Clara Kent and INEZ look to inspire by highlighting Pittsburgh’s Black R&B scene | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Clara Kent and INEZ look to inspire by highlighting Pittsburgh’s Black R&B scene

It’s easy to disregard cliche motivational quotes with an eyeroll. “Hang in there, baby” and “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” and “Teamwork makes the dreamwork” aren’t exactly, well, original. But Pittsburgh musicians Clara Kent and INEZ, whose real name is Danielle Walker, feel those sentiments are needed to help uplift the local Black R&B scene.

That’s why the pair created Black November, an entire month dedicated to highlighting Black R&B and soul music in Pittsburgh.

“In the past, folks have tried the ‘divide and conquer’ mindset when it comes to talented individuals,” explains INEZ. “That being a catalyst is why so many artists have a problem reaching across the room to others. ... We live in a city that doesn't respect or view Black people or their art as valuable. We also know that there is so much ego and unnecessary drama in the world of hip hop and rap here, that will never allow sustainability for a united music scene.”

So instead of drawing battle lines, Kent and INEZ are attempting to create an ecosystem for the many styles of music that fall under the R&B umbrella. “There’s going to be no hand that reaches down and grabs all the Black R&B artists so we had to create what we didn’t see,” says INEZ.

Almost every week in November — they opted to skip the first week because of the election — three or four different Black musicians will be highlighted, each on a different day of the week. Some artists, like singers Cam Chambers and Jrouz3, will be dropping new EPs or singles. For others, previously released music will be pushed, like Sierra Sellers’ Ophelia and Dejah Monae’s Flowers and Dopamine. All of it, however, is an attempt to make a statement.

“To make it abundantly clear, R&B is next for Pittsburgh and is here to stay,” says INEZ. “Our renaissance is here.”

Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Leila Rhodes is one of the artists featured in the first week of Black November. On Oct. 30, she released her self-produced debut album Attunement which will be featured on Nov. 12, along with single “No More.”

“‘No More’ is a song about relationships that are unfulfilling and essentially when you take that step of letting someone know that they are no longer welcome in your life,” says Rhodes. “For me, it was a realization that someone was taking so much energy from me, and once I reached a point of exhaustion, I had to let them know they would be taking no more.”

Aside from highlighting musicians, INEZ and Kent felt that in order to keep the group effort going after November ends, they needed to also create an incubator where more experienced artists like themselves could teach younger musicians important branding tools like booking and press releases, and even finding a band for live shows.

“We started to set up a support network from this one month, but how do we continue to create an ecosystem for Black R&B artists in Pittsburgh?” says INEZ. “Those of us who get booked, who have the resources and connections, can make sure we're highlighting and uplifting those who are coming right behind us. Those coming right behind can pay these same things forward to those behind them. We create the change we seek.”

Stay tuned this month as Pittsburgh City Paper continues to cover the inaugural Black November online at Discover some new tunes, boost some new artists, and support local music.

“I really truly feel that the next big national contributors to music will be Black R&B and soul artists,” says INEZ.

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