Tues Aug 23, Chop Suey, 8 pm, $12.50 adv.
When talented soul singer Choklate (Kolesta Moore) relocated to Seattle four years ago from Southern California, she immediately became involved with the local hiphop and R&B scene. "All my girlfriends [in San Diego] started spitting out kids and nothing was really going on," she explains, "and so I thought it was time to leave. I was born in Seattle, my family lives here, and so I got a truck, headed up north, arrived at my brother's house, and there was a music studio in front of me." Her brother, Mike Daniels, is the owner and engineer of Common Sense Studio, which is located in South Seattle. "I've heard everything come out of that studio, except country and rock," she says, "and being surrounded by all of that music (gospel, hiphop, jazz, blues) activity got me thinking about writing and performing my own songs... It all started in that studio."
Before moving back to Seattle, Choklate had only a mild interest in music, which is amazing because there is nothing about her singing that sounds amateurish. The quality of her voice and phrasing matches that of a person who has been trained from an early age. Growing up, Choklate was exposed to music (particularly gospel), but she wasn't inspired to become a musician. "My mother's father was in the first band that Jimi Hendrix played with in Seattle. He is mentioned in Hendrix's new biography. Grandpa was the one who went to school for music, but everyone after that didn't receive any training. My brother became a fireman, my sister used to be a vocalist for a choir, but it wasn't a serious thing, and my mother can hold a decent note. But none of us have been trained. We are self-taught. It all comes from the soul."
Choklate's approach is not powerful or pop-polished, but rich, mature, and effortless. She's also a great songwriter, and has a knack for coming up with odd but catchy lines, such as the following untitled track from an unreleased collection called Hooks and Hits: "Please believe what you want to believe but leave me to do me... Can't nobody to do me better than me." Her brother produced and engineered her first record, Sound Sessions Vol. 1, which she claims was the incubator for her craft. "During the recording of that album, I was introduced to punctuality, professionalism, and the politics of the game. [My brother] made sure, musically, that I had a canvas to discover and work on my voice." She later met Jonathan Moore of Jasiri Management ("One day [Jonathan] wasn't there and then one day he was. I can't recall when we actually met") and he introduced her to the three most happening hiphop producers in Seattle: Bean One, Vitamin D, and Jake One.
"Those are my dudes," she says with what can only be described as cool excitement. "When I started working with Vitamin D, I was introduced to a part of me that I didn't know existed. His music brought something out that surprised even me. And then there is Bean One. He has that ambitious energy that anyone in the game who is hungry can feed off. The work we do in the studio always has a need, an urgency, and I love that, I love working with that kind of energy. Bean One is always ready to get it crackin'; always ready to try something new. He is always urgent about it. And as for Jake One, he challenges me to get out of my comfort zone. So all of them have brought something different to the table for me, and I have grown with them."
When completed, Choklate's follow-up to Sound Sessions Vol. 1 is going to be the first important, and truly organic, R&B record to come out of Seattle in a very long time. There's no doubt about that. The beats are hardcore, and her singing and songwriting brings new life to R&B, a form that has been dull since the '80s. "All of the music that I make," she explains, "is from the soul and so the best thing to call my music is soul music."