New album from Twelve Literary Arts brings together musicians and poets in Cleveland

Terrell Wallace, aka Tall Black Guy, at work in the studio. Photo courtesy Twelve Literary Arts.

Terrell Wallace, aka Tall Black Guy, at work in the studio. Photo courtesy Twelve Literary Arts.

Twelve Literary Arts is set to release its first album, In Search of The Land, on June 19 (Juneteenth). The album brought together Cleveland artists who hadn’t worked together before, giving them an opportunity to collaborate in a unique setting and share their talents with a larger audience. Each of the songs and poems in the collection relate to the search for freedom and opportunity in Cleveland.

Lead producer Terrell Wallace, AKA Tall Black Guy, executive producer Daniel Gray-Kontar, producer and mix-engineer Eric Lau, producer and multi-instrumentalist Zo!, and producer, DJ and keyboardist Buscrates are partners on the project, which features 40 singers, MC’s (Master of Ceremonies), poets, musicians, and beatmakers, all from Cleveland. 

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The title, In Search of the Land, was inspired by jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan, and his album titled “Search for the New Land.” The original title was “The Land Claps Back,” but over time, Wallace and Gray-Kontar thought the title did not fit the album.

“It’s been very dope to be able to connect with all the talent and amazing artists and musicians,” said Wallace. “I’m just happy to kind of be a facilitator as far as putting different people together that wouldn’t necessarily work together.” 

The album features a broad array of music types, but is generally described to be Black music. It also includes poetry, and the album fuses together music and spoken word for a unique effect.

“Terrell and I decided the poets form the spine of the album,” said Gray-Kontar, whose organization helps youth and adult writers of color in Cleveland develop their talents. “What population is least asked to speak? Young women under the age of 24. All the poets are young women under the age of 24.”

Gray-Kontar said he knew that Wallace was the perfect producer, because he had the technical skill, musical virtuosity, and Midwestern sensibility to pull it off. “I couldn’t think of anybody better,” said Gray-Kontar. “We really wanted to do something that was curated and produced and led by Terrell, under the idea of these two concepts.”

The making of the album was a special experience, added Gray-Kontar. “We were able to invent,” he said. “We had jam sessions, where we had individual artists in their own workstations. We converted three of our rooms [in Twelve’s building] into recording studios. They were scattered across our entire second floor. Each room had speakers in it, so you could hear each other making music. As long as I have memory, I will never forget that.”

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Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, a holiday that celebrates the emancipation of those who have been enslaved in the United States, will serve as the official release date for In Search of the Land. The album will be available to stream or download for free on Twelve’s website, Bandcamp or Soundcloud. There are also plans in the works for a listening party in mid-June to celebrate its release.

The contributing artists of the album include but are not limited to: AB, Dakarai Akil, Alé, ALive, Ray Angry, Stoke Barca, Eva Barrett, Mary Barrett, Ali Black, Will Blaze, Broken Keys, Neil Chastain, Chris Cole, Daniel Crawford, Zia Durnin, E-React, Ngina Fayola, Dan Fernandez, 5ifth Element, Nuke Franklin, Elijah Gilmore, Patrick Graney, Archie Green, Eli Hanley, Kalim Hill, Jerrell Johnson, Telina Johnson, Johnny Blokhead, Emily Keener, Kyle Kidd, Glaucher Lustwerk, Donnie Lynee, Mark Mathews, Theresa May, Mecca Sunshine, Mellow Man Funk, Mook, Robert Morrow, Connor Musarra, Peachcurls, Q-Nice, James Quarles, Josiah Quarles, Dave Rhoades, Cathalyn Roberts, Sadu, Saint Ezekiel, Suave Goddi, Hannah Sutton, Braxton Taylor, Eriq Troi, Amina Vargas, Deija Vinson, RA Washington, Bri Watts, Mariama Whyte, McKinley Wiley, Terrence (T-Dash) Williams, Tiyana Williams, and Jessica Yafanaro.

Twelve will celebrate the release of “In Search of The Land” with an album release party on Friday, June 18th from 8 pm-12 am, hosted by Ken Schneck.

Shermayne Dixon is a senior at Cleveland State University majoring in English Literature and an intern with The Land.

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