Preview: R&B/Hip-Hop Showcase 2021
Updated: Sep 24, 2022
With the R&B Showcase filmed, the students in the Belmont community are eagerly waiting to watch their fellow peers take the stage and perform. In a similar way, the performers are eager to get their music heard.
One of those performers is graduating senior, Domenica Coka.
By Sean Phelan
Coka said her sound is heavily influenced by the people she listened to growing up. One of her top artists when she was younger was Christina Aguilera. Through her, Coka delved head-first into Aguleira’s contemporaries, like Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Adele.
“I listen to a lot of mainstream music, and the tonality of my voice contributes to more of the R&B sound because it’s influenced by the people I grew up listening to.”
When she was young, Coka grew up singing in church and comes from a musical background on her mother’s side. She says Tori Kelly has been a big inspiration for her songwriting because of how vulnerable her work can be.
“I like to see my songwriting as my personal diary,” she said.
Interestingly enough, Coka references Emily Weisband, a former Belmont student, is also an inspiration on her songwriting, When Coka described all the projects that Weisband has done, she had this to say:
“I think the first song I heard that she wrote was ‘Human Diary’ by Danielle Bradbery and I have never heard a song written very simple, but straight to your heart, kind of song writing.”
When asked what to expect for this showcase, Coka said that connectedness and honesty is something that she wants to bring to the audience
“Honesty is so important to me and being able to be honest even with myself and the people who listen to my songs and people relating to that is very special to me.”
By Justin Wagner; Contributory reporting by Erin Luft
Ca$hK said she’s still cultivating who she wants to be — but her music snaps nonetheless with effortless intentionality.
That shines through in the sanguine grooves of singles like “Better,” which highlight the sophomore music business major’s flair for trap-flavored R&B.
Ca$hK was born Kyleigh Jehlicka in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She later moved to Miami, and then to Nashville where she would attend Belmont — and even though she’s seen change after change, her tenets as an artist remain the same.
“Make money, make moves, live life,” Ca$hK said. “Keep writing and keep collaborating.”
The stage name Ca$hK, ascribed to her by a high school friend when she was producing songs out of a bedroom, reflects that mindset.
As for the music itself, Ca$hK’s style is distinct, smooth and sweet. Melodious singing keeps an even pace with rapped couplets, which flutter over vibrant chords and rattling hi-hats.
Inspired by the likes of SZA, Pharrell and Prince, her music is a confluence of old and new — with plenty of raw emotion behind each passionate word.
While Ca$hK is looking for “a good place to plant [her] roots” post-graduation, this early chance at her first showcase performance is the exact sort of opportunity she came to Belmont for.
“I’m really, really excited,” she said. “This is my chance; this is it.”
Students can look forward to hearing an eclectic group of songs, with a ballad matched against more lively, energetic stylings.
The showcase will also allow Ca$hK to tease her new EP, which she said will release at the end of March.
By Jessica Mattsson
From A-to-B by himself, JERZY looks to get you in the feels with his showcase performance Saturday.
A junior from Fort Worth, Texas, JERZY writes and produces his own music and enjoys having “all the creative control,” he said.
Inspiration is drawn from artists like Khalid, Kirk Franklin and his do-it-yourself role model, Eden. Striving to make every song sound different, his favorite part of the process is hearing the final product with a clear end goal. “I want to make people feel,” JERZY said.
Describing his songs to fit the mood of both road trips and good parking lot cries, his car is a sacred place for music, just like his room as most of his songs are created there.
His parents are his biggest supporters, and being half Hispanic-half British has influenced JERZY’s artistry — with European music culture and Spanish making its way into some songs.
“I think it’s such a beautiful language and sometimes English words do not portray what I am trying to say,” JERZY said.
JERZY’s solo approach took him to the Belmont showcase stage where he will be joined by guitar, bass and drums Saturday.
By Anna D’Amico
Sheldon Smith has struck inspirational gold when it comes to pursuing music.
“I think a lot of the pursuit of anything is derived from substantial support,” said Smith. “I would say that my parents and all of my family have been really instrumental in encouraging me to follow my dreams and do music.”
His teachers in both middle school and high school were another major factor in his choice to pursue a career in music.
“I really think that they saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, musically especially,” said Smith. “That extra encouragement and that kind of push for me to do greater things and not settle really solidified my push in music.”
Smith has been singing all his life.
After growing up singing in church, Smith began to take his music more seriously in middle school- and hasn’t slowed down since.
It was also around this time that Smith began writing his own music. After writing poems and short stories as a kid, he started putting his words to melodies.
Smith describes his music as “crossover pop with tinges of R&B.”
Although his voice gives away that he grew up in church, the majority of his music uses pop and R&B structured chords and phrases.
“There’s a bit of everything, honestly,” said Smith. “When I do eventually establish myself as an artist, I don’t want to feel subjugated to one genre.”
Smith gained a sense of purpose through the showcase experience and felt immense pride, honor and gratitude toward the opportunity to take part in such a well-done production.
“The first thing I realized as soon as I started singing my first song in the dress rehearsal- with all the lights, all of my band, me in my tux- the first thing I realized is that this is what I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life,” said Smith.
Smith said people should expect “versatility and virtuosity” from his performance this weekend- and hopes viewers will dance along with him at home!
Students can watch the showcase streamed Saturday on the Belmont showcase series’ Facebok and YouTube pages.