The scene is nighttime. A woman struts down D.C.’s U Street, ready for a night out on the town. Everything about her exudes feistiness. Every bit of that spunk and spirit is in her thigh-high dress and wide shiny belt, her fishnet stockings and black leather jacket.
Even her auburn-colored blowout is flared in peacock fashion; her cranberry lipstick makes her mouth seem almost edible. And if this doesn’t entice you, the cameraman slows her strut so that she slides into each movement the way honey slides out a jar.
And that’s just the humble side of Takeah Scott, known to her fans as Green Tea. The singer has fellas outside the Chili Bowl snapping their necks. Inside a lounge, she flirts with guys at the bar and has each one, in succession, trying to woo her off a black leather couch. She does all this while singing the theme song, Crazy Feelin’, which seems to trail wherever she goes.
Can Scott’s other persona compete with Green Tea? As an advocate on behalf of D.C.’s youth, Scott seems to think Green Tea’s fire and thunder pales in comparison to her passion as a social worker. “Initially, what drew me [to social work] was I wanted to help families communicate better,” she says.
For almost six years, Scott’s helped adolescents communicate through play therapy, which uses the therapeutic powers of play to help adolescents prevent or resolve psychosocial challenges and enhance their growth and development.
This form of therapy usually involves children, ages 3 through 11, and provides a way for them to express their experiences and feelings through a process that’s natural, self-guided and self-healing. Since a child’s experiences and knowledge are often communicated through play, it becomes an important way for them to know and accept themselves and others, according to child therapy sources.
“I love adolescents. I think they’re the most misunderstood,” Scott says. Overall, “I’m a people person and I love helping people to communicate their thoughts.” She hopes to communicate on a broader platform, when she leaves the profession soon to pursue music full-time.
Growing up listening to the Clark Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald and Donny Hathaway, the Southeast D.C.-native recalled being 3 years old – standing on top of tables and singing into a spoon to entertain family members.
The rites of passage for most Black singers start in the church. Scott started out singing at the Blood Redeeming Church of God in D.C. before she set out to make a bigger name for herself locally. Like most artists, her rites of passage involved her hitting up open mikes, or “tilling the ground” as she calls it.
Michael F. Willingham Jr. (known as emcee yU) spotted Scott at an open mike one night nine years ago. It was at a U Street venue formerly known as Bar Nun and currently called Pur. Willingham was impressed. “I thought she had skills after seeing her perform,” the Suitland, Md.-based emcee recalled.
Those skills caught him by surprise. “I like how she’s kind of like a sleeper,” Willingham said, referring to her humility. “I didn’t think such a big presence would come from her.” One night, she stopped her performance to bring up Willingham to flow on a song with her. ”I thought it was generous of her,” he says.
Since that night nine years ago, the emcee says he’s seen a lot of growth in her work. “I never got to tell her face to face that I love the video she did with Roddy Rod,” Willingham says. “I wish her the best in all of her future endeavors.”
Scott continued tilling that ground by doing free shows and jumping at opportunities to sing whenever requested – all of this while working a day job as a social worker and a part-time job as a therapist.
A typical day for Scott is waking up at 6 a.m., going to her full-time job, and then her part-time job in the evenings. If she has a gig, she does it after her part-time job. If not, she hits the studio to record or brainstorm ideas for new songs. On the off days, she’s hanging out with her “superman.”
“It’s also difficult…when you’re trying to do so many things and you’re also in a relationship,” Scott says. “It’s hard work,” she adds, with a laugh. “That’s another job. Add that to the list.”
If there’s a lesson to be learned from her rites of passage, Scott says it’s protecting her brand and reputation. “Your gift can take you into places where your character can’t keep you,” a wise man once told her.
“There are artists who have been out in the game for a long time, but they don’t do well because their attitude,” Scott says. Of the process, she added: “You’re really just tilling the ground and your harvest will eventually come.”
Her harvest came with the 2005 release of her first album, Have a Cup of Green Tea Dosage I: Shades of Green. That year, she started singing professionally and met another local artist.
“Takeah is a very talented artist and performer,” says Terrence Cunningham, a singer and musician and songwriter living in Suitland, Md. Cunningham recalled meeting Scott four years ago at a show they were both billed to perform at. “Bright, exuberant” and “great performer” are some adjectives he used to describe Scott. Said Cunningham, “Be sure to look out for her.”
Another harvest came in 2008, when Scott released her second album, Dosage II: Choices. Unlike her first album, Scott says she had a plan this time. Aaron Abernathy, a singer and songwriter and vocal arranger who worked with Scott on the second album, agreed. “She knew what she wanted to do. She was prepared,” says the 26-year-old (known by his performance name “AB“), who recalled meeting Scott in late 2005, while gigging in the D.C. area. “She told me she was working on her second album and was looking for a certain type of feeling,” says Abernathy, now located in Los Angeles. “We just started recording together.”
On Dosages II: Choices, he did most of the vocal arrangements, wrote two songs and did a duet with Scott. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears, but it was a good process,” Abernathy says. On work ethic, he added: “We used to go [into the studio] for three-hour blocks. She would just knock songs out.” They knocked the album out in three months, doing studio sessions only on weekends.
Her plan for the second album was to target the east coast, doing shows in Virginia, D.C. and Baltimore, and build grassroots campaigns in those areas before branching out. So far, she’s performed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Her plan also includes her working on a mixtape, “Beautiful Weirdos: The Outcast,” due out soon. Her upcoming performances include this Thursday at Peace and Cup of Joe in Baltimore, and Oct. 30 at Spirit of Faith Christian Center in Temple Hills, Md.
But tilling those grounds has not been an easy task for Scott as an independent artist. Some of the cons included her exerting time and energy to promote herself, and paying for everything. The task is even more difficult being a woman on the road. There’s the fact that “some people don’t take women seriously,” Scott says. “If you happen to have anything that appeals – you have breasts or a behind – people tend to look at that more so than the craft.”
Since she’s been on the road, Scott has had to deal with harassment from male fans trying to get her phone number after shows. During a performance, some guys even made gestures of holding their hearts and blowing kisses at her. “I’m like, ‘You guys are crazy,’” she recalled. “’Absolutely crazy.’” She’s also dealt with show promoters trying to take her out on dates instead of paying her. “No. You pay me,” Scott recalled saying.
But the pros make it all worthwhile, she says. “The liberty and freedom to be who you are, for you to experiment,” she says. “Your creative freedom…to change direction as you see fit for flexibility is also” worth it. She has her family and friends to help her overcome some of the cons.
Scott’s recent harvest included a performance at Eden’s Lounge in Baltimore and another one at the 4th Annual International Soul Music Summit (ISMS), from Sept. 24 – 27 in Atlanta.
The largest music conference in the world dedicated to the soul genre, the ISMS is a forum for the exchange of information relating to the business of soul music and a showcase for new and emerging Soul artists, according to soulmusicsummit.net.
Since the inaugural summit in 2006, the number of attendees has grown from more than 500 to more than 1,900 in 2008, according to the Web Site. This year’s summit included panels on artists, retail, radio, management, performance and consumers. It also featured live performances and concerts/acoustic jam sessions, a themed networking session, DJ parties, and unsigned artists showcases.
Additionally, the summit featured a fashion show, The Recognition & Homage Awards show, art gallery showcases and exclusive VIP parties with headlining artists. Rashaan Patterson, Dionne Farris, Jaguar Wright, Raphael Saddiq, Van Hunt, N’Dambi and Tony Rich are among the past notable guests who’ve attended the conference.
In a video of the Eric Roberson Show at this year’s summit, Scott wins over the crowd with her song, “Soul Connection.”
Prior to singing that selection, she had a discussion with the crowd. She asked the crowd of mostly women if they’ve ever dated someone, thinking things were going right until the person showed them otherwise. The crowd yelled back: “That’s right!” and “You got it girl!”
Holding up a palm, Scott continued, “You do everything like you’re a couple, but really you’re in that gray area.” Scott paused for effect, then said, “Well, I got tired of being in the gray area.” And the crowd cheered.
A woman yelled out when Scott sang, “You can’t give it to me because we ain’t on the same page spiritually.” And as if the song summed up his experiences too, the cameraman shouted, “Sing it, girl!” The crowd was singing it too when they joined in on the chorus: ”I want a soul connection, connection, not a soul disconnect.”
Of the overall plan, the singer says it’s continuing to promote her albums and her brand anyway she can. ”I’m working hard to just get out there and branch out from the D.C., Baltimore and Virginia area,” Scott says. “I want to be locally known and internationally accepted.”
For more information on Green Tea, visit her online at myspace.com/greenteasoul and at A Diary of an Independent Artists on youtube.com/choctyde. Her CDs are available at cdbaby.com/greenteamusic2, iTunes and her shows.