In early 2016, a very powerful singer-songwriter burst onto the scene with his debut album Sincerely racking up nearly 10 million views with 150,000 subscribers on Youtube. Stephen is a 26 year old graduate from Miami’s prestigious Frost School of Music, who can only be described as innovative, a fusion between electronic, blues, soul, R&B and hip-hop.
He gained some popularity with his Youtube cover of Adele’s “Hello” where he combined the smooth vocals with synth pop beats, creating a mesmerizing and original cover of the hit tune. With the stellar production, ultra-captivating vocals and deeply personal messages behind each song, it’s fair to say that Stephen will soon become a household name.
During 2017, Stephen fell ill with what was later found out to be lyme disease, which saw him take a year out of music to focus on his health and recovery. However, on his blog, he describes how his illness has brought him closer to his family and those he relies on the most and made him realise the important things in his life. I think it’s safe to say, when he returns to the music scene we will see new tunes infused with a new sound, as we witness him blossom into a more mature artist.
What first attracted my attention was one of his first singles made in 2015 called “Crossfire”. When interviewed about the meaning behind this intriguing song, Stephen stated: “There are people out there who are suffering and there’s very little they can do about it. Sometimes I feel guilty when I’m happy because I know that these people are hurting.
How can I be happy when I know that people are being forced to live in refugee camps and ghettos, while women are being sex trafficked and millions of innocent people are suffering? So as I sit here and look at my life, I feel grateful, but I also feel confused. How can I enjoy these blessings when I know others can’t?”
His words are especially true today in the wake of a year where we’ve had the Manchester Arena attack and the terror that extremist groups put on society has been in the spotlight more than ever.
Lyric wise, Stephen delivers something quite unique. In our society, many popular songs have explicit sexual or violent references but Stephen works to portray deeper, philosophical points of view to do with how our society is changing – in particular his opinion on the current refugee crisis in Syria.
As serious as the meaning behind Stephen’s music is, he presents it in a refreshing, upbeat tone, empowering us to make changes for ourselves and our world around us, correlating with a message he wrote in recent blog post “We can do so much. We can change the world. We have to stop complying with the doubts in our heads and start following our hearts. We have to stop judging each other and start accepting ourselves. We have to stop living selfishly and start giving back. We have to have the courage to take a chance. My generation has all the power if we work together. This is my invitation to the ones who love”.
For this new year, the whole of Stephen’s album is on my Spotify playlist. To listen to in the rainy spring months with a cup of tea, the summer’s spent in the garden soaking up sun rays, and for autumn/winter when the leaves are falling and I have a chance to reminisce on the year. My favourites on the album are “Mr. Man”, “Start A Fire”, “Sincerely” and of course “Crossfire”. Stephen is just a must-have for any music fanatic!
Words by Efiah Clifford-Brown