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Jaguar Wright
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Jaguar Wright is a soul/R&B vocalist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is part of the Okayplayer collective.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, especially in the case of fiery Philadelphia chanteuse Jaguar Wright. As notorious for her impassioned, spine-tingling vibrato as she is for her show-stealing performance at Jay-Z´s 1999 MTV Unplugged concert with The Roots, Jaguar is the quintessential soul maven. Her sophomore debut, “Divorcing Neo to Marry Soul,” is appropriately titled because it not only rids her of the dreaded cloak of the manufactured category “neo-soul,” but represents her musical and personal emancipation. “I am truly divorcing everything from before to start fresh and new,” says Jaguar, a married mother of two. “The title lets everyone know I´m divorcing the hype to marry the real. I don´t sell anything else but me, or what I believe in or feel. I am finally free to do me, free to do my work.”
Through song Jaguar has mastered the art of expressing the ying-yang of raw emotion that is sometimes emotional and resolute in its convictions. The premiere single, the mid-tempo “Free,” is an impassioned cry to a jaded former lover who begs to be let out of their relationship. The Philly soul maven´s vocal prowess goes undeterred as she bellows the heartfelt confessional “Woman to Woman,” a remake to the 1974 classic by Shirley Brown. “I wanted to revamp it and make it more current. The world has degenerated and changed a great deal since then. I wanted to tell the story of the woman-to-woman song for my generation.”
Jaguar continues to air out her feelings with the heartfelt “Let Me Be the One.” Serving as a personals ad of sorts, this deliciously coy song is a thinly-veiled promise to deliver the goods to the object of Jag´s desire. When she bellows: “Let me be the one/We could have so much fun/Let me be your girl/I´ll give you the world,” you´d almost defy the lucky fellow NOT to choose her. Amid the same backbeat to the 2002 song “Grindin´” by rap group, The Clipse, the head-banging women´s anthem “Timing” condemns the behavior of a past lover by exposing his shortcomings. Jaguar bitterly recounts the shoddy treatment by her former love, singing: “When you came, you had nothing on your plate…Now it´s too late to say sorry, baby.” She even takes a sista-girl relationship stance on the confrontational torcher “Told Ya,” on which she reprimands a girlfriend for not heeding her advice about a cheating lover. “If she was smart she woulda listened!” Jag laughs.
As such a profound talent, it´s hard to fathom that the world may never have received Jaguar´s gift of song. Reared in the church, Jaguar´s staunchly religious parents did not initially support their daughter´s dream of becoming a “secular” singer. But the R&B dynamo knew she´d had tapped into something powerful when she managed to As such a profound talent, it’s hard to fathom that the world may never have received Jaguar’s gift of song. Reared in the church, Jaguar’s staunchly religious parents did not initially support their daughter’s dream of becoming a “secular” singer. But the R&B dynamo knew she’d had tapped into something powerful when she managed to convert the most unlikely of converts-her teacher mom and drug counselor father. “My parents wanted me to take the more traditional route…by becoming a litigator, doctor or a practitioner; a professor or a psychologist,” says Jaguar. “My father hated that I was singing. It drove him insane, and now he is biggest fan because I earned his respect. I proved that this is not a dream, this was not a fantasy— this is my life. Singing was my destiny, even before I was born.”
Although her first album, the 2002 effort Denial, Delusions & Decisions yielded a commercial hit (“The What Ifs”), which was featured in the Coca-Cola’s “Nu-soul” advertising campaign with The Roots, Jag has learned that industry partnerships aren’t everything. Her second coming has not been backed by the The Roots or any other artists for that matter. “I can do this on my own,” she says proudly. “I love working with people, but at the end of the day, I want people to know I can shine by myself.” Instead, she enlisted the help of production henchman Raphael Saddiq, Chucky Thompson, James Poyser, TL, Larry Gold and Mike City to breathe life into her powerful, poignant words (Jag wrote the entire album with the exception of “Flower”).
Jaguar believes her songwriting skills are innate. “From the second you start hearing and articulating sounds and phonics, everything is influencing you,” she says. To that end, many of her sonic influences have come from her diverse musical tastes which span decades of song. Those inspirations include Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Etta James, Sarah Vaughn, Van Halen, Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Rob Tomas (Matchbox 20), The Doors, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, among others.
One listen to “Divorcing Neo to Marry Soul” and it’s evident that Jaguar is an advocate for gut-wrenching soul music, and that’s not about to change. “What I am is what I am. Most people come up with a gimmic, and the only gimmick I have is that I am me. Love it or hate it, hate it or love it. Everything I do is based off of real life experiences. I’m eager to share them with my fans.”
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