The Recording Academy Memphis Chapter played host for GRAMMYs On The Road At The 2012 Essence Music Festival held July 5–8 in New Orleans. The Chapter conducted exclusive backstage interviews with artists performing at the festival, including hip-hop artist Dee-1 and R&B/pop singer/songwriter Kourtney Heart.
Dee-1 discussed the atmosphere of the 2012 Essence Music Festival, how New Orleans has inspired him as an artist and advice for aspiring artists, among other topics.
"I think the essence of [the] Essence [Music] Festival is positive vibes, and the expectation is real high when it comes to the music [attendees] expect to hear," said Dee-1. "All the performers definitely have to bring their A game."
Born David Augustine in New Orleans, Dee-1 attended Louisiana State University and subsequently became a middle school teacher in Baton Rouge, La., as a means to fund his music-related projects. With lyrics that focus on self-empowerment and the development of what he calls "mission vision," Dee-1 released several mixtapes, including Still We Rise (2006) and I Am Who I Am (2008). In 2009 Dee-1 independently released his first full-length album, David & Goliath. A year later he founded his own record label, OMAR Entertainment, which stands for One Man Army Rebel. Dee-1's most recent release is an 18-track mixtape, I Hope They Hear Me Vol. 2, the follow-up to 2010's I Hope They Hear Me Vol. 1.5. Dee-1's next project, The Focus Tape, is set for release in September. Dee-1 has toured with hip-hop artists such as Akon, Drake, Lupe Fiasco, Lil Wayne, the Roots, and Trey Songz, among others.
Heart discussed attending the Essence Music Festival as a fan, her musical beginnings and how she chose to become an artist.
"I don't really think it's a choice," said Heart of her career path. "I think it's just natural. It's just in my being because everything I do always migrates back to music. If I was a veterinarian I'd probably be singing to animals."
A New Orleans native, Heart's sound spans R&B and pop and draws on such influences as Beyoncé, Brandy, Paramore's Hayley Williams, and Rihanna. Heart developed a love for performing at an early age and began singing in church, which led to performances at various events and talent shows. In 2009 Heart was discovered at a local talent show by DJ Raj Smoove and subsequently released her first single "Spell It Out." The single "My Boy" followed and in 2010 she released her debut EP Eye Dee Kay. Heart subsequently signed with Jive Records, but was later released from her contract after the label was merged into Epic Label Group in 2011. Earlier this year she independently released A Gemini's Diary, which features the single "Runaway." Heart has plans to release a new album later this year.