Chicago rising star K’Valentine, who is fresh off a tour with Talib Kweli, has just released her debut full-length album on Kweli’s label, Javotti Media. The album title – Here For A Reason – speaks for itself. It’s the bold artistic offering of a young woman who explores love, family, black womanhood, and more – grounded in her own stories and reaching out to affirm that life may deal fierce blows but we need not apologize for who we are.
K’Valentine has been writing poetry for as long as she can remember. It’s a path that led to a formative meeting with Dr. Maya Angelou. The late poet laureate encouraged her to keep writing until she mastered the craft, and K’Valentine followed that advice. From poetry came spoken word performances and a backstage meeting with Talib Kweli, who invited her to demo some of her pieces. The two have worked together since, and Kweli appears on the new album, which also features contributions from BJ the Chicago Kid, Scotty Atl, Niré, and Kendra Ross.
“I wish my dreams were more attainable,” she says in “Higher Power.” And in “Us,” she delivers the bracing directive: “Speak it, believe it, your family needs it.” It seems K’Valentine is working steadily and fiercely toward those dreams, and that the family she speaks of is not just one of blood relations, but a greater community linked through shared struggles.
K’Valentine closed out a two-night run at Brooklyn Bowl last week, her electric blue-streaked hair matched by her shoes and a radiant energy. For Kweli’s headlining set, the emcee was joined by Brady Watt on guitar and Camau “Klutch” Bernstine on drums, with a surprise appearance by Buckshot halfway through. The audience may not have been around when Black Star changed the blueprint, but there was no doubt of the esteem the Brooklyn crowd had for the veterans on stage. “Do not wait ’til they come for you, to say something,” Kweli urged at one point as he talked about our responsibility to be activists in Trump’s America. Between Kweli and his protégé, K’Valentine, it was an evening of intricate wordplay and reflection and propulsive energy.
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