It's all about the live performance for Jaguar Wright, the newest artist from The Root's Motive Records imprint. Part Ella, part Millie, and all uniquely soulful, her voice and her performance are both unforgettable. Picture this: she takes the stage, her shirt reads "Kick Azz" embroidered in gold. In the front row, die-hard fans cluster to absorb the ruckus and joy that comes with every Jaguar performance. In a few minutes Jaguar has almost cried over her cheating lover and now is pantomiming her revenge she rages on. "Singing is healing for me. It gives me a sense of myself, a feeling of order. My life makes sense when I sing," explains Jag.
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Jaguar grew up in a religiously devout household where her father sang in church, weddings, and other social functions, providing inspiration for her to cultivate her own musical talent. But she and her siblings were also left thirsting for a chance to listen to the sounds of artists like Minnie Ripperton and Marvin Gaye since they were not allowed to listen to the radio. "I used to love block parties because I could sit there and listen to Earth, Wind and Fire all day. Otherwise, most of the time I had to keep the radio off," says Jag who only got to listen to the radio when she and her siblings would sneak midnight listening sessions in their backyard or garage or on the rare occasions when their parents were not at home. Her father was so strict, he once threw a notebook of her rhymes into the fireplace, for it was through rapping that Jaguar found her first performance outlet. As a skillful and unique singer, Jaguar has come a long way from rapping and jumping rope with her first group, Philly Blunts, which performed together for 4 years. She credits her experience as a rapper for playing a strong role in her improvisational, unpredictable, and audience-centered performance.
When Philly Blunts disbanded, Jaguar retreated to studios in New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia to hone her singing talents. During that time she was singing hooks for local artists, covering songs, and working on her own material. She was set up with a performance at Black Lily, a female open mic founded by the Jazzyfatnastees and Motive Records. Black Lily provided an early performance arena for the likes of Jill Scott and India Arie, and at her debut, Jaguar stunned the crowd and became a permanent performer with the show. Soon after, she became a part of the Roots family collective and debuted her vocal virtuosity on The Roots' hits, "What You Want" from The Best Man soundtrack and "The Lesson Part III" from The Roots Come Alive. Her thrilling stage performance also won her a spot on the national Okayplayer Tour.
Jaguar is confident her debut will live up to her electrifying live performance. With songs that speak from her family's trials to capricious love affairs, Jaguar likens herself to a modern day Etta James. Most of all Jaguar wants her album to affect people positively. " I hope it will change somebody's life or at least soothe or comfort somebody-which is why I wrote an album full of real songs about real situations," she says. "The whole album is about my life situations that I have lived and seen," says Jag who duets with Bilal in an erotic get-down about a forbidden love affair on the ultra mellow "I Can't Wait," and with the help of Black Thought, puts a jealous ex-friend in her place on "Ain't Nobody Playing." But it is on the empowering song, "Self Love, Self Preservation," that the message from lessons lived and learned truly comes through in the delivery of the powerful lyrics: "Love yourself, believe in yourself, be true to yourself, be you for yourself. Do you;" which she sings like they are the most important words she will ever belt out. All of the songs on the album, aptly titled Denials, Delusions, and Decisions, speak to some issue or situation that has helped make Jaguar both the artist and woman that she is.
Denials, Delusions and Decisions boasts production from some of R&B's top producers and musicians, who provide the perfect musical mosaic for Jag's vocal prowess and adept storytelling. Jag's production team includes James Poyser (Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun) Scott Storch (Dr. Dre , Snoop Dogg, Christina Aguilera, and The Roots) and the musical visionary Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson" of The Roots who has worked with the likes of D'Angelo, Bobby Womack, and Femi Kuti. "It was important to me to have an album that was completely me, which is why I wrote and co-arranged my whole album. Jaguar as an artist is the purest part of me. I want to uplift people the way music has for me. I want people to put on my music and be touched by it." She has no doubts about where the real credit for her talent is due. "I honestly believe that God gave me this voice and right now I'm just warming up." Already having been featured in Vibe, Source, and Newsweek as an artist to look out for, Jaguar is poised to ignite today's musical landscape.
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