Musical Ties: The Notorious Kia, Ricky Smith & More Creators Share How Music Fulfills Their Lives

By Alain Patron | August 24, 2022

Remember the first time you heard that song or album that changed your life? You remember where you were, what you were wearing, and the weather that day. What about that song that you forgot existed, but once you hear it, a smile comes across your face? Music is a universal language that speaks to, for, and about us. It shows up during the best and worst of times, but it's always present. We spoke to seven individuals from different walks of life about how music uniquely and purposely shows up in their lives.

The Notorious Kia

Stylist/Curator/Social Media Influencer
IG: @thenotoriouskia

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THE NOTORIOUS KIA PHOTO BY DANI B

What was the first song you remembered word for word?

"Juicy" by Biggie because, being from Brooklyn, it was everywhere! It felt like the borough's theme song.

Who is your favorite artist that people wouldn't think you're a fan of?

The Weeknd speaks from a place I know nothing about, and I'm able to romanticize life through his songs because I definitely don't live the life he sings about. Also, I love his story; he was homeless and is now one of the biggest artists in the world. He's inspiring.

Music starts playing when you walk into a room. What is your theme song?

That changes a lot, but if I had to pick one, it would be "Imaginary Players” by JAY-Z. The song is such a flex because he's talking about being the pioneer of things, an influencer of culture, and reminding himself who he is through bravado, and it serves as an affirmation for me.

We talked about Biggie earlier, and The Notorious Kia is an homage to The Notorious B.I.G. How much did he mean to you?

You know I'm from Brooklyn! [laughs] The impact he had is remarkable when you consider how young he was when he died.

What album do you wish you were in the studio for when it was created?

Watch The Throne because to observe and absorb that level of creativity between JAY-Z and Kanye would have been fascinating.

If you had to compare your style to an artist, song, or album, who or what would it be?

"Jockin' Jay-Z'' when he said, "I'm so ghetto chic; I'm where the hood and high-fashion meet..." We took ownership of the word ghetto, and now everybody wants to imitate the environment we grew up in.

Chris Classic

Artist/Founder of SAVOIR FAIRE Parfums
IG: @mrchrisclassic/@mysavoirfaire

What was the first song you remembered word for word?

"Turn Your Love Around" by George Benson was the first song I remember hearing in my mom's house and actually understanding.

Who is your favorite artist that people wouldn't think you're a fan of?

Sadé because she captures emotion in a way that merely saying her name evokes a place, a sound, and a feeling.

Music starts playing when you walk into a room. What is your theme song?

This is totally not my personality, but what I'm thinking on the inside is "So Ghetto" by JAY-Z. That DJ Premier beat is incredible!

The logo of SAVOIR FAIRE is a crown. Does that stem from you being a disciple of Run-D.M.C.?

Yes, just think of "Down With The King" by Run-D.M.C. Also, it represents everything I think about a personal standard of being and an homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat because of my love of art.

The tagline of SAVOIR FAIRE is "It's For People of Many Layers." What song would you relate to that?

"People Everyday" by Arrested Development because it represents the different hats we all have to wear throughout our lives, if not throughout our day.

How does your artistic process translate into creating fragrances?

I'm using my nose from very niche and high-end fragrances and translating that into using notes that are inherent to hip-hop culture.

Liris Crosse

Actress - Law & Order: Organized Crime
Model - Project Runway
IG: @lirisc

s6nup5k67fqcnscte20220526010619.jpegLIRIS CROSSE PHOTO BY TED ELY

What was the first song you remembered word for word?

It had to be something by Michael Jackson or Culture Club because I was an MTV kid.

Who is your favorite artist that people wouldn't think you're a fan of?

Tom Misch! His music has a vibe that makes me happy and soothes me. He plays the guitar and has such a melodic voice; I love all the instrumentation in his music. It's funny; I used Google alerts to make sure I didn't miss his U.S. shows, and I purchased tickets for two different cities because I was filming Law & Order: Organized Crime and didn't know when I'd be able to see him.

Music starts playing when you walk into a room. What is your theme song?

"Get Me Bodied" by Beyoncé because it's sassy, sexy, and confident. You throw on some Bey during a photoshoot, and it'll put me in a great zone!

Beyoncé puts you in a zone to model, but what gets you focused for stepping on set?

I created a playlist named after my character on Organized Crime. It includes songs by Lil' Kim, Nicki Minaj, Lil' Wayne, Cardi B, Drake, and others. There are certain songs by them that put me in the mood to get into character.

What's a song that reminds you of when your career started?

"Crush on You" by Lil' Kim! She reignited the sexual liberation of Black women because while she's wearing these sexy clothes, she's holding her own on the mic, and everybody respects her. I moved to NYC from Baltimore after high school, and Lil' Kim definitely kept me awake during those drives up the east coast. Kim and that song were a reminder to hold my own in any space.

You've been in plenty of music videos, but what is a video you wish you were a part of?

"Remember the Time" by Michael Jackson because of Iman's regality, and Michael Jackson's videos were mini-movies. He had commercials telling us when his videos were going to debut!

Michele Harrington

Entrepreneur; Head of Strategic Partnerships for Foria
IG: @mrsharrington913/@foriawellness

What was the first song you remembered word for word?

"Self Destruction," specifically MC Lyte's verse because she's a woman with a powerful voice in this male-dominant industry. I was 9 years old, and my cousin worked for First Priority Music record label, and I would ride with her to work while listening to that song and writing MC Lyte's verse down in a notebook.

Who is your favorite artist that people wouldn't think you're a fan of?

I love Imagine Dragons, and my kids knew every word when we went to see them in concert. There's also an emotional attachment to the song "Wrecked" because while he wrote it for his deceased sister-in-law, it reminds me of my mother, who passed.

Music starts playing when you walk into a room. What is your theme song?

How do you say you're from Brooklyn without saying you're Brooklyn? A JAY-Z song! [laughs] It would have to be "Empire State of Mind" by JAY-Z and Alicia Keys.

What song or album would describe Foria?

When we decided to bring our products to the multicultural market, the song that was out at the time was "WAP" by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. That song aligns with Foria because our products are for women who struggle with menstrual cramps, have painful sex, or want to take their orgasms to the next level.

Where do music and Foria meet?

Any song or playlist that makes women feel comfortable in their skin. Songs that get you in the mood or make you feel flirtatious; they can range from Teddy Pendergrass to Usher.

The conversations you have on panels are helping to lift the stigma of CBD and sex. Do you think music aids or stifles your efforts?

Honestly, it does both because while music is freeing, the critique of it is very confined. Sex has been such a taboo and hush-hush topic that people are missing out on enjoying it for the pleasure it should be.

Ricky Smith

Comedian/TV Writer/Philanthropist
IG: @rickonia

RS1.jpegPHOTO COURTESY OF RICKY SMITH

What was the first song you remembered word for word?

That's a crazy question because my older sister, Rhonda, just passed away, and when we were younger, she babysat me a lot with music. Our parents would have us create songs; I would play the drums, she would play the piano, and our sister would sing. I say all of that to say this, the first song I remember word for word is "Super Freak" by Rick James [laughs]. And I would perform it at family reunions!

Who is your favorite artist that people wouldn't think you're a fan of?

John Mayer because I love the music, and when I say that, I mean the instrumentation of it all. I feel like artists aren't in love with music itself but love the success that's a byproduct of it.

Music starts playing when you walk into a room. What is your theme song?

It all depends on which room I'm walking in. Machine Gun Kelly has a song titled "Till I Die," which is a song about where I'm from—Cleveland. When I go on stage as a comedian, I play "Here I Go" by Mystikal, but I'm partial to "Poison" by Bel Biv Devoe because there's a carefree nostalgia to it.

You're very proud of Cleveland, as you should be. How did you feel when you started to see artists from your hometown getting love across the nation?

Honestly, I didn't feel much because I'm such a fan of all music; I don't really care where you're from, so long as the music makes me feel good. One of my favorite groups ever is The Pharcyde, and they're from Los Angeles yet sound like they're from NYC.

Your non-profit organization, R.A.K.E. (Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere), travels a lot. Do you find yourself picking up different music along the way?

It's funny you say that because as amazing as technology is, it's also shrunk the world, so I know about music from everywhere in the palm of my hand. The charm of having to explore and purchase music is gone, and it makes me sad that young people won't ever experience that.

You like to give back and launched The Really Amazing Food Truck, which gives a meal to a person in need for every meal served. If you were coming down the street like Mister Softee, what would be the truck's song?

"Return of the Mack" by Mark Morrison!

Courtney Whitaker

Writer/Producer/Author
The SpringHill Company

IG: @courtneyewhitaker

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COURTNEY WHITAKER PHOTO BY NICK BRANCH

Fred Whitaker

Talent Management/Author
IG: @frederickwjr/@comeonajourneewithme

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FRED WHITAKER PHOTO BY HAYTHEM LAFHAJ

What was the first song you remembered word for word?

Courtney Whitaker: It had to be something by Brandy. Either "I Wanna Be Down" or "Sittin' Up In My Room," and my Moesha fandom definitely played a part in that.
Fred Whitaker: "Mo Money Mo Problems" by Biggie, Ma$e, and Diddy because I was in high school at the time, and it was one of those songs that got me so hyped, especially when the video came out.

Who is your favorite artist that people wouldn't think you're a fan of?

FW: I wouldn't say one particular artist, but R&B as a genre. I can be running a marathon listening to Mary J. Blige or Anita Baker and forget that I'm running.
CW: I'm the total opposite of my brother because everybody presumes I only listen to R&B or Gospel music, but I love Big Sean and listen to him all day!

Music starts playing when you walk into a room. What is your theme song?

FW: Anything from the B-side of JAY-Z's catalog because he walks into each room as himself, and his music reminds me to do the same.
CW: "Dedication" by Nipsey Hussle and "6 Inch" by Beyoncé— they represent two different moods. Beyoncé's music is for the woman walking into a room as a boss, and Nipsey's music is about the grind and community, and they both showcase my authentic identity.

How important is authenticity in the music you listen to and the work you produce?

CW: When I pitch a show, I'm pitching it as myself, and you either understand it or don't. That translates to music because the greatest artists speak their truth, regardless of how it's received.
FW: Whether I'm on a call or at a meeting, I have to be myself because it's the only thing I know how to be, and that's not to say there'll ever be a lack of professionalism, but I have to be comfortable with myself first and always. With music, it helps when a song is relatable and affirms who I am.

The books you both have written are centered around the journeys of Fred's daughters. If you could journey back in time, what album would you want to be in the studio for as it was created?

FW: Either Ready to Die by Biggie or Reasonable Doubt by JAY-Z. It's funny because my daughter Journee keeps me up on all the latest music. But I was born in 1981, so the mid to late '90s is really my era of music.
CW: Lemonade by Beyoncè [laughs] because she channeled the viewpoints of so many different women, especially on "Freedom," when they talk about the Black experience. To be able to hear her thought process as she created that album and those videos would be a dream.

If you weren't authors, could you see yourselves being musicians?

FW: I love the career that I have and the trajectory that I'm on. From the time I met Terrence J.—who is my best friend, business partner, and brother—we decided to enter the entertainment business to what we're doing now; I wouldn't change the path that got me here or where I'm headed.
CW: Musician? No, but I've always wanted to be a race car driver! A Black woman in F1 or NASCAR!? Are you kidding me? Our dad works on cars, so as much as I love music, I love him more!

Photography by: Dani B; Nick Branch; Ted Ely; Haythem Lafhaj; Ricky Smith