Witnessing The Crossrhodes perform at the Tiny Desk instantly snapped me back to their early beginnings, just a few miles away from NPR headquarters. In 2001, on any given Monday night on U Street, music lovers would be treated to a magic show. Bar Nun's open mic night unearthed some of the finest MC's, poets and singers from the area, but they all took a back seat once the Crossrhodes stepped on stage. Week after week, the band passionately performed original material that jumped between society's woes and their own love lives, going from mere contestants to the main attraction. Word eventually spread outside of the D.C. area and one-half of the group, Raheem DeVaughn, landed a record deal.
DeVaughn went on to achieve R&B superstardom, earning two Grammy nominations, while the other half of the group, Wes Felton, has remained a pillar of D.C. culture, excelling as both a musician and actor. They reunited and released their first album in over a decade last year. Footprints on the Moon recapitulates and magnifies the ideals they conveyed in the early 2000s with a hyper-focused sense of urgency. There's nothing subliminal about the way they go about; there's no need to guess what side they're on. Representing the misrepresented, their approach is clear and direct.
Draped in black suits, they entered the building with their game faces on. Poet, Raquel Ra Brown eloquently set the tone for the band to completely ravish the desk. The Crossrhodes ripped through 3 and half selections from "FOTM" including an emotional rendition of "Praying Prayers."
DeVaughn, notorious for leaving his soul on stages around the world, belts with every ounce of his being while Felton came equipped with a completely reinvigorated flow, delivering bars of the most potent lyrics of his career.
Dear Father, I come to you at moment
As a humble soldier, eye to eye with my opponents
Half don't know or acknowledge your components
They don't read your word, even if they own it
The crowd's subtle intrigue slowly swelled into sheer fandom by the last note, reminiscent of those Bar Nun days. As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, I can't think of a more fitting band that exemplifies the strife, perseverance and exuberance of Black music.
- "Footprints on the Moon"
- "How You Gon' Fall"
- "Praying Prayers"
Producers: Bobby Carter, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, CJ Riculan, Bronson Arcuri, Alyse Young; Production Assistant: Salvatore Maicki; Photo: Jenna Sterner/NPR
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