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It took quite some time to gather the right thoughts to make this post. Joi Gilliam, Joi…Joi is virtually the best artist that for some reason the masses has not heard of. Now what do I mean by that? You’ve heard her music often, but you may have not known it. Not to compare her, or to say that she created a music movement, but before you (music listening public) had Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, etc., there was Joi.
In 1994, before I left Atlanta and Georgia I first heard the Tennessee born daughter of Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback “Jefferson Street” Joe Gilliam, Joi’s, classic, “Sunshine& The Rain,” on community radio in Atlanta (“urban” radio stations here would not play Hip-Hop, nor anything thing that was not a national R&B standard, therefore Atlanta natives Outkast, and non-MTV songs by TLC, or Kriss Kross (given for effect) would not make it to local radio). As I often discovered with independent radio, I would find a new song, but it was highly unlikely I would find out who the artists was. Armed with this tape recorded song, I pumped this unknown artist all the way from Atlanta to New York and Connecticut.

Luckily, Joi’s work was released and I remember walking into the Sam Goody’s F.Y.E. concept store in Trumbull mall and seeing the new release wall, and Joi had her entire placement of her debut, The Pendulum Vibe, there. Not knowing that this was the artist I had been bumping, I was always inclined to try out new music, even without having heard it (I returned home after my 2 years in Bridgeport with over 1K CD’s of music, all catalogued in a notebook). Well I picked the CD up, and saw the title “Sunshine & The Rain,” I felt like I had won the lottery, first I had a full length album of an incredible artist that I only had previously had a partial taped song, and a real artist was given the opportunity to put her work out. I walked around that store, until our group left clutching the $18.99 compact disc until it was time to check out. I dropped the disc into my Sony Discman on the way back to campus, and had my first true magical experience with her music. My life was changed. I own, 3 copies of the album, and have purchased copies for friends before it went out of print.

Joi brought a new original breath to music, with her debut ranging from soul, to rock, to Latin chorus. With no appearances, other than an interlude appearance by the Erick Sermon produced Shadz of Lingo, she created a work, that most still have yet to experience. She is an artist that cannot be simply placed in one genre or category.

Joi went on to create another rarely heard, and unreleased sophomore effort, The Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome. Now while us fans have heard the album, or versions of the album, or bought a version from Joi, this album was one of the most highly rated and reviewed albums that I had anticipated, only for it not to be released. It, more than any other follow up, extended the Pendulum Vibe sound, and create an emotional landscape that sat alone as just pure music.

Unfortunately, she had another near miss, as she was added to the R&B supergroup Lucy Pearl, and appeared in a video for one of their songs when Dawn Robinson was still a member of the group. The group never went on to release new music with Joi’s inclusion.

We Joi fans were fortunate for the 2002 release Star Kitty’s Revenge, and then her independent release in 2006 of Tennessee Slim Is The Bomb.

Later in 1995, the song that opens the album, “Freedom,” was rerecorded and re-titled “Freedom (Theme From Panther) to be used as the theme of Mario Van Peebles movie Panther. The new version included Joi, but added Angie Stone, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Mary J Blige, TLC, Patra, Aaliyah, Mary J. Blige, MC Lyte, Coko, En Vogue, SWV, TLC, Lisa Lopes, Monica, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, Yo Yo, MC Lyte, Da 5 Foota, among many others. My biggest fear I had upon the first listen was that the author and original artist would be lost in the high profile remake.

While writing Blue Lines, both albums The Pendulum Vibe, and the unreleased The Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome were staples during the writing process. There is a scene while Key Yemaya Walker and Blue Hurt are in Atlanta and attend a Joi concert.

For music aficionados, you’ve heard Joi’s work before, whether it has been backing vocals on Outkast (when Paula Patton performs in the film Idlewild, that is Joi singing), Goodie Mob, George Clinton, Curtis Mayfield, TLC, Joss Stone, Fishbone, and her song “Lick,” (which has garnered me over 17K YouTube views) was featured in the 2002 motion picture xXx, along with Atlanta native Pastor Troy’s, “Are We Cuttin’.”

Recently, Joi and Devon Lee combined to great the group HotHeavy&Bad and you can see their work Undercover here, and download their work here. You can also see them perform at historic Pal’s Lounge in Atlanta.

The manuscript Blue Lines is the fictional coming of age narrative of a young California woman Key Yemaya Walker, and her 2 year growing journey through school, love, and life period piece, written by Kenneth Suffern, Jr., taking place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the years of 1997 – 1998. Loosely based on true events, and experiences during that time, told through the eyes and voice of the main female protagonist, a freshman first attending the school.