(Photos courtesy of Shea Rose)
Shea Rose — a Mattapan-based singer, rapper and poet is a natural born leader.
The Berklee-trained musician heads up The Movement@Berklee, a student-led community outreach group that creates access to music in low-income neighborhoods. At sessions held around the city, students get the chance to rock the mic, watch performances and receive musical advice.
Last month, The Movement — along with the Music and Youth Initiative — held a variety of music workshops in the Fenway, Roxbury, Dorchester and Jamaica Plain for the first ever “Lead the Change Festival.”
The festival aimed to build stronger communities through music. Some highlights were Aerosmith’s Tom Hamilton and Grammy award- winning percussionist Swiss Chris’s youth clinic in Dorchester and Julia Easterlin and Taylor Gordon’s “Girlz Beat” that encouraged young women to become producers.
As leader of The Movement, Rose identifies potential community partners and recruits volunteers. Last year, she was appointed by Queen Latifah as one of five female MC’s to lead the next generation of female rappers. The winners, chosen from more than 600 entrants, recorded a remix of Queen’s popular song “U.N.I.T.Y.” and became models for CoverGirl’s Queen Collection.
Being in school and wearing the proverbial crown given to her by Queen are significant roles, but perhaps her most important job is steering her musical career. Rose is clear about what she wants to do and how she wants to do it, but it wasn’t easy.
Before Berklee, this piano and guitar-playing songstress was a writer for MTV and MSN Music, and sang lead in Mercy an all girl band in New York.
“I was really overwhelmed by New York,” she said. “It was too much. I learned that I am definitely a solo artist, although I love collaborating for the most part.”
A lover of Janis Joplin, Herbie Hancock and Jimi Hendrix among others, Rose’s sound is unique. It’s rock, pop and soul all blended together. She goes from edgy and strong, to soft and vulnerable. Rose — whose grandfather used to play jazz organ at the Hi-Hat — claims her sound is “Lenny Kravitz meets Lauryn Hill.”
Like most artists struggling to make a name in the music industry, Rose has turned to the Internet to promote her music. Her EP “Rock’n Rose” is available for free on her website, and site visitors are encouraged to be part of the street team.
“Rock’n Rose” is a fun and easy listen that shows her artistic versatility. The budding starlet shines on “My Style” where funk is peppered with rock and the title track where she raps about her musical flavor.
Rose has grown as a musician since her time in New York, and continues to hone her craft at Berklee. She’s had the chance to study abroad in Greece, perform with famed drummer Cindy Blackman who recently wed Carlos Santana and opened for Amel Larrieux.
“When I came back from Europe I was really on fire,” she said. “I realized that my voice is a global skill set. It’s a language. When I was over there, I realized people liked what I was doing. When you’re here (in America) you’re focused on the American recording industry, which can be quite limiting.”
Though she’s eager to share her music with the world, she’s not so eager to be controlled by the recording industry.
“I’m open to all possibilities. But I want the flexibility to say, ‘I don’t want to do this or I don’t want to do that,’ ” she explained.
Graduation is drawing near and Rose — who hosts the online weekly events guide “What’s Happening at Berklee” — is working on a new album “Little Warrior” which will be released over the summer. But, Rose seems poised to do more.
“Meeting Queen Latifah was very enlightening. She went from being one of the first female MC’s to being an actor and later modeling. I’m a singer but after watching her journey, I think anything is possible.”