Lizee Jones: Love Is The Answer
“Change is inevitable,” according to this week’s VENUS profile. Lizee Jones is an individual who invokes two or three glances near or far. The Washington, D.C. brainchild behind Lifee Arts spends her time standing for progression and aiding Raheem DeVaughn’s 368 Music Group as its Online Marketing guru. Art courses through this capable character’s veins. As Ms. Jones chats with The Well Versed – she touches on a range of subjects — from what sparked her love of the arts to reminiscing about Issac Hayes and Patti Labelle to giving advice on how to become an Internets Celebrity.
The Well Versed: Your tattoos hint to an artistic side of you that is very spirited. What catches your attention when it comes to the wonderful world of the Arts?
Lizee Jones: Everything. Growing up, I was privileged enough to be able to experience a wide variety of Arts studies — including African dance, ballet, modern, jazz, drawing and painting classes, pottery classes, creative writing classes, crochet, and even photography. It’s that innate feeling that I would get in these classes and how I would love to see my creations hanging on the walls in my home. I love that feeling. It’s so personal, but it’s also so easy for me because art relates to other people with the same feelings as you. I love that feeling too. It’s like an universal language. Even now, I don’t dance as much anymore, but there have been times when I’ve gone to live performances and almost cried because the pieces were so intense. I don’t know really why I’m moved so much by art. I recall seeing a Leonardo da Vinci piece at the National Gallery of Art a few years ago. I almost cried then, too [laughs].
TWV: Do you feel that art has come full circle or has it stopped at a certain point and stayed there?
LJ: Art is such a broad term. I think that it is something that will exist regardless of human participation or production. Art is constantly creating I feel like what we consider “new art” is just a reflection of what is occurring naturally. I really don’t think that people believe it’s a conscious decision to create “art”…
TWV: How was it to serve as stage manager for some of the illest musicians the game has produced? What was your favorite moment that shall forever stick with you?
LJ: So, I get this phone call from my teacher-slash-mentor on a Friday morning. He says, “Liz… I got a gig for you! Meet me at the Kennedy Center at 6:00am.” So I get there, I see a tour bus, and a van for Majic 102.3 outside. He picks me up and we drive out to a private rehearsal space in Maryland. I walk in and I see reserved spaces for Isaac Hayes and Patti LaBelle.
Now, I’m not one to get “starstruck,” but being in the presence of Patti LaBelle and Isaac Hayes was a blessing. It was an amazing feeling. They were both very sweet and I could tell they truly appreciated my assistance. That show was amazing. It also included James Ingram, a total sweetheart, Angie Stone, Kelly Rowland, Chuck Brown (who I’ve worked with three times before), and gospel singer Jeff Majors. I’ll never ever forget spending those few days with Isaac Hayes — a true genius. He was so eager and excited to perform live for people and I’m extremely blessed to have had the pleasure to work with him before he passed. R.I.P.
TWV: In your opinion what are five keys to having a successful show? What are your thoughts on the live performing game these days?
LJ: I personally hate to see a performer do what he-or-she thinks is right… or even what they think will provoke audience reaction. You are the performer, you have the power to make someone like you for you as an artist. Everyone nowadays seems to think a show with twenty naked back-up dancers in sexy outfits, flashing lights, and a lot of vulgarity is what you need to sell out a show.
It’s better to make sure you connect with your audience. Pace yourself. Know when to vibe with your audience so they can understand you either lyrically or whatever your art may be and then know when to wild out and show other sides of you as an artist. The key to understand is this: Respect your technicians! Stay true to yourself as an artist.
Whatever you have to do before the show starts to make sure you’re the same person once you’re on stage and at the end of the show — do it! I love to see an artist that can connect with their crowd. When that fourth wall isn’t broken and there’s no connection with your audience — the show feels like it’ll never end — for the performer and the audience [laughs].
LJ: [Laughs] I think that people forget that the entertainment industry doesn’t dictate or direct or impose what is life or reality — it reflects it. So, where people may feel like it was over the top or too much, but the bottom line is a pretty good number of women in the world have experienced what went down in that video. In some way and at some point in their life it’s happened. I mean… Raheem is a sexy guy and his music has never led you to believe otherwise.
He is very respectful of women and I can list 5-10 songs where he praises and beautifully portrays them. Now, yes… the video was very… lustful and suggestive — and personally I liked it. 6ix is a very, very dope director. The video was courageously artistic and I think they pulled it off genuinely. A large part of my job with 368 is looking at reactions and trust me, I saw reactions from people that didn’t like it, but just as many people (see: women) loved it.
TWV: Let our readers know the details about the Triangle Circle Triangle Square project. How did it come and about and what’s the collective’s objective?
LJ: I went to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in [Washington] D.C., where I majored three years Visual Arts, and two years Technical Theatre. A fellow student with me, Imani Waddy, was like the kid that everyone loved to hate. He was always disrupting class, always showing out, but in the end he was super, super talented. I remember when he first had the idea to start a clothing line, which he decided to call Gas’D, as in “the fuel you need to live, to create.”
So, a few students, including myself, hopped on board, and he came up with the first shirt design. We sold it outside a spot here in D.C. and did a few photo shoots which turned out to be a success. Imani left Ellington in the 10th grade, got his GED, went away to college, and finally reappeared by the time I was going into my senior year in L.A. He created Triangle.Circle.Triangle.Square where the motto was: Love. Love is the real fuel you need in life to create everything.
Triangle.Circle.Triangle.Square are universal symbols. They appear everywhere in life. I got that tatted on me as an ode to Imani. Till this day he contributes to my inspiration to create. He was the force behind me starting my own photography company after I graduated from high school. He’s part of the reason why I refuse to give up on chasing my dreams. I do believe in the message that “love is real”. That investing love in anything you do in life can only lead to a positive, fulfilling outcome. Imani’s company has grown tremendously and I’ll forever feel a part of its creation. His clothing, jewelry, videos are all art and they reflect his will and drive to succeed. Geez, I almost had a moment there [laughs]. From my knowledge there are only nine other people on the planet with the Triangle.Circle.Triangle.Square tattoo. I thought that the design concept was cool.
LJ: The DMV has every element it needs right now to be successful in this industry. I’m really not so sure why it’s taking so long for everyone to catch the bug, though. Right now, we have Raheem DeVaughn, Wale, and Tabi Bonney, who are all pretty much the front-runners for this DMV music movement. Not only are they from here, but they rep the area. Their music constantly embodies what the DMV has to offer.
You can hear the Go-Go in Wale and Tabi’s music, Raheem’s label 368 Music Group has four artists directly from the DMV. You have The Board, Diamond District (who have been to the UK and in Rolling Stone Magazine), Lola Monroe, Boobe, and Don Juan (Jive Records), and the list goes on. Skillz is always on the radio or MTV Jams.
Personally, I feel like 368 Music Group artists Phil Ade and The Board’s own Fat Trel can kick in the door and dominate $#!*. I’m not just trying to cosign for the label’s sake — Phil Ade is dope artist. Lyrically, he has it, stage presence, he has that too, and lastly he knows who he is as an artist and believes in himself. The ability to walk into a venue out of the area where about five out of the 50 people there know his name and by the time his set is done — everyone is noddin’ their head — then you are something special.
Fat Trel is something new. Different. He represents a part of the DMV that’s not represented in mainstream music from this area. He’s super-witty with his wordplay. He has bars — definitely. He can control a crowd, is super real with his music, and is very relative to the industry. I am so ready for the DMV to burst into the national music scene so people can see all the talent here! The drive and work ethic are there and in 2011 this will be the year. People here are working too hard for it not to be!
LJ: I love lyrics. Someone that says something and I don’t catch on to it until I’ve heard it another three or four times again. You can tell when an artist knows who they are. They’re comfortable with letting you into their world and instead of trying to impress the world they’ll let their music speak for itself. I can’t stand a cocky artist. I just dig individuals who have good live performances, can produce a cohesive project, and understand music outside of putting words over a beat!
TWV: There are a lot of people who are now hopping on the digital gravy train. What are some ways that newbies can successfully establish a genuine online rep?
LJ: I have to say this clear… Learn the game of marketing and branding and keep one persona! If you’re going to be the Twitter @$$#*** — then be it proudly! Market yourself as an artist, a creativist, or whatever you are. Get a name, a tag, something that identifies you and use it, everywhere. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Most people don’t even know you exist until you tell them. The Internet and all of these social media sites are free — use them ALL! You’re always likely to always hit a different crowd when you’re talking to the people online. Determine your goal. Why are you going to be adding people to your group and fan pages and asking people to follow you?
No one just wants to be a viral celebrity. Look at Antoine Dodson! Eventually a viral celebrity falls off. You can be a viral celebrity with a purpose! Be a somebody that people can always expect something good from. Find out what your subject is. Are you going to blog about music? Photography? Food? Whatever it is make sure you’re consistent in it and then go out, be social in real life, and stay true to who you are! People love to put a face to a logo, blogsite, or avatar! In the end, do you — there are enough Necole Bitchie‘s and Perez Hilton‘s on the Internet already.