The evolution of the DMV’s music scene over the last two decades is something to behold. The scene is no longer dominated by punk kids or go-go, though stalwarts from both are holding court. Soul, hip-hop, classical and crossover musicians are on the rise, ushering in the future and putting D.C. on the map. Read on for five behind-the-scenes spotlights of our top local picks, and 18 DMV musicians you’ve got to know.
From the moment I listened to CRAMER’s song “Martian,” I was hit with the realist Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill vibes. It’s high praise for a blossoming artist, but appropriate.
Her lyrics best capture her essence. Like any artist, she is the accumulation of her influences, but also the embodiment of something original, deep and soulful that oozes from her being.
“My sound is like electric soul, [though] it could be acoustic,” CRAMER says. “There are elements of electric instruments — guitar, looper, vocal processor — but the lyrics give you soul.”
She describes her music as narrations and stories that speak to you on the most intimate level, bringing clarity to your reality.
“Making a story clear, I call that soul,” she says. “Getting to the root of what’s going on internally or painting a picture of what’s going on externally — that’s also soul.”
Music is one of many mediums CRAMER uses to communicate her reflections. Performing on stage with a guitar is a place of refuge, where words come to life and venture out into the world. Storytelling is a passion she’s had for many years.
“I knew I wanted to tell stories before I knew how I wanted to do it,” she says. “It evolved into, ‘Okay, what resources do I have to make the story come to life the best?’ And music is definitely up there.”
CRAMER feels something almost otherworldly about inviting others into those stories, which she openly articulates without prompting.
“Relating stories to other people [and] bringing them into that world with you, there’s a magic to it. It’s wonderful.”
There’s a freedom you can sense in her voice, which is what drives CRAMER to intentionally seek out local spaces where she can truly unleash.
“I love a good Busboys and Poets stage,” CRAMER says. “I would stand on that stage for five minutes and just be free.”
At the height of the pandemic, she missed spaces like this — even more now as local artists begin to reemerge on the scene. She’s grateful for the wonder and magic those experiences catalyze and knows what you put in, you get out.
“I’ve felt welcomed into the spaces that I have been in,” CRAMER says. “There’s an atmosphere of sharing in D.C. When I go into a space, I’m very careful to be [kind] to people and share things and [create] a positive atmosphere. And I get that in return, nine times out of 10.”
For the full lineup of other local artists that should be on your radar, go here.