing. Oh, my God, there are so many people, Tawanda.
I would like to share the stage with Ledaci. She's what I call a flat-footed singer. She can stand at the mic and wear you out.
Stephanie Mills, is one of the most amazing— She puts on the most amazing shows, ever. It's so many people that I'm blanking out now.
"I love the singer, Jessie J. On the Soul Train Awards, she did a tribute to Toni Braxton, and she sang with Ro James and Luke James. She has an amazing voice."
If you haven't learned anything else about Tawatha Agee, then the facts make it evidently clear that she doesn't follow the trend of whats hot. She listens to artist that speak to her soul— Like, literally, they move her into a profound element of thought and fascination. That spine tingling type of talent.
Agee is knowledgeable of many different levels of Hip hop, Pop and R&B.
"I'd be stuck in a rut if I only listened to old people," she laughed.
"I might be old, but I don't want to listen to old people."
Agee said that she respects Beyonce because Queen Bey put the work in like MC Hammer did when he came out.
"I saw her perform with Kendrick Lamar when he was on the Grammy's and it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.
Kendrick Lamar tore it up— Beyonce, she is in another category. She has her own category. She is the Queen Bey.
I worked with a lot of different genre's of people. I've done a lot of pop things. I work with a lot of pop-people, so I get a chance to see fortunately and unfortunately, that they have more liberty to do different things when they're performing. When they are writing songs, they have more to sing about and play about.
For some reason, when you hear Black people, we can only be confined to love or sex. Country people can sing about the green grass, the trees, and the flowers blooming, and it can be a hit. We are more confined into subject matter that we can sing about.
You can get, Alicia Keys, Jay Z, and the facade. There are just a few in that category [of content], and the Mary's... Mary J. Blige-- Oh, my God. Who can forget about Mary, the "Queen of Ghetto Pain. Who doesn't love Mary?"
Agee went on to say that it's all about giving the people what they want. She also shared that she prefers Kendrick Lamar's work over Jay z... No offence Hov.
"I got to say, Kendrick, because that, "To Pimp a Butterfly— He used so many people and so many different artist on there [the project]. I love that. Both of them are good, but if I have to choose one, at this present time, I'm going to take Kendrick Lamar. Tomorrow, I might say Jay Z. Right now, I'm feeling Kendrick."
Not backing down from her missives regarding musical culture, Agee is the brains and beauty wrapped into one thoughtful package of awesomeness.
And using that theory, we're closing out this session with Agee's assessment in mind.
"I have a quote for everybody, "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
Make sure to follow her on social media-- And stay tuned!
Click links below for tour dates and social media followup.
Tawatha Agee's tour dates for 2018
February 9, 2018: Fresno, California at the Selland Arena
February 10, 2018: Anaheim, California at the Honda Center
February 16, 2018: Phoenix, Arizona at the Talking Stick Resort Arena
Connect with Tawath Agee online: