Motor City Rides 

Detroit R&B and hip-hop diva Monica Blaire describes herself as “an emcee that sings.” Notice “emcee” comes first; it’s the cadence of her words that drives her singing. As Miz Korona exclaimed to her one day, “You be a rap-singer!”

Blaire loves the spoken (and printed) word. African-American poet Nikki Giovanni and Brazilian author Paulo Coelho are two of her faves (Coelho’s book The Alchemist is her number one). Yet it’s hardly surprising that singing comes easily to her, given that Detroit Northern Soul legend Ortheia Barnes is her godmother.

Monica has worked with an impressive array of Detroit talent — Theo Parrish, Carl Craig, Waajeed and Platinum Pied Pipers, Guilty Simpson and Bizarre to name a few. She also throws down with the mind-blowing all-female band Lola Valley. Adding elements of hip hop, soul, spoken word, reggae, rock and punk rock, the five ladies are known for ripping it up. Based on sheer energy alone, Blaire could front a hardcore band — if she felt like it.

Note that Blaire cruises Detroit in her green 2001 Volkswagen Jetta, which she got used a couple of years ago. “I feel sporty in it and green is my favorite color,” she explains. “I just wish it had more trunk space.”

It’s got a kick-ass stereo too, with which she spins everything from Chaka Khan to Madlib to the White Stripes. And there’s the occasional guilty pop pleasure too. “Every once in a while you gotta have some chili fries! You know what I’m saying?”

More by Doug Coombe

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