Soul Factory Presents: Tre Williams, Chris Rob & Madia

Tre Williams

Williams was born and raised in the projects of Daytona Beach, Florida. He enrolled in Bethune-Cookman College, but dropped out at age 21 and moved to Yonkers, New York to further his career. After an appearance on "Amateur Night at the Apollo" in 2001, he was invited to sing on the title track of Petey Pablo's album, Diary of a Sinner: 1st Entry. In 2005, Williams appeared on the track "I-95" on rap group The L.O.X.'s mixtape Peer Pressure, earning him notice in hip-hop magazine The Source. Williams also put the track on his mixtape, The Street Gospel. Then, in 2006, Williams was featured on "Let There Be Light" on Ill Will Records founder Nas' album, Hip Hop Is Dead, which received play on BET music video show 106 & Park.
Williams had been working on a debut album, The Depth of My Soul, that was expected to be released in 2007, with guest appearances from Nas, Styles P, Kanye West and others. However, the album ended up being shelved indefinitely. Following his stint with Ill Will, Williams began working with Brooklyn, NY based producer Bob Perry. Together they formed a band called The Revelations feat. Tre Williams. Their original lineup included fellow R&B singer/songwriter Rell. The band's music was inspired by vintage soul records from the late 1960s and early 1970s. They released Deep Soul EP in 2008, followed by their full-length debut, entitled The Bleeding Edge, on October 6, 2009. A second full length album Concrete Blues was released in November 2011 on Decision Records/NIA Music.

Chris Rob

Chris Rob is an American musician, native to Chicago and currently resides in New York City. His twist of jazz and cool funk can be witnessed firsthand on the new Leon Ware release "Moon Ride" with the lead single, 'Smoovin', which Chris produced for the industry heavyweight. Chris has made several accomplishments like, opening act at the pre-Grammy brunch sponsored by attorney Londell McMillan and the Artist Empowerment Coalition. He was also featured on both the ASCAP and BMI showcases in lower Manhattan. Chris' first love is playing live and connecting with the audience. You've probably seen him hyping up the audience in the video for 'So High' from John Legend's "Live at The House of Blues" DVD. While on tour as the keyboardist and backup vocalist, he also took on the position of musical director for John Legend's 'Get Lifted' Tour.
Chris was tapped to perform in Washington D.C. for President Barack Obama's inauguration festivities. In addition to his own solo shows, he directs the stage for classic hip hop artists including Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Black Moon, and The Real Live Show. He also collaborates heavily with producers like DJ Spinna (Stevie Wonder) and Devo Springsteen (Britney Spears), makes club hits including his most recent dance single 'Ghetto People' with co-writer and producer DJ Ian Friday. Chris toured with Atlantic Records' artist Laura Izibor as well as his own older brother, actor/comedian Craig Robinson (NBC's "The Office").
His additional stage credits as opening act and supporting musician include Stevie Wonder, Prince & the New Power Generation, Elton John, Snoop Dogg, John Mayer, Ashford & Simpson, Jill Scott, The Roots, The Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys, Barry Manilow, Roberta Flack, Common, Michelle N'degeocello, Cee-lo, Anthony Hamilton, Patti Austin, and Pevin Everett. His television appearances include The Grammy Awards, "Oprah", "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno", "The Office", "Late Night with Conan O'Brien", "The Ellen DeGeneres Show", "Jimmy Kimmel Live!", The Soul Train Awards, "Entertainment Tonight", "Raaymond is Laat" (Amsterdam), "Top of the Pops" (Amsterdam, London), and Jules Holland (London).

Madia

Heartfelt. Inspiring. Authentic. Real. These are but only a handful of traits that describe singer/songwriter Madia and her music. Her sweet, bird-like vocals are pure – silky and smooth with undiluted grace – but she writes songs that cover the roughest and most honest of emotions. The gospel and R&B influences are there, but somehow she draws them together to make something new. “Pop has soul,” Madia describes her sound. She’s clearly not a gaudy diva, but what she lacks in excessive vanity, she makes up for in thoughtful, meticulous songcrafting. If you’ve heard her perform live, you’ve heard something real. Madia’s soul-bearing ways will leave an indelible mark on those who choose to listen.

Performing live is a great joy for the Philadelphia-born, New Jersey-bred vocalist, but her affinity for the written word always has been an undeniable passion. Starting with journal entries in the third grade, Madia would go on to exercise her imagination through poems, short stories, and then songs (but also, not to mention, class notes to cute grade school boys!). This progression was not a difficult one, since music and God played a huge role in family life. Her siblings, parents, and grandmother are all talented vocalists who sang hymns and gospel. “I started singing at age 8. My older brother, by 2 years, sang, and I thought it was like a super power,” Madia recalls. Her upbringing as a Seventh Day Adventist, a strict Protestant denomination, also molded her into a mature, positive, self-respecting woman, “We didn’t wear jewelry or paint our nails or wear makeup. We couldn’t go out on Friday night because it was the Sabbath. Those rules and my parents’ strict adherence to them made me a bit of a natural plain Jane.”

Singing as a part of various choirs and gospel performance groups, Madia learned the craft by doing and allowed the church to cultivate her budding talent. However, she owes just as much credit for her musical maturation to her father, a Liberian (West African) immigrant and avid record collector. Musical icons such as Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston (“She sang out!,” Madia exclaims), Sade, and Cece Winans provided her with a foundation, but Nina Simone also influenced her in what type of artist she wanted to be: “Nina’s talent came through. She didn’t have to ooze sexy. She spoke in a deeper register. She cursed on stage. She kind of did stuff her way. I respect that.” As she continued chasing her muses later on, contemporary artists like Jill Scott, John Mayer, and India Arie were also inspirations in developing her sound.

Once Madia began attending Rutgers University in 1998, many more musical opportunities opened up for her. Plus, she experimented with secular songwriting and performing outside the church for the first time. She tirelessly paid her dues working talent shows and the open mic circuit in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and even Arizona, where she obtained her MBA from Arizona State University in 2008. So, it was definitely a big deal when she earned the chance to open for Black Rob at Rutgers during his “Whoa!” heyday.

Armed with degrees in journalism and Africana studies, the songstress became a “gypsy” – to use her father’s words – and eventually wound up in Washington, D.C., writing for the folks at jazz and indie soul label Three Keys Music. There, she collaborated with quirky soulster and former Erykah Badu backup singer Yahzarah, penning the song, “One Day,” for Yahzarah’s Blackstar (2003) album. However, more importantly, she would meet her now longtime collaborator and producer LaSean.

When this new producer-songwriter tandem returned to Philadelphia, they began recording Madia’s first studio album, The Limit Is the Sky, released under the independent Minx Records in 2003. The gospel-influenced chanteuse embraced her spirited pop side on her debut, wrapping her silky vocals in bouncy beats and feel-good melodies. But even here, there is evidence of her soul-bearing tendencies on “Liberia on My Mind,” where she reflects on the aftermath of the country’s bloody civil wars that claimed over 200,000 lives, “My family experienced real heartbreak with the war in Liberia. A war that lasts that long causes so much pain. I wanted to tell people about it. My grandmother never got to see her home again. She felt so uprooted and I think it broke her heart.” In the winter of 2004, a digital distribution deal gave her broader exposure with music placements on iTunes, Amazon, Napster, Rhapsody, and others. Moreover, The Limit is the Sky has had thousands of downloads worldwide, and not to mention, over 100,000 on Download.com (before CNET revamped the site).

Released in 2005, Madia’s sophomore release, On My Way, was recorded in Phoenix, AZ, another place where her “gypsy” travels landed her. She and LaSean cooked up a little more of the grit of contemporary soul here, but they never strayed from utilizing pop, simple tunes, and inspirational themes. On the closing title track, she reminisces about her Aunt making her start songs from the beginning when she got too nervous or messed up a line, “It definitely made me a stronger singer, and it was a safe place to experiment with my voice.” Love is, of course, a common thread for On My Way, but it’s revealed in several forms, whether it’s about being homesick (“Missing Home”), always having wanted to be like her father (“Just Like You”), or being fed up with an unequal relationship (“No More”). Madia firmly states, “I really feel things. I roll around in how I feel about something. I think it’s therapeutic, because then I can move on.”

Released Valentine’s Day 2012, Madia’s third and latest album, Go Get It, is available now! Her journey to find her voice and improve her songwriting craft is most realized on this latest work. The first single, “Fight for Me,” has made its rounds on internet blogs and playlists. A mixture of soothing soul and grooving, dance floor pop, it shows Madia’s ability to convey her heartfelt message and still reach a broader audience. She chronicles her growth and maturity as an independent woman in Washington, D.C. (“City Girl” and “U Street”) and then “rolls around” in poignant emotions on many other songs (“Forgive & Forget” and “Call Me Crazy” to name a few). There’s something here for everyone. And if you give her the chance, her music will let you feel. Madia chimes in, “I like being genuine… real to the touch.”

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Soul Factory Presents: Tre Williams, Chris Rob & Madia

Saturday, April 27 · Doors 6:30 PM / Show 7:30 PM at DROM

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