The music that has shaped much of the last 15 years of pop culture pierced the air on Friday night at Ludacris’ Atlanta restaurant — and music industry haunt — Straits.
And the woman behind much of that sound, Jan Smith, was working the step and repeat.
Smith was honored ASCAP Rhythm & Soul’s 3rd Annual Women Behind the Music Series, which also presented honors to Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Janelle Monáe and entertainment attorney Uwonda Carter.
Smith, of course is a renowned vocal coach who has worked with some of the biggest names and best voices in much of music. Her reach has trickled over into hip-hop, pop music, country and rock.
The event is a part of a series which places the spotlight on women in the music community, and extends beyond performers.
For her part, Smith remains humble.
“What’s cool to me is that all these artists come to Atlanta and we have ’em coming through our studios, so it’s kind of awesome to be a part of that,” she says. “And at the same time it’s really about just relating to the people and helping them to be better, whether it’s Usher or Keri Hilson or Janelle or whoever, it’s our honor to be able to work with those artists and raise their bar for their game.”
Monae, who has brought her funky, youthful, James Brown-inspired style to modern day music certainly doesn’t hang in the background. But she is a woman who does it on her own terms. Monae chuckles a bit when thinking about it because she has never compromised her style and doesn’t sweat at all about not fitting into one particular category.
“I came into the industry as managing myself, styling myself, doing my own make-up, so I’m a very hands-on artist,” she says. “I don’t have any pushback. It’s just really war with yourself. Once you see if someone’s being successful looking a certain way or letting somebody else write their songs, it’s just knowing that you have the power to do all those things in your own unique way and you don’t have to take the same coordinates to get to the same destination.”
Monae, who recently wrapped tours with Katy Perry and Prince, says that she’s back in the lab working on a follow up to her critically lauded “The ArchAndroid” album.
“I’m in a very giving space and ready to just create another work of art that could inspire,” she says. “We’re sticking to our formulas and creating new ones. So I’m all about evolving and what feels honest to me. I’m still very closely connected to my community and the things that got me this far and I haven’t lost touch with that at all.”