Multi-Instrumentalist/Producer Zo! is Detroit-area born and raised, Lorenzo Ferguson.

Music was always present in and around the Ferguson house, which led to Zo! taking piano lessons at age 6… which he absolutely despised. The idea of working toward a Major League Baseball career served as the greatest inspiration through his teenage years much more so than the concept of practicing music. After his parents consistently pushed and encouraged him to stick with music, Zo! discovered a newfound passion by teaching himself how to play piano by ear by age 11. Zo! got his production start in 1992 when his parents brought home a Proteus MPS keyboard and a Brother PDC100 sequencer for him to figure out. Since then, he has emphasized the use of live instrumentation as the blueprint for his music while constantly looking to expand his sound with each album release.

Carmen Rodgers

Time is something many of us take for granted. We waste minutes, hours, days or years wishing and hoping, rather than doing or positioning ourselves for our time. Carmen Rodgers takes advantage of the time she's given, creating opportunities for herself through relationships and effort, then she writes a few songs about it. It's been over ten years since she released her debut album Free, but the time is perfect for Stargazer, her latest offering of experiences, wishes, hopes and love.

Pushing her own creativity, Rodgers added a 14-piece string section to this album, as she aimed to make a "complete" album—complete in the sense that it reaches all emotions lyrically and the production provoke the same results. It took some time for this album to come together; the form of it changed a few times, taking its final turn after connecting with Zo! and the Foreign Exchange and allowing the vibe developed by the acts take her on the road. It was that time spent with Phonte, Nicolay and Zo! that created the space for Stargazer to meld into a cohesive project.

he origins of this album began back in Dallas, Texas in the imagination of a little girl; that little girl dreamed of singing her songs with crowds of people who knew and felt the words she was singing. Fast forward a few years and that little girl is traveling with N'Dambi, still dreaming of being in front, when one day she finally steps out into a changing music business. As the major labels looked to clone megastars and provide little attention to "niche" artists, Carmen Rodgers went the independent route to release Free. It wasn't long before she learned Industry Rule #4080 (record company people are shady) was more than a line from a Tribe Called Quest song, and it became part of her life. In the ten years since, she's grown, not only as an artist, but as a businesswoman. She found that she could no longer defer to the experience or expertise of others without cementing who she was first. She says, "I had to understand who I was as an artist, what I wanted for my career and then embrace that", that became her focus, among so-called experts and music-biz types.

Having grown her fan base organically, Rodgers didn't attempt to reinvent her wheel on her new album, instead she expanded on her sound. The string arrangements perfectly wed her lyrics and voice; the evidence can be found on the elegant "Charge," which features Anthony David and took on a new life after the strings were added to the song. The song is sexy, but the romance is accented by the production. There's something about the arrangement of "Patience" that makes unrequited love feel so whimsical. She sings, "I keep my distance out of respect to you and your girl/I'll be content with having your friendship…for now," and you completely forget that she's plotting on another woman's man. It sounds so damn good. The bouncy, live instrumentation of "Camille Leon" is a cautionary tale of the pursuit of fame.

Having just wrapped the first leg of her promotional run, Carmen Rodgers is allowing the people to get to know her as she is now. She recently filmed a steamy video for "Charge," which is due this month, and a video for the title track, which will follow. She encourages fans and those who've newly discovered her to share her with their friends and other music lovers, not to try to keep her or her music in their pocket, because they feel others aren't up on her. We can all start today by purchasing Stargazer—which is released on her own Candigirl Records (distributed by Nia/eOne)…

Al-Lateef Farmer

Look for Carmen Rodgers in a city, on a screen or on a radio near you. Also, look for Carmen's previous projects "Free" and "The Bitter Suite" with her hit single "It's Me" which won for MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR at the Bronze Lens Film Festival.

Acknowledging that each of us has a priceless gift that we must connect to and share with the world, Bashiri has been cultivating a relationship with his voice since childhood. From shoo-wop style singing groups and classical vocal training, to performances local and abroad, his vocal prowess has been growing into the soul-stirring entity it is known as today. The influences of Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding echo in his performance, and those coupled with his own strength and passion have come together to create his version of true soul music, termed "IndySoul." Seeking to join the ranks of other independent artists looking to breathe new life into the soul music scene, Bashiri has begun to make a name for himself, not just around the region, but around the world. Humble in his approach, relentless in his delivery, you have to experience it to truly understand.


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