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.
Mad Keys reels off a diverse list of influences that paint the picture of a cutting edge, hybrid and soulful artist who’s consistently in a space of creativity, innovation and discovery.
“I’m inspired by so many different artists, sounds [and] genres: from gospel to soul to jazz,” Keys says. “But if I can pinpoint a few artists my sound revolves around, it’s a mix of D’Angelo, Herbie Hancock, Flying Lotus and J Dilla. I’m a mix of all of those incredible creatives.”
He also counts Pharell and his early work with the Neptunes among his strongest musical muses.
“Every time I sit down I approach my music with the question ‘What would a Pharell bridge sound like?’”
Keys says listening to his music is like several emotions converging at once, creating a sense of light, energy, fulfillment and freeness. It’s the kind of sound you can feel before you even press play, or before Keys’ hands touch the keys at a performance.
“I want [people] to feel joy, happiness, and purpose. I want them to feel all these things that play a role in their life.”
It’s evident Mad Keys is creating more than captivating sounds. He’s crafting melodies with a greater purpose in mind: Building weapons to help shield lovers of his music from the things in life that can derail them.
“We need a sense of comfort,” Keys implores. “We need safe places [where] we can go. Whenever the world is crazy we can immerse ourselves in music and find our freedom and our way.”
Since Keys’ mom put a violin in his hands in high school, he’s been drawn to music. He needs to create and inspire. Keys feels, in his bones, this is what he’s meant to be doing.
“On a day-to-day basis, I’m continually reminded this is where I’m supposed to be and this is what I want to do,” Keys says. “Nothing feels more liberating than creating music, sharing that music, having fun with it and creating [community] around what I’m doing. That’s the most satisfying and enriching part of it all: the togetherness that music creates.”
For the full lineup of other local artists that should be on your radar, go here.
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