Up and Stok - He Keeps US Woke!
As the days, weeks, and months roll by without an end in sight to the Coronavirus pandemic; U & I find ourselves stuck in the house feeling like the walls are closing in. Since most of outside is still closed we're all looking for an outlet to be free, to laugh, and to engage with like-minds, energies, and spirits.
There’s no question that the arts and entertainment sectors have been hit among the hardest during the shutdown. Live entertainment as we know came to a screeching halt!
Tricky Entertainment, DC's premiere entertainment company was days away from hosting their annual 'All Black Extravaganza' at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center when Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered all establishments closed. The first few weeks were chaotic and stressful since live entertainment is the heartbeat of DC culture.
Gradually, virtual shows were broadcasting live on various social platforms and we began to watch artists and businesses at every Level pivot to bring their crafts and goods to the masses. D-nice has Instagram on lock with Club Quarantine, DC's Go-Go Bands brought us live shows on One Go-Go World, and of course the infamous Verzuz battles with some of the hottest names and music catalogs in the game - Snoop Dogg vs. DMX , Teddy Riley vs. BabyFace, Jadakiss vs. Fabolous, and Jill Scott vs. Erykah Badu. However, if you're easily distracted like I am and forget what you're doing WHILE doing it, then you know virtual requires viewer commitment or you'll miss it.
So when I received the notification back in March that StokleyOfficial was LIVE on Instagram I tuned in. If you don't know who he is and you're over the age of 30 I have just two words for you - Mint Condition. The baddest band in the land! The only band outside of DC's Native Go-Go bands that I've seen live more than I've seen Beyonce. So yeah, Nuff Said! If that doesn't help you or raise your curiosity then I won't Hold My Breath waiting for you to catch up. Anyways, it was a full show - instruments, microphones, background singers, and HE. And there I was again, D I S T R A C T E D! I can't tell you anything that happened because I was at work. I was so disappointed and hoped that he would do it again while I was at home. A few weeks later I had the opportunity to redeem myself. I didn't know what to expect this time since it was just him, sitting at the computer with colorful lights slowly fading to the next color behind him; Introducing Stokley - the artist, the man, the comedian, the actor, and the storyteller. He sang along to a few songs, tapped on the drums (desk, chair, glass, his chest - You get it. LOL!), and strummed the guitar all while guiding us through an eclectic, therapeutic musical journey that we didn't know we needed. This session also included stories of playing with the band, working with Prince and other artists, and invoking flashbacks down memory lane to where we were in mind, body, spirit, and location when a song debuted. Before we knew it, the clock struck 6am (EST) and we were still Way Up, ready for more! I have never been apart of something so engaging and captivating with a group of strangers for the sole purpose of being in the presence of one of the most distinctive voices in our lifetime while feeding and healing our souls through song.
The connection was so genuine and Organic that it was like gathering with old friends to catch up. Stok asked if we wanted to connect every week and it was a collective, YES! Although the sessions were initially on IG Live, it became difficult to let our Sonic Vibes flow without interruption. One particular session we could hardly get in 20 minutes of play before it abruptly ended. Just so happened the incomparable Melba Moore had joined us and convinced Stokley to switch to Twitch and he never looked back. Our Exclusive Vibes rejoice!
If you would've told me in the beginning of the year that the highlight of my weekends would be pulling an all-nighter to sing, dance, celebrate, mourn, laugh, discuss the weather Forecast, and encourage one another on socials after arriving home from work at 12am I'd think you were crazy. But here we are, 4 months in and each week is filled with amazing music, lessons, and fellowship. The sessions typically start at 1am (CDT) which is 2am (EST) for me so turn on the notifications to be alerted. The direction of the conversations and music takes you on a 5-hour cyber roller coaster ride filled with anticipated ups, exhilarating downs, breathtaking drops and unexpected bumps but we wouldn't have it any other way.
What's on the Menu
Just in case you were wondering what we talk about in the Sonic Lounge... Hablet, gritz and chitlins' are hot topics and you can have them together if you'd like. Virtual breakfast is prepared and served with Sonic juice that often leads to drunk texting Victoria as the birds chirp in the background and daylight peeks through. Every week the list of #SonicSoldiers grows and the village pulls through to keep everyone informed, welcomed, and entertained. Whether it's DNickz2600gwood whippin' up chitlins or orchestrating the makings of 'Rona Babies' then Gigglepearl11 sending him to timeout, Chris202x sharing his own musical knowledge, Twylah92 and Pdonna2 running the jams on Shazam, Jameelawms checking Stokley for his loud 'Sonic Snaps' in the camera, or Me (pgkhulahoops), Myself (prettygurlkisha), and I (prettygurl_kisha) commenting from all of my accounts during the session as I greet and welcome new and old soldiers. We are a well oiled machine ready to take on our roles so don't Cross the line.
It would be very remiss of me not to mention the first session after the heinous, police brutality inflicted murder of George Floyd at the hands of; or shall I say at the knee of a Minnesota Police Officer. We questioned whether it would be too much to proceed with the session given that Stokley resides in Minnesota and was active in the protests. But like a warrior, he prevailed and pressed his way. It was a very heavy, dark, and somber time. The chat box was quiet, he faced the computer and played music with very little verbal conversation. It was at that moment I knew he needed to Be with U[s] just as much as we needed to be with him. We/Me needed to transcend positive energy to one another that could only take place in that space.
For many artists, the pandemic has them scrambling to reach their fans and attract a new audience to stay relevant while other artists are evolving full-circle. We all know Stokley Williams as the lead singer of the band Mint Condition; but Stokley the Legend has effortlessly re-invented himself and found a way to intimately connect his fan base to him and each other. Where else would we have learned of his love for Thai food and roller skating?! With this knowledge, several members came together to present him with a birthday gift during the live session. It was a humbling and special moment shared as we witnessed his reaction. To have loyal fans and supporters appreciate your efforts during these challenging times to Think About U as a person and not just as an artist is a true testament to the love and positive energy that he exudes.
Later in the day after each session and throughout the week, we migrate to the Facebook page fans of Stok created by, Lynn. This is where we convene to recap and share all things Stokley - solo, Mint Condition, Black Men United and collaboration and/or partnership in between. From the numerous pictures and videos shared of him with fans; the love and appreciation is eminent and a direct result of what we receive from him on stage and now on our screens as he and his wife; Sylvia, welcomes us into their home virtually each week. WE STAY WOKE BECAUSE OF STOK!
Stokley's highly anticipated second forthcoming solo album, Sankofa is in the works. She, the first single off of the album earned the #1 spot on Billboard's Adult R&B Songs after 29 weeks on the chart. The albums second single Vibrant featuring Snoop Dogg is a certified banger and instant classic. I can't wait to kick my Wheels UP at the skating rink and SLIDE YIDE YIDE YIDE.
I don’t know what the future holds; but for Now, grab yo' friends, follow Sonic Healer on Twitch to stay #WokewithStok and witness Art in Motion with the self proclaimed MeeJay as he plays music from around the world and around the way.
Click to see the official video. Vibrant - Stokley featuring Snoop Dogg.