On Thursday, superstar hip-hop/R&B producer 9th Wonder and nonprofit collective the Art of Cool Project will bring some soul to Raleigh.
They’ve joined forces to start a monthly night at The Pour House Music Hall called “Caramel City,” where local and visiting R&B and soul artists will do their thing onstage. And the first artist out the gate is one of 9th’s prized protégés: vocalist Heather Victoria.
The Fayetteville-born, Raleigh-based singer-songwriter found a mentor in 9th when she transferred to N.C. Central University from N.C. State in 2009.
“I took a class called ‘History of Hip-Hop’ that 9th was one of the professors for, and I was told that he had the keys to the studio on campus,” recalls Victoria, 25, who already had a few demos under her belt. “After speaking with him several times after class and, you know, asking him if I could come over and do some writing and recording, I was able to do that. He granted me that permission to come over and I gave him one of my demos – one of my records, called ‘Warning’ – and, after that, we just built a chemistry and he allowed me to come over and do some writing almost on a daily basis. And I just started recording from there.”
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Ever since she was a kid, Victoria knew performing would be her calling. “I’ve been writing songs and poetry since middle school, and I always was a singer,” she remembers. “I started singing in church, and I always had a love for being onstage and singing and performing in front of people. The first time I performed ever was in a small pageant at Fayetteville State University. I was about 6 years old.”
9th started his record label, Jamla Records, in 2008, and Victoria eventually became the label’s resident R&B songstress. In 2010, she released her debut EP, titled “Victoria’s Secret.” The following year, she dropped her mixtape “Graffiti Diary” and “Hip Hop Soul Lives,” another EP.
But even though she’s done live performances (she did the inaugural Art of Cool Festival last year) and has collaborated with 9th and her fellow Jamla labelmates on songs since then, things have been relatively quiet in terms of her officially dropping her full-length debut.
“It’s just been a lot of soul-searching, a lot of different things going on with my life,” she says. “And I have really, really dedicated myself to take my time with the album. It’s not something I wanted to rush at all. Being that it will be my first debut album, I wanna make sure that it is exactly where it needs to be. It’s like my baby almost.”
Victoria confirms that her full-length, known as “Black Girl Story,” filled with production work from 9th’s in-studio team the Soul Council, is coming. “It’s gonna show a lot of growth lyrically, musically,” she says. “I plan to have a lot more instrumentation on this album, with keys and saxophone. It’s just gonna be really a re-creation of my life, and I just hope that it’s everything that people are anticipating.”
Although there’s no word on a release date, Victoria will perform some of the songs at “Caramel City.” Along with her backup band, she’ll do her own original compositions and covers from Jill Scott, Anita Baker and Chrisette Michele. With this event, along with her upcoming album, Victoria is out to show that even though she’s the lone R&B singer on a label filled with hip-hop talent, people are clamoring to hear a soulful voice like hers.
“There are a lot of hip-hop acts, a lot of rap acts that come here or even local hip-hop acts that are really consistent,” she says. “So, we want to create an event where people can come out and enjoy soul music.”
Who: “9th Wonder and the Art of Cool Present Caramel City” featuring Heather Victoria
When: 9 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 13)
Where: The Pour House Music Hall, 224 S. Blount St., Raleigh
Info: 919-821-1120 or thepourhousemusichall.com