A Q&A with Trailblazing Composer, Producer, & Recording Artist The Angel

  1. You are a rare combination of an artist/producer and a composer for film and television. You were also among the very few women to score studio pictures and television in the 90’s and 2000’s. Thank you for trailblazing! From your early films to your current studio feature HEIST 88, what was your path, and how have you managed to seamlessly traverse these disparate mediums?

    I started my musical journey as a recording artist in the 90s, writing, arranging and producing records. At the time, I was blending soul, funk, jazz, dub and hip hop and became a pioneer of trip hop. I wound up creating a sound that set me apart from the many male DJ/artists, who dominated the downtempo, underground music scene from London to LA. It was my remix of a legendary Blue Note jazz artist that caught the ears of music supervisor Pilar McCurry and filmmaker Vondie Curtis-Hall that led to one of my first film composing opportunities for Tupac’s penultimate film, Gridlock’d.

    When the film premiered at Sundance, I met music supervisor Dana Sano, who thought I’d be a good fit for an upcoming New Line Cinema feature film called, Boiler Room. Writer/director Ben Younger wanted to infuse his film with nineties hip hop source music and nontraditional score that would work seamlessly together to represent the world of a chop shop he’d worked for and written about… Thanks to Dana, this pre-Wolf Of Wall Street classic was the first film I scored in its entirety and it opened further doors into TV in the early 2000s, when I became the first woman to succeed Shirley Walker in scoring a Fox primetime drama series. By then I’d become a fully self-taught composer and I could see that working to picture was not only a natural progression, it had become my greater passion…

    Everything unfolded organically because my seemingly disparate worlds are all so interconnected. I was constantly reading scripts for projects I was considering composing, while simultaneously producing and releasing records on my own label: Supa Crucial Recordings.  As a throughline, my artist recordings as The Angel and 60 Channels were being licensed to film and TV series, which further fueled my composing opportunities. And my commitment to mentoring, producing and/scoring shorts for up-and-coming women directors further expanded my knowledge and skills beyond composing to develop projects, and become a creative producer in film and TV.

  2. You have a long filmography as a composer and discography as an artist.  Please share a few favorite highlights of your career. 

    Scoring the UK feature, KiDULTHOOD for British director Menhaj Huda was special on so many levels. Not only has the film become a British classic, it was the catalyst to many collaborations with Menhaj, leading to our recent fifth project, the Paramount, Bassett/Vance production, HEIST 88 starring Courtney B Vance. Loosely based on one of the largest bank heists in US history in 1988 Chicago, HEIST 88 is currently a Paramount+, Showtime, TV Academy FYC feature film along with my score, which I’m thrilled will also be released as an album in July.

    An early producer/remixer highlight was being asked by Blue Note to contribute to a remix compilation album alongside artists/producers like The Roots, Guru and Michael Franti to remix and produce something of my choosing from their iconic jazz catalogue. As soon as I heard Donald Byrd’s “Kofi,” I knew that was the one… and what really blew my mind, was that this gorgeous gem of an instrumental had been sitting in the vaults unreleased since ’69. With great respect for Donald Byrd, I brought in Bay Area female rapper/poet, Mystic, to write and recite a spoken word piece to expand upon the beauty of his original creation. It not only became the album opener for The New Groove: The Blue Note Remix Project, it is featured in Gridlock’d in a somber scene with Tim Roth and Tupac.

    A recent artist/producer highlight was co-producing the music video to my pandemic single, “Words Like Daggers” (feat. Jhelisa) with award-winning director Mark Pellington and co-directors Sergio Pinheiro and Sweeten. I’ve known Mark since we both lived in London back in his MTV Buzz days, and I’ve always loved his artistry and his enormous sensitivity. This song was not an easy one for me to complete because it is laden with grief. I’m eternally grateful to Mark for bringing my vision to life, and to Jhelisa for embodying everything I’d hoped for in her incredible performance.

  3. You were among the first film composers to create hybrid scores with a masterful and edgy, moody electronic quality. Where do you get your inspiration and how do you continue to be current?

    The initial inspiration for creating those edgy electronic moody hybrid scores came from being hired by creatives, who wanted me to tap into my artistry beyond traditional score. They wanted the score to help distinguish their project by being uniquely theirs. And I’m grateful because this is rare. Both my records and my score, which are different from each other, don’t necessarily sound like my contemporaries. I suppose I stay current by following my muse and leaning into reinvention.

  4. How do you stay connected to inspiration and how do you grow as a composer? 

    It’s my passion that keeps me connected to inspiration. Even before I commit to scoring a project, the inspiration leaps off the script pages. Depending on the story, I can get deeply into researching the subject. For HEIST 88, I read everything I could about the real life bank heist, so I could get further inside the head of the mastermind lead character. Knowing the aspirations of my directors or showrunners and soaking up everything that is shared with me from spotting onward, I feel into the cinematography. That’s where I get my ultimate inspiration! And that’s why for me, there is nothing better than working to picture.

    My growth as a composer is linked to challenging myself, and never shying away from trying something I haven’t done before. My projects are very eclectic, and each one inspires and excites me to go somewhere new.

  5. What do you have coming up and what would you like to do next?

    I produced and scored the upcoming documentary feature, LIVES BEYOND MOTION centered on an intergenerational group of thirty-three celebrated men in contemporary dance including Bill T. Jones, Alvin Ailey Associate Artistic Director, Matthew Rushing and MacArthur Genius, Kyle Abraham. This legacy film is a blissful, emotional love letter to every creative across the arts, beginning its festival run in the fall with an LA Premiere at Dance Camera West in 2025. Our first Community Impact Pride event later this month will be followed by the release of my score album in August.

    I’m also beginning to score a documentary feature about the iconic gay filmmaker, James Bidgood and his path to directing his 1971 arthouse drama film Pink Narcissus, which for years was attributed to Andy Warhol and Kenneth Anger. It is a deep dive into Jim’s unparalleled artistry, while struggling with mental illness and addiction.

    Beyond these, I am writing, developing and producing projects that I will also score.

    Interview by Lili Haydn

    Check out the AWFC Directory for The Angel

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