For the next three weeks Melody continued to write and record with L.A. and Wise. At the end of the fourth a complete 16 song CD was ready to be pressed. All the songs had been sent off to the Library of Congress for copyrighting. In the previous weeks they had consulted with their management team, Connex, Inc. Connex, Inc was a new management company headed by one of Wise and L.A.’s long time friends, LaFaye Wyatt. LaFaye was sharp and had a strong business sense that had been evident from the time she was a child making a profit by peddling penny candy to the other neighborhood kids. LaFaye, begin Connex, Inc. during her second year of college at Wayne State University with the help of Bryson Jones, a fellow college mate who was interested in the music industry. LaFaye had recently graduated from WSU with a degree in Business Administration and Music Industry Management LaFaye, had been classically trained in the musical arts since elementary school, and had fallen in love with all types of music, and all things involving the music industry. Bryson who had a degree in Marketing and Communication Studies was responsible for the group’s promotions, setting up their interviews and media relations. The third member of the team was fashion and image consultant, Renee Lake, who had graduated from the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Chicago. LaFaye, Bryson, and Renee had discussed their functions as part of the management team in-depth, and they begin to map out their plans and vision with the group. The meetings were always effective, straight to business sessions, and all parties were satisfied with their progress. LaFaye had begun shopping a demo CD they had prepared to major record labels. The Rootz already had their CD set to be released by an independent distributor, D-Life Distribution, Wise and L.A. had used since their first underground CD, Unrooted, had dropped in 1999. LaFaye and Bryson were determined that this new CD, Urban Matrix, though independently distributed would have a bigger build up than the previous effort. The Urban Rootz had an ever expanding and loyal fan base, which was a great advantage. Because of their community, club, and music industry connections the local radio stations showed them love, and their first single would be released on 105.9 FM then distributed to 98 FM and 88.1 FM in Highland Park. LaFaye had their shows booked up for 6 months solid spanning from local venues to Chicago, Toledo, D.C., and Canada. The future was looking extremely bright for The Rootz, and Melody was excited to be apart of it all. ************************************************************************ Melody ran her fingers through her freshly braided hair, and looked in the mirror arranging the thin braids to her liking. In 2 hours the Urban Rootz would be doing a photo shoot for The Metro Times, a popular local weekly publication. They had all decided to sport their UR gear as a display of their unity as a group. Melody had the UR logo printed on a specially designed grey shirt that was cut off at one shoulder with fringes to drape across her midriff. The dark blue denim skirt she would wear was ruffed at the hem, and cut at an angle, one side coming to rest at her mid-calf. Melody selected a pair of gray stiletto pumps that laced up to her calf. She wanted to achieve the fashionably chic look of the models she had seen in urban entertainment magazines. She gathered her braids back into a terrycloth ponytail holder so she could work on her make-up. Melody had never been crazy about make-up, but she wanted to look good for the camera. Her bronze skin already had a healthy glow so she only used a light dabbing of liquid foundation beneath her eyes, and dusted a bronzing powder across her forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin. For the next 15 minutes she worked on her face, eyes and lips. She blended, lined, and glossed until she had the natural look that accentuated her earthy beauty. She smiled with satisfaction and pulled her braids free of the ponytail holder letting them tumble about her shoulders. “Not bad girl,” she chuckled to herself. She examined her French manicured nails and decided there was time for another coat of clear nail polish. A little more shine could not hurt. Melody relaxed to the sounds of her Kina CD. She had a half hour before Wise and L.A. would pick her up. Her mind began to wander as her favorite track “Hurt So Bad” began to play. Kina’s singing sent a chill up her spine, because of the intensity and passion in her powerful voice. ****, she could identify with that type of pain. Her mother’s face appeared in her mind along with a barrage of painful images and Melody closed her eyes tight to force the memories away. She did not want to remember the past right now. She tried her hardest not think of it at all. Lately she had been so busy with the Rootz that she had not had time to think about it, and Melody had been all too willing to throw herself into her work. She knew better than to run from her memories, but she did not have the time to indulge self pity and tears. She thought of her mother again, and wondered if she would be proud of her. Did her mother really see her from heaven? Did she know how much it meant to Melody that she see her, and hear her? Many times when Melody sang, she would be singing to her mother. Tears sprang to Melody’s eyes as she whispered: “**** momma, I miss you so much. I wish you were here right now. I need to know you are with me. If you and God hear me right now say a prayer for me, because I need it momma.” She wiped the tears away with the back of her hand, and began to sing along with Kina: “HEEE-EEEY! Tell me why it gotta hurt so bad?” Her voice soared through the bedroom filled with a heart wrenching pain and sadness. If anyone else could have heard her it surely would have touched their heart. She pressed the repeat button on the CD player and listened to the song twice more , before ejecting the CD. She glanced over at her alarm clock and read the digital numbers . It was 1:00 PM. Wise and L.A. would be arriving at any moment. “Oh ****!” she exclaimed as she jumped up from the bed. “****, I hope I did not ruin my makeup!” She rushed over to her vanity and quickly repaired the damage she had done. Moments later her doorbell rang. Grabbing her purse and keys she dashed down the steps and flew to the door at breakneck speed. Wise and L.A. were standing there patiently when she flung open the door. “You ready, ma?” L.A. asked. “Yeah, let’s ride,” she said in a breathy voice. “That’s what I’m talking about. A woman who’s ready on time!” exclaimed Wise as L.A. chuckled in agreement. Melody flashed a smile and tugged on one of Wise’s locks. “I see you have your naughty dreds in subjection today,” she teased. Wise grinned and replied: “Yeah, I had to tie em’ down last night. I had that stocking cap on so tight it left a dent in my forehead.” he complained showing her the mark across his forehead beneath his black UR headband. Melody giggled. “At least you won’t be lookin’ like you bout to fly away now.” she teased. L.A. chuckled as he opened the door of Wise’s black Expedition for Melody. “See that’s why I keep me a fade now. I dig the concept of locks and all, but man sometimes I don’t think it would be worth the trouble. Hell, I even tried to let my hair lock for about a year and half, and mine just would not do right!” Wise and Melody chuckled at L.A.’s consternation. “Ahh, man you just gotta be patient,” Wise said. When L.A. eyed his friend dubiously Melody began to laugh again. Twenty minutes later they arrived at the building that housed the offices of the Metro Times. Their interviewer, Karla Stokes, greeted them with a bright smile and warm handshakes. She was dressed in a light pink shell, a fuchsia linen skirt, and fuchsia high heeled sandals. Her black hair was swept behind her ears in a flipped cut, and her big brown eyes sparkled with energy. “Follow me,” she said once they had introduced themselves. She led them through the office to a room carpeted in beige, with mahogany tables and comfortable leather chairs and sofas. “Do you guys want any water, coffee, or sodas?” she asked before taking a seat adjacent of the couch they were sitting on. “Oh no thank you,” they all said at the same time. Karla smiled and whipped out a notepad and placed her mini-recorder on the table. “Well Wise and L.A. I understand this is not the first time you have been interviewed for the Metro Times, correct?” “Yeah, last time Khary Kimani Turner came to one of our shows and did an interview with us before we performed. He’s a real cool, down to earth brother.” replied Wise. “I liked the write up he did on us. He gave us a lot of love in that article,” said L.A. Karla smiled and nodded. “Yes, Khary is a wonderful person and writer. I read the interview, so I could have some background on you guys. I’ve even been to one of your performances. I think it was at the Charles H. Wright African American Museum back in the summer of 2001. You guys were awesome!" Wise smiled in remembrance. “Thanks, that was a good show. The crowd had great energy, and we were definitely vibing off them.” Karla nodded and turned to Melody with a smile. “So you guys have a new member now?” “Yeah, Melody is the new member of the UR clique. She has an awesome voice and rap style,” Wise said excitedly. “Impressive. How did you hook up with the Rootz, Melody?:” “Back in March they came to my school, University of Michigan, to perform for our Hip Hop Summit. During the show they asked members of the crowd to come on stage and perform with them.” “So you decided to take advantage of the opportunity then?” Melody giggled as she replied: “Actually, no. My room mates Nataki and Chandra shoved me up on the stage and I was so embarrassed. I couldn’t believe they had done that to me!” Karla laughed and asked: “Wow, so what happened next?” L.A. jumped in eagerly. “Me and Wise had to practically pull her on stage. She looked like a deer caught in headlights, but once she got that mic in her hands, and opened her mouth it was like WHOA! I had never heard such a big, powerful sound before, and when she started flowing she just killed it! Wise and I lost our minds, man. I told Wise we had to have her.” Wise cracked a smile and nodded. “Yeah, L.A. could hardly wait for the show to end so we could talk to her. We offered her a place in the group on the spot at his insistence. L.A. was so excited, and I was totally digging Melody’s talent and vibration. She’s a beautiful and gifted sister.” Melody blushed as Wise and L.A. smiled at her warmly. “These guys think very highly of you I see. I can’t wait to see you perform with them,” Karla said brightly then asked; “What was it like sharing the stage with them, and were you surprised when they approached you after the show?” “I have been a fan of Urban Rootz since I had first heard of them in 99. When I heard they were going to be at the U of M Hip Hop Summit I was psyched. It was amazing to be on stage with those guys. They are so talented! I was very surprised when they approached me about joining the group. I accepted on the spot, because I just felt our musical styles would mesh, and getting a chance to work with such talented artists was the beginning of my dreams of having a music career.” Karla nodded and then launched into a serious discussion. “As artists what have been the major influences on your art and the messages contained in your music?” “As local artists having grown up in Detroit I think it is very important that our music convey a positive message to our communities, especially to the youth. Most of my writing is influenced by the everyday occurrences of life in this city, the people I meet, and my own experiences. All these influences coupled with music culminates into an aesthetic experience that not only sounds good, but benefits the mind and spirit.” “I have to agree with Wise. There is a great need for artists to be socially responsibly for the messages they impart to the youth. Hip hop has been suffering the onslaught of ignorance and commercialism, and young kids look up to some of these cats like role models. I’m not saying parents should not be responsible for their kids, but we as artists should be consciously aware, and not use stereotypes and ignorance to hype our own acts. Real hip hop started out as the voice of Black urban American youths who could no longer be silenced. We were telling our stories of life and calling for a change. Hip hop is an art form that should be preserved and respected, not exploited.” Karla nodded in agreement, and turned to Melody for her input. “L.A. and Wise made some very good points. My own experiences are a great source of influence in my writing rhymes and songs. I think I have had many experiences other people can relate to. I would like to develop a diversity and universal appeal in my style so people in all walks of life can say: “Hey, I feel that and I can identify with those circumstances and emotions.” As artists we interpret our pain, our troubles, our concerns, and reflections through artistic mediums. We offer our own philosophies and solutions concerning the problems and situations we all face. I want to attempt to bridge the gaps and touch people with my message, and perhaps encourage them to be strong or make positive changes in their lives. When we take power into our own hands as individuals, when we unite, we can effect change on a much larger scale.” “This is great feedback. It would wonderful if all artists shared such dynamic and inspiring viewpoints,” Karla praised, and continued to question them about the pending release of their CD, their upcoming shows, and plans for the tour. After the interview was wrapped up Karla introduced them to one of the staff photographers, Darin Harborwood. "Darin will be taking your pictures for the cover shot and feature article now,” she explained. “It’s been great interviewing you guys, and I will definitely be at your next show!” she said with another bright smile. Wise, L.A., and Melody smiled and bade her goodbye. "Okay guys," said Darrin "Let's get some shots of you all on the couch." Darrin directed them where he wanted them, and took several shots. Before moving on to the next series of pictures he requested that Melody cross her legs, and bend her head at a flirtatious angle. "You have a great smile and legs if you don't mind me saying so. It makes for a far more enticing photo," he said with a dimpled smile. Melody blushed and took a quick survey of him. He was 6'1 with golden honey brown skin, brown eyes, wavy black hair and an athletic build that tapered down to a slim waist. He should have been a model, she thought. Twenty minutes later Darrin had completed the photo shoot and Wise, L.A., and Melody were out the door and on their way to Camillian for a late lunch. The Camillian was a cozy cafe on the corner of Larned and Monroe. The inside was decorated with light yellow wood tables and chairs with a huge glass picture window giving display to the Downtown streets, shops, and traffic. Colorful paintings and pictures by upcoming and local artists decorated the walls. A smooth mix of reggae, jazz, and acoustic soul music poured from speakers concealed from the customers view. "That was a really good interview," Melody commented as she speared a crouton and a leaf of lettuce from her chicken Caesar salad. "Yeah, I think we represented ourselves well. She was extremely easy to talk to," Wise agreed taking a bite of his smoked salmon sandwich. L.A. who was devouring a tuna rolata piped up: "And she was FI-INE too!" Wise grinned in agreement, while Melody rolled her eyes playfully. "I swear you are a big *** flirt if I ever saw one." L.A. cut his eyes at Melody as he retorted: "Whateva, you wasn't talkin' all that smack when that photographer dude Darin was all up in your grill." L.A. began to mimic Darrin, "Oh you've got a great smile and legs" Please! You were eating it up!" Wise began to chuckle, and Melody blushed deeply. "Oh shut up fool!" she grumbled as she dipped her head and took a sip of her strawberry smoothie. The conversation progressed to other upcoming interviews and events, and they capped off their meal with a delectable slice of apple pie topped with a drizzling of caramel and a swirl of whip cream. "Alright, ma, we gone check you later," L.A. said as she stepped out the Expedition when Wise had pulled up to her house. "Don't forget we have a meeting with our management team tomorrow at 10:00 am," Wise reminded her. "I have it circled in my organizer. I'll see you guys there," she reassured with a smile. She stood on the corner watching as they drove away, and then turned toward the house. Her cell phone began to ring before she could make it up the porch steps. She cursed softly and froze when she saw whose number it was. This time she was not caught off guard, and she refused to answer her phone. "I don't need this **** right now," she murmured to herself, "Why won't he stop calling?" Melody gritted her teeth and shoved the cell phone back into her purse. As she let herself into the dark, empty house she welcomed the dreamless slumber of sleep. At least then she would have a few hours of peace without all the thoughts she shoved back during the day crowding her head. The door closed with a thud behind her, and with a sigh she climbed the stairs to her bedroom to settle in for the night.