We had the opportunity to chat with R&B Artist and Educator, Lovely Hoffman. The Boston native recently made her radio airplay chart debut at #45 on the Mediabase Urban AC chart, with the release of her first commercial single, My Black is Beautiful. Lovely wrote My Black Is Beautiful as a way to take action to boost the self-esteem of her students, and all women of color alike. Lovely gave us some insight into her world as an emerging R&B artists who is slated to uplift the culture and change the paradigm.
RFFocus : After watching the video and listening to your song, “My Black is Beautiful,” it seems as if the major target audience of the song is young Black girls and women. Its obvious why your message would resonate with them but do you think it is equally important for young black men or even other ethnic groups to really listen to what you have say? What can others take from this amazing message?
Lovely Hoffman: While the issue of self-love is pertinent and very relevant to young black girls and women, the song is definitely transferable. The message of the song is self-determination and everyone can benefit from believing in himself or herself. Since releasing the song, I have had the opportunity to speak with so many people; young, old, men, women, students, professionals, ministers, parents, coaches as well as many people from various ethnic backgrounds and so many others from all walks of life, and they all shared how the message in My Black Is Beautiful resonated with them. The commonality in their stories is, “I remember struggling with issues of self-esteem and feeling like I was not good enough.” So truly, the message in My Black Is Beautiful is really universal in that any person can relate to the song, regardless of gender or ethic background; I just happen to write it for young black girls and women.
RF: You have touched so many people with your music to the point they speak of crying when they listen to it. When you are in the midst of your creative process, are you seeking to pull those emotions out of people as you write? Do you ever become emotional while writing or performing?
LH: As a singer and songwriter I approach every song with integrity and I think my fans can feel that when they listen to my music. Stevie Wonderful said, “music at it’s essence is what gives us memories.” So yes, I often get emotional when writing and performing because many of my songs are based off of my experiences and they bring me back to different times and places in my life. To me, that is why music is so impactful.
RF: One of your proudest moments was singing the national anthem at Fenway Park in your hometown of Boston and you also wrote a song that speaks to the Black Lives Matter movement. Can you explain the duality that lives within many of us where you can be proud to represent the United States on one hand yet also speak to the struggles many of us face within the country?
Well, my ancestors where brought to this country and they labored to make this country what it is today. Additionally, many of my relatives have served this country by joining the military. In fact, my father was a Boston Police Officer until his retirement. So I feel it is my right to use my voice and my craft to bring issues of injustice to light, but more importantly, I believe this is what artists should do. When I look at artists like Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and Nas I am so inspired by their courage and selflessness to use their platform impact change.
RF: With the current direction of R&B within the mainstream, do you feel any pressure to emulate what is already out there or do you just stay in your lane?
LH: As an artist, is it so important to find your voice and know who you are. Trying to imitate or emulate someone or something else is not sustainable. Regarding myself, I try to be honest with my artistry. I believe that as artists we evolve and grow, but it should not be at the expense of loosing who we are.
RF: What does the term R&B mean to you personally?
LH: When I think of R&B music the first words that come to mind are allegory and honesty. There is so much power in R&B music because of its ability to speak to the soul and move the heart. I think R&B music has this power because it is a derivative of other genres of music that have a rich history, including the blues, gospel, jazz and rock-n-roll. Legends like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke are the originators of this music, and it feels to good to be able to follow in their footsteps by being a student of this genre.
LH: Although I am a professional R&B recording artist, I am a student first. I have learned that many of the legends felt it was their duty to incorporate the issues of the time into their music. Paul Robeson said, “an artist has a responsibility to either help liberate the community or further oppress it.” I stand by this philosophy and will continue to write music that empowers and addresses issues of the time. I applaud people like India Arie, Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper. They have inspired so many people with their work and their message.
RF: If you could have a dream team of songwriters and producers to work on the soundtrack to your life, who makes the list?
LH: I would love to work with Lauren Hill, Nas, Kanye West, or India Arie. These artists have so much heart in their music. I also believe that we share a similar philosophy in our approach to music and songwriting. It is a dream of mine to work anyone of them.
RF: How has your theater background helped to develop you as an artist and songwriter?
LH: Being a theatre artist has definitely made me a more well-rounded performer. It has also made me a more versatile writer and artist. Since becoming very active in theatre I am proud to say that I have just completed my first one-women show, and I am now working on my second. I am so excited about this new project and I am hoping to workshop one of my plays in 2018.
RF: Finish this sentence: My Black is Beautiful because…
LH: My Black is beautiful because I am powerful, I am resilient and I am determined to leave my community more powerful and greater than I inherited it. Most importantly, I come from a powerful legacy of people who developed great civilizations and who are the reason I am here today.