TrackEXP: Kiya Lacey and Cherele are creating opportunities for themselves and other women artists in Atlanta
At 11 p.m., Atlanta singer Sophia took the stage in The Basement for the second time.
Large blue lit circular rings hang from the ceiling on both sides of her, light blue balloons lined bottom of the DJ booth, which also had blue poms on top, and the event’s title, “Track 1” projected onto on the wall behind her as she performed “I Want You,” from her EP, “Love, $o: The New Classic.”
“I only have five minutes, but shout out to them for bringing all these women artists together,” Sophia said as she commented on the beauty of the event and women working together, because they can. “You know the niggas run in packs and shit.”
TrackEXP (pronounced track experience) hosted Track 1 on Jan. 10 in the East Atlanta Village. The event was the first for the creative agency, founded by Kiya and Cherele, which focuses on building platforms for other local artists and creative women.
Structured as a “live playlist,” nine local artists, all women (including the agency’s founders) performed sporadically throughout the night. The curators set it up that way, and not in the form of a typical showcase, to eliminate any chance of boredom.
“It’s basically if you were at a party, and these artists song came on at the party, but (the artists) actually performed,” Kiya said. “It’s kind of keeping the excitement going on throughout the night, so you never know who’s going on the stage next.”
They’re all women: The event organizers, artists, set and graphic designers, photographer and videographer.
Toward the middle of the venue, Spotify pictures of all the performers hang on a wall above a table which held a homemade board game featuring the artists’ photos. On the next table, a vendor, also a woman, sold jewelry and merchandise with designs by Yani Mo.
By 11:15 p.m, a short woman with a shoulder-length hair cut into bangs hopped on stage. For most of the night, she’d been dancing in the crowd - in high-waisted jeans, a white jacket with Holland written across the chest, and white tennis shoes - and looked like any other attendee. But it was Yung Baby Tate, and she performed “Hey, Mickey” for her first song of the night. She danced across stage during her set, and went too.
Whether they knew it or not, Kiya and Cherele threw a party.
DJ Hourglass transitioned seamlessly in and out of each performance, and had the crowd actually singing and dancing, excited about whatever she played next.
She kept the party flowing, but periodically reminded everyone what they were there for. “Be sure to follow the artists on Spotify. Download their music, support Atlanta artists.”
One night, late in 2017, around 1 a.m., best friends Kiya and Cherele were on the phone (“Bonnet on, scarf on,” Cherele said.) when they had an “ah-a” moment regarding Track 1. They put their original idea - a tour - on hold and locked in an Atlanta venue, then built a splash page for their first event, which went up before any artists were confirmed. All they knew, was they wanted to move forward.
They reached out to friends who were artists and also women they thought would benefit from this type of event. They said they were surprised when everyone they asked confirmed.
Only weeks later, their final product featured a range of artists: rappers, singers and hybrids whose sounds held alternative, dance, soul, pop and even rock elements.
No artist looked or sounded the same, and that was a part of the plan.
“We wanted to show variety within women in Atlanta,” Kiya said. “People tend to have this view of what an artist is, or what a woman can be, in the industry in general, especially within Atlanta music, but we wanted to kind of create that variety, so that it does flow, like you were at a party.”
Kiya captivated the crowd, bringing an alternative sound with her R&B, during her hypnotizing performance of "Runaway."
Cherele, who kicked off the night, commanded attention with "C O O L I N’." Lord Narf had the crowd jumping almost as soon as she hit the stage.
Neila serenaded the crowd as she sang "Ready" and "Digital," rocking her signature green hair and probably the most creative outfit of the night (it’s awesome, go look at it). And Tiva, with her thigh-length braids swinging, danced, along with the crowd, as she had fun performing "Lame" and "Get the Neck."
“It’s super important to us to represent different voices of women in the industry and different styles of music, and make it blend,” Cherele said. “And that’s why it goes so well with the experience we’re providing because it is like a playlist versus only going to get one sound.”
To which Kiya added, “Because that can be kind of repetitive and boring and within that becomes competition. And this is the exact opposite of that. Our goal for this is to showcase variety and showcase support between women. The industry is already male dominated. This is showing, we can curate an event, with all women.”
When Kiya first arrived in Atlanta two years ago, she said the first people to reach out to her were BOSCO and India Shawn, who are artists now both based in L.A. They invited her to events or to be a part of them. Cherele, who arrived around the same time, said she’s only received support while in Atlanta - and hasn’t had to experience any catty or negative situations.
With this event, they both wanted to continue that cycle of positivity and love between women in their male-dominated industry, and expand on what they normally do: support their friends and other local artists.
They say the event isn’t a one-off type of situation. The night before the event, they made dinner for the artists - turkey, shrimp, mushrooms, black beans, rice, wine - to make sure the support continues beyond the night. It’s just one part of creating the culture they want to see within Atlanta’s already thriving creative environment.
“It’s important to me to provide a platform for multiple women, to have different voices, different opinions, to have different backgrounds, and share that, and allow them to express that fully in that environment,” Cherele said.
And the timing is everything, Kiya says. After finding her footing in her personal life, she’s settling in and trying to find that same footing as an artist who creates here in Atlanta, which is why she moved here in the first place.
“The second year has been eye opening as an artist, and it’s been like, it’s very difficult as a woman to always network, and try to be on this person’s show, in this person’s event. We’re creating our own plug for ourselves,” Kiya said. “I want … everybody on this show to get a sponsorship, or an opportunity off of the people we’ve invited. It’s kind of just about that, sharing connects.”