(Fre$h Fruit is Kelvin Cowans' periodic look at upcoming and rising talent from Memphis and the surrounding areas.)
After a long wait for her to hit the stage and by the time she actually graced the microphone, hands were waving in unison as the crowd ushered in the first verse of Ja'Dae Nicole's song.
Writers, promoters, artists and fans showed up to support Nicole and the release of her second mixtape, "Improv 2." Their wait for the 2011 Kirby High School graduate and now Atlanta-living, did-you-hear-that-note singing artist was warranted.
The back-up dancers were good, her poetry-in-motion lyrics were great and Nicole was as pretty as a Saturday. When she broke into "Break Yo Neck" it seemed some of her fans might do just that, trying to get a glimpse of this R&B/ pop singer-songwriter who clearly has next.
That's next as in on your radio and TV.
"I got into music by watching my father, Jabbar Smith, in the studio. It was his own studio, which was located in Raleigh," said Nicole. "I'd been there a countless number of times but it was right around when I turned 8 years old that I actually went in there and recorded my first song.
"I remember it like it was yesterday, that song was named "Please Come Home."
Kelvin Cowans: What you know about somebody coming home at 8 years old?
Ja'Dae Nicole: It was a song for the war, because people were dying and everything. It was like for my grandmother as well.
KC: Which direction did you go after that?
JC: I started writing songs and then when I turned 12 years old I did my first show. It was at Crystal Palce Skating Rink on Third Street. It was really nice. I liked the responses I received from that so I continued to work at it.
By the time I turned 16, I met a promoter by the name of Drich. He helped me get on a lot of shows around town and helped me better my craft. Soon after that we heard that Tony Davis, aka Cheese, of 645 Records was putting on a show and looking for talent. We sent him a demo and they fell in love with it. He decided that he wanted to sign me to 645 Records and after me and my family went over the contract we signed. And that's where I've been ever since then. I was 16 years old going on 17 at that time.
KC: Tony resides in Atlanta, where just like Memphis there's a rich history of music, so I can pretty much guess you've been doing shows in the "A."
JN: Yes, I have. ...We also started traveling to do shows as well. We then released two mixtapes and are currently working on my album. We've been working."
KC: What inspires you to write songs?
JN: My writings come from my English teachers from back in high school. They were very supportive and encouraging to me when I would turn in assignments. Some of those assignments I would write poetry for and I believe it all blossomed from that.
KC: How has signing with 645 Records benefitted you in your career?
JN: Tony flat out told me that you don't find many artists that can sing, write and make up their own dance moves and that let me know that he felt that I could become something special. He was excited to have me on the label and that made me excited. Once you get signed you have to work even harder and I expected that and I don't mind working hard. They push me to be the best I can be. He always has some wisdom for me.
KC: I keep hearing that Atlanta has a different feel to it and good energy, Can you attest to that?
JN: There's no place like home. I love Memphis, but as far as having things to do and more people to network with in your field, it's Atlanta for sure. It's way better.
KC: Do you see anyone in the music game that inspires you?
JN: I have a few actually. I like Tank. I think he's underrated because he's a very talented singer and writer. I also like Keri Hilson because she's a writer also. Now as far as like grind, I have to go with T.I. and Yo Gotti. Gotti been doing this and he didn't mind doing what it took to become what he wanted to become and that's what I'm about. The last person would be Usher because he's an all around talent. I have studied him for a long time now.
KC: If you were in the studio with the biggest name executives in the country and they told you that you have one shot with them, one song to convince them to do business with you, which song would you play?
JN: That's easy, I would pick "I L Y," it means I love you. It's a fun song and it's basically about telling your partner that I'm here for you no matter what. It deals with what a lot of people are going through in love and life today.
KC: Anything you'd like to add for our readers who may be contemplating a career such as yours?
JN: I'd say find something that motivates you. What has motivated me is staying true to God and keeping him first. I've been blessed for doing that. My Mom is my manager and she is awesome and these opportunities that I'm getting are a direct reflection of me staying true to God.
KC: Last question, what is your favorite fruit?