The Year of 30: 2017 Recap

The Year of 30: Life and Blessings from 2017

Photo by Mahdi Gransberry

Photo by Mahdi Gransberry

Forward momentum. If I were to sum up the last 365 days of my life, these would be my words of choice. With the passing of each year – the last three years in particular – I've watched in awe as I've traversed through a multitude of challenges and triumphs. 2015 was a year of rediscovery and recovery from my known voice ailment. 2016 brought forth the joy of my wedding as well as my completed sophomore project, 'Ode 2 A Luv Affair.' With a positive path towards progression, I still approached 2017 with a spirit of anxiety as it brought forth the inevitable: my 30th birthday.

In August of 2017, I was six weeks out from the date and afraid. The myriad of influences I'd received over time from movies, television and personal testimonies from others left me feeling inadequate. Ten years prior to the date, I'd set a number of personal and professional goals to have accomplished by 30 and the fact that even one of those were unattained was frightening. Here I was, all of 29 without a record deal, without having traveled to Japan, without having National acclaim for my work. Hell, how was I going to become the next Brandy if I couldn't even get my music posted on Soul Bounce? Not to mention, I'd yet to come to terms with the “do I or do I not” inquiry regarding motherhood and the inevitable race against time and my biological clock. These, among other things, became mentally draining.

Suddenly, in the few weeks leading up to my day, everything clicked. In the same fashion that I'd been inadvertently dismayed by this upcoming decade of my life, I was also told by many that this would be the decade that everything would come into place and that I would gain a sense of clarity. As each day went by, I felt myself grow more self-aware, more confident and most of all, more content with where I was with my life. Things that I once thought mattered became trivial, and my focus shifted from what I had yet to achieve to appreciation for all that I had managed to accomplish. Here I was at 30, with a stable livelihood, a wonderful husband, a thriving music career and a myriad of creative opportunities that had been presented to me with the existence of my musical work. This moment was one of the most self-assuring moments that I had ever experienced, and I only wish that I had come to this realization sooner.

Photo by Mahdi Gransberry

Photo by Mahdi Gransberry

Regardless of my personal transgressions towards this new era of my life, nothing was going to stop me from bringing in the year of 30 with a BANG. 9 months prior, I began planning the first party that I'd ever thrown for my adult self. It was a celebration of my adolescence, upbringing and memories from high school and beyond that would be appropriately titled: B~Free's Dirty 30 for the 99s and the 2000s! With the help of many talented friends and comrades, I was able to put together a tribute and dance party that featured music from my formative years; including B2K, Ja Rule and Ashanti, Pharrell Williams and Destiny's Child. The evening was a HUGE success as the entire audience – myself included – had the time of our lives!

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Photos by Weston Rich

Photos by Weston Rich

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Around this same timeframe, I also came to terms with one of the strongest mantras that I'd yet to fully grasp until now: Let Go and Let God. My husband and I set out on a personal journey in September to improve and expand upon our living conditions. There were exactly three opportunities to do that presented themselves one after the other. Being new territory for the both of us, as each one came, I felt myself go through a rollercoaster of emotions; beginning with excitement, then uncertainty, and settling upon disappointment. By the third opportunity, I'd grown to be extremely heedful and resistant for fear of failure. But, among our many conversations with The Creator, my husband and I learned the essence of putting focus and effort on things that were within our control, and leaving the rest up to the universe to determine for us. Through an extremely grueling 3 month process and many false starts, we were finally blessed the day before Thanksgiving with the purchase of our first home!

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Today marks the first official day of 2018. The many life lessons, celebrations and accomplishments of the past year have only increased my excitement for what's to come. As I prep for the first quarter of the year and the curation of my largest full-length concert in April, I have a fresh outlook on life and a strong belief that something great will be on the horizon for me in my personal life as well as my career. Here's to peace, prosperity and many blessings to all as we continue to traverse through this thing called life.

B~Free

Photos by Mahdi Gransberry

Photos by Mahdi Gransberry

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88Nine Radio Milwaukee Music Awards (Recap)

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While scrolling through my Facebook memories from this time approximately one year ago, I’d put out a blast status in support of my musical comrades who’d been nominated in multiple categories for the Annual 88Nine Radio Milwaukee Music Awards. The preface for that status was me stating how “it would be wonderful to one day be among the ranks of artists in consideration for these awards.” As a performing musician of nearly two decades, the core of my solo work has been within the last five years. While most of it had been positively received, I've endured my share of disappointments & hadn't reached the height of recognition that i'd envisioned from my local musical outlets. when the awards season resurfaced this year, i began to prep for the same mantra to be placed over myself. 

Last night I had the honor & privilege of attending this very same distinguished awards ceremony. A privilege of great magnitude as it was my first one – let alone as a nominee & finalist! I’d heard that the event was sure to sell out but nothing prepared me for the immensely great time that I experienced. upon my arrival, the line was out the door with attendees & one by one throughout the evening my friends began to surface. with sponsorship from the likes of the national recording academy, it was an event that turned out to feel like the city's very own grammy awards with professional photographers, video, interviews & media coverage. (the academy even provided complimentary earbuds - which will come in handy for this budding young musician who happens to like free sh*t lol) refreshments were flowing, the party was buzzing & i was enthralled with the amazing energy & belief that everyone was connected on the same accord - to have a good ass time. 

The awards were disbursed & I didn't win in the categories that I was a finalist for. But while there's always a slight tinge of disappoint in these types of situations, I was genuinely unbothered. I was out on a school night, jamming, surrounded by friends & watching them kill the stage & accept awards; which ISN'T something that I'm ever allowed to partake in as a teacher. And throughout the night, the most uncanny thing kept happening: people from all walks of life were coming up to me in adoration of my work! men & women whom i'd never met before expressed their fondness for my performances, music video, single & entire project. even the winners of band of the year recounted how they had the utmost respect for me & my music. i was completely overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions & absolutely certain that this would be the highlight of my evening.

After all that I'd endured with my vocal trauma & detours in my music career, I'd placed a lot of pressure on myself with the release of Ode 2 A Luv Affair. We as artists are our biggest critics & the discouragement that comes with that title can be incredibly overwhelming. But being able to take part in this wonderful event not only reaffirmed that I'm on the right track but subdued my fears of constantly being overlooked for my efforts. A wise person once told me that if any stranger comes to visit Milwaukee, inquiring about the best artists & my name doesn't come up in the conversation, my work is never done. This experienced showed me that I'm on the right track. Many congratulations to my friends & colleagues for their victories & amazing performances, as well as a sincere thank you to any & everyone who voted for me in the first place. You've given me the utmost confidence to thrive on & even though this is only the beginning, I'm extremely grateful to know that people are truly listening, & to see how much more attainable this dream of mine may be.

"No More" Blooper Reel/Behind The Scenes

The filming of my 5th music video with the marvelous Jessica Estelle Huggins & Jovan Landry! Shooting with them is never a dull moment & the things that are captured in the process are always hilarious. With the serious tone/message of the video, thought it'd be nice to share some of the happiness we all experienced while creating it. 

All footage shot & edited by Jovan Landry of JLeslieMonique Visuals.

#Ode2ALuvAffair available on all digital outlets 9.26.16!