August 7, 2010

A fellow blogger and one of my best friends, Nic, slipped me a CD in the mail a few years ago.  Never one to deny music, I eagerly popped in disc and listened.  What I heard would be one of the rawest and truest voices in music and one of the most criminally unheard–that of Joi.  I’ve since considered myself a real fan.  I find her fascinating, enthralling, personal.  I live for her music, her aesthetics, her story.  After reading a fantastic piece on her done by Creative Loafing, I wanted to do my own homage to the funky underground ATLien songstress.

Joi emerged on the scene in 1994 with the assistance of a young Dallas Austin (who would later work with Madonna, TLC, and others).  Together the two would create a debut album, titled “The Pendulum Vibe,” that was heralded as one of the year’s best but considered a commercial disappointment.  Yielding, the eternally haunting, “Sunshine and the Rain,” the album would eventually go out of print.  I have my copy, of course.

After industry setbacks and a shelved album that many consider some of her best work to date (called Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome” that can be found online in digital format), Joi re-emerged in the public eye with the funky “Star Kitty’s Revenge” yielding the low-key delight “Lick,” featured in the film XXX.  However, again, the album and Joi failed to make a connection with mainstream listeners.  However, the album, like the previous two, was considered a piece of musical perfection.

Taking the reigns to her own career, Joi released her last album (the soulful “Tennessee Slim is the Bomb”) to successful feedback, both critically and commercially (for an independent release).  She has become a staple in the Atlanta music scene and is considered an influence by some of the greatest artists around (Erykah Badu is a close friend and admirer).  After putting in work on long-time supporter Big Boi’s latest release, she is gearing up to release another album with her musical counterpart and significant other, Devon Lee, under the moniker Hot, Heavy & Bad.  The new music that has been revelead thus far still maintains the musical elements that make Joi such a force of nature but it feels different and new but more importantly, exciting.

Her latest video for the track, “One.”

How does such a hardworking woman slide relatively under the radar to most music connoisseurs for more than 15 years?  Like one of her inspirations and one of my favorite funk artists, Betty Davis, her music seems to be too bold and unique for its time.  So, what does that say about us as musical consumers then?  In a time when the music indsutry is slowly catching up to the progressiveness and uniqueness of the listening audience, I can only hope that an artist such as Joi would find the success she deserves, ten fold.

Credit: Creative Loafing / clatl.com

So I ask that you take a listen with an open mind, it could very well be the best thing you’ve heard this century.  Success is success at any age (ask Betty Davis or Bettye LaVette) but Joi deserves it now–truth be told, she deserved it 15 years ago.  Give her some love, share in my love for her, and en(joi).


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