After finishing a sip of espresso she replies, “No, four hours until class starts.” Coming from an artist who just released a video for a single called, “No Sleep” her response does not surprise me. Dressed in a form fitting dress shirt and vest, Genesis Be looks more like a business manager rather than an aspiring rapper as she playfully slides around in the chair in front of the SSL Studio Console. She has a childlike demeanor yet speaks with such conviction and intensity that I cannot help but surrender my full attention. Sipping Starbucks in the dimly lit studio at The Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, Genesis shares her story of pain, resilience, ambition and vindication. At age 22, Genesis Be has just completed her fourth studio album titled The Manhattan Project.
Utilizing what she has learned at New York University’s prestigious Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, Genesis took on the role of executive producer, writer, engineer, mixer and mastering engineer of the project. When asked about the difficulties of being a full time double major student and an independent performer Genesis Be says, “compared to what I’ve had to handle in my past, this time of my life is the easy part. It’s the perfect opportunity to prove my ability and show that this isn’t a game to me. This struggle is a blessing for me.” Raised in Mississippi, Genesis Be comes from a family with strong ties to the civil rights movement and was involved with activism and protests since age 6.
“My grandfather was murdered for encouraging and educating black residents in Mississippi to vote in the 1960’s” says Genesis while glaring at the dog tags she wears around her neck that displays a hologram of her grandparents. “My father’s childhood home still has the bullet holes from The Ku Klux Klan and my grandmother, Geraldine Briggs, had to raise nine kids by herself, after the death of my grandfather.” When Jesse Williams was beaten to death by officers in Harrison County, Mississippi, Genesis along with family and friends protested in the streets demanding the indictment of the officers responsible for William’s death. The officers, who were caught on film committing the act, were not prosecuted at first. The pressure from the community for justice, however, resulted in the indictment of the officers.
With help from her older brothers, Genesis drafted and circulated a petition to change the name of her community college from Jeff Davis (President of the Confederacy) to a more positive historic figure such as William Faulkner. She also took apart in protests against the Iraqi War and along with her father, John Ellis Briggs, she attended Ku Klux Klan rallies as an oppositional voice. Featured in numerous articles in southern Mississippi’s Sun Herald and featured on talk radio shows, Genesis Be has been utilizing her artistry and voice to make a change since she was young girl. At age 13, Genesis Be discovered her ability to write and deliver rap lyrics with unbelievable precision. Her delivery displayed impeccable articulation, the use of intricate rhyme schemes, and a captivating stage presence.
After winning several talent shows, Genesis’ parents took notice of her talent and brought her to a recording studio. This is where she met her first engineer and mentor Kenneth Leonard. Leonard provided engineering, mixing and mastering services for Doc Roc Recordings, who later signed Genesis Be to her first recording contract. “I loved working with Ken because he trusted my ears and believed in my ability.
He let me take complete control of my projects and I was only thirteen!” At age sixteen she produced a mix tape, 16 In America, which introduced her the world of Mississippi’s underground hip-hop scene. The young lyricist promoted the mix tape by sneaking into clubs and battling local male rappers. Her name began to be known around the Gulf Coast area and after getting radio spins for a song called “Why?” the young artist decided to record her first album with original music and titled it 17 In America. The single “Why?” was a powerful social commentary performed over the instrumental of 50-Cent’s “Many Men.” The song opens with the line, “It’s too much pain for my body to endure, the whole world is sick, and I’m the only cure.” Upon release of 17 In America she was asked to perform with The Gulf Coast Youth Symphony at the Beau Rivage Casino.
This performance launched a string of shows where in Genesis would rap with a full orchestra of elementary and middle school children. Genesis had crossed over from appealing to the club going urban demographic to the white middle-class, family oriented market. That same summer, she opened up for several mainstream artists including The Ying Yang Twins, 8 Ball/MJG, Trillville and Lil Webbie. “During this time I was in high school, captain of the girls’ basketball team and working at Subway to save enough money to produce my next album! I was doing a lot.” It was during this time that mentor, Ken Leonard, recommended Genesis apply to the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music.
Initially she was rejected due to late submission. Genesis continued to work hard on recording and performing along The Gulf Coast. She was receiving local fame, building a strong fan base and getting recognition all along the Coast… then tragedy struck. On August 29th 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and devastated Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. “It flooded my whole block, my city was destroyed.
My fan base was gone and I couldn’t fill the void.” Genesis raps in a new song called Cold Eyes. Genesis Be had just graduated High School and was finishing up her 2nd album 18 In America. The album brought forth a single called “Fema Check.” After being handed to the program director of the independent radio station, WJZD, the record was put into rotation and created a buzz in Biloxi that soon rippled through Mississippi Gulf Coast. It wasn’t long before radio stations in Mobile, AL, New Orleans, LA, and Pensacola, FL were playing “Fema Check.” In an article published in The Sun Herald, Genesis states, “My family and I witnessed first hand, the wrath and destruction brought about by Katrina.
After the storm, everyone’s was feeling down and we just wanted to lift the spirits of our peers. We combined the reality of the situation, with a satirical, almost comical perspective. The fact that something so positive can generate from such a somber situation is truly a miracle if you ask me. “ After Hurricane Katrina hit, Genesis Be struggled to make sense of the tragedy and began work on her latest album 19 In America.
She re-applied to The Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music (at NYU) and was accepted. She is due to graduate from this highly selective program (admitting only 28-32 per year) in 2011. She currently resides in Manhattan and is working non-stop to promote her album by street teaming and performances. So far, she has blessed the stage at The Blue Note, Webster Hall, The Knitting Factory,The Magic Johnson Theater, Sullivan Hall, The Bowery Poetry, Sin Sin Freestyle Mondays, Crash Mansion, The National Underground and the XR Bar among others.
She was recently a featured artist for Shady 45’s “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” and received a score of 4.75 on a scale of 1 to 5. She was also featured in The Washington Square News, Student Maximus Magazine and numerous blogs such as Afterellen.com and Qwreck.com. She recently founded Open Sky Artwork (O.S.A), an artist management, promotion and distribution company that caters to all types of artists including but not limited to poets, musicians, composers, performers, painters and writers. The young entrepreneur hopes to bring more attention to artists from the Gulf Coast Region and New York by providing productions services, online promotion and show bookings. She currently manages nine other artists and oversees a team of four administrators. Whether protesting in the streets, making hits in the studio, running her production company or rocking the stage, Genesis Be is making moves in the right direction.
At a young age, Genesis has conquered a wide range accomplishments and she isn’t slowing down. Only time will tell what impact the young lyricist will have on the music industry, what impact this young activist will have on the World. When asked what her plans for the future are, Genesis reflects for a few second and says with a huge smile, “I just want to make my family proud… my ancestors too. I know they are watching over me, and I want to give them a great show!” Read more on Last.fm.
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