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In the District, local artists are the pulse of the city’s many musical subcultures — from genre-bending R&B to indie-pop to punk rock. For residents raised in the DMV, recognition for the artistic expression that thrives among the politics and commerce of the nation’s capital legitimizes the music that’s created here. To celebrate the depth of artistry produced in the DMV is The MusicianShip’s annual Wammie Awards, an occasion that applauds the talent of local musicians who contribute to the region’s rich arts and entertainment scene.
The Wammies dedicate one evening a year to recognize local musicians’ recent releases and their abundant artistic contributions to the DMV. In conversation with District Fray, The Musicianship’s Senior Director of Community Engagement Jessica Teachey relays the primary ambition of the Wammies: to create a safe and neutral space for DMV-based musicians to present their work to the community.
As a key organizer of the Wammies, Teachey helps facilitate the nomination process, supervises the finalist selection and generates awareness for the musicians who have become pivotal to the District’s contemporary music industry.
“We want to level the playing field,” Teachey explains.
Ensuring equitable processes at every level of the award shows people “if you have a love for and you support music, you can have a home and a place to contribute to the Wammies.”
It’s worth noting the 1,000 nominations the Wammies received ahead of selecting this year’s award cohort.
“Look at all of the amazing artists and icons who come from this area and look at all the ones who are living here right now — influencing art, influencing music,” she says.
What’s incredibly important about the Wammies, Teachey adds, is it’s the only centralized platform that organizes talent recognition in the DMV at the capacity that it does. Across 21 genres, the ceremony distributes 55 individual awards that range from Best Funk Album to Best Hip-Hop Artist.
The first pass of public voting has now closed and 345 artists advanced to the final round. Of this year’s Wammie finalists, District Fray caught up with indie-pop artist Roquois, who’s nominated for Best Pop Song and alternative hip-hop artist Brooklyn the Kid, who’s nominated for Best Rap Song.
Contemporary pop creative Roquois is an artist who apportions her craft across the three big S’s — singer, songwriter and superhero. Roquois is unapologetically herself: She’s a self-made artist and lyricist with a dual passion for performance-wear and cosplay. Revered for her debut pop album “Metaphors,” Roquois’ new 2021 track “Worst Behavior” has been nominated as a finalist for Best Pop Song at the Wammies.
“I’m so grateful to have been nominated and be a finalist alongside so many other amazing and talented musicians,” Roquois says.
Roquois’ eclectic indie-pop style developed out of the years she spent in Florida working as a vocalist at a studio in Orlando. Writing and singing a variety of music styles — from pop to hip-hop to rock — led her to fuse elements from multiple genres into her tracks.
In terms of gaining recognition for this unique mix of style, Roquois is grateful “more indie artists are getting a platform and making a place for themselves. I’m excited to be part of it in any capacity because I just love music.”
Performance-wear and experimentation with style are also essential forms of self-expression for the artist, especially when she’s on stage. In mainstream media, “people can get so wrapped up that you have to look a certain way to be in a particular genre of music,” Roquois says.
Roquois doesn’t care about what’s “palatable for others” because ultimately she affirms, “I’m just trying to be myself.”
The relatability of a counter-culture anthem such as “Worst Behavior” only validates the messages Roquois incorporates into her music — letting go of other’s expectations, not having to ask for permission and feeling unconstrained to experience life.
The verse “I’m all paid up / I got my weight up / I guess you didn’t know you had a bad bitch” is a token of personal empowerment and the freedom to express who you are. Even beyond this sentiment it’s about “kicking back, raising a glass and toasting to all the moments you felt alive.”
Despite the challenges of the pandemic and everything that’s happened in the past two years, “I feel myself coming back into that creative light,” Roquois says.
Between a new single release, a music video for “Worst Behavior” and a soon-to-be scheduled calendar of live performances, Roquois is uninhibited to explore the depths of genre-hopping music as a leading voice in the DMV’s indie-pop scene.
IN COMMUNITY WITH BROOKLYN
“A good time” is how Brooklyn Junco, aka Brooklyn the Kid, describes her energy as a performer. A self-proclaimed sucker for live shows, Brooklyn mixes rap and soul to produce a distinctive indie hip-hop sound that pays homage to her Latina roots.
Inspired by her own life experiences and the things she’s seen, Brooklyn’s artistry is intrinsically personal. From boom bap to a more free-form approach to rapping, 2021 marked a fundamental shift in Brooklyn’s style as a musician.
Her track “Open Your Eyes” received notable reception for her newfound experimental blending of sound and is now a finalist for Best Rap Song at the Wammies.
From a young age, Brooklyn was exposed to a wide range of music, from bachata and salsa to ‘90s house and East Coast boom bap. However, expression through music happened by accident.
“There’s nothing like a live performance from an artist you really enjoy,” she explains.
As her desire to perform grew, Brooklyn started freestyling beats at open mics back in 2017 and 2018. In terms of recording music, having support from her producer NoLa, who is also Brooklyn’s brother, has made all the difference in navigating the DMV’s intimate music scene. Connecting with long-standing creatives in the D.C. hip-hop scene was also extremely valuable for Brooklyn to learn what it means to be an artist in the D.C. area.
As Brooklyn’s foothold in the DMV’s hip-hop and rap scenes grew from 2018 to the tail end of 2019, opportunities snowballed into an array of gigs, new singles and an East Coast tour that wrapped up just before the pandemic began.
In early 2021, Brooklyn’s “I Need Therapy” project marked a turning point in her rapping — the singles produced during this time are foreseeably the last tracks she’ll record in ‘90s boom bap style. For Brooklyn the Kid, “Open Your Eyes” has come to symbolize a new era or experimental artistry she was so craving during the pandemic.
“It’s a time for new growth,” Brooklyn contends.
What motivates Brooklyn to lean into her artistic expression is the desire to share her pen in a room full of people.
“I really enjoy performing, and just want people to have a good time,” she says, in reference to live shows.
“If you come out of my performance a little lighter and with a little more sense of community,” Brooklyn says she’s done her job.
The 2022 Wammie Awards will be held on March 26 at Capital Turnaround at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $25-$45. Learn more here.
Brooklyn the Kid: @thatkidbrooklyn
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