Ambassador Digital Magazine Editor, Musa Jackson talks with husband and wife team Rakiem Walker & Gloria Ryann, about the music industry, raising Quincy, leaving a musical legacy, and the defining their future.
Q. How did Rakiem and Gloria meet?
Rakiem: The real question is how we got together. ( laughing) we met in 2003 at the Sugar Shack I was doing an open mic and her boyfriend introduced us. And then I didn’t see her for almost ten years. The next time I saw her was in 2012 at Lenox lounge December 29 two nights before it closed. I was reintroduced to her by a filmmaker. Technically I was married coming out of my first marriage.
Q. How would you describe your relationship?
Rakiem: it’s wonderful we get along it’s a great balance. We have a synonymous passion for life.
Gloria: One based on friendship. A divine connection. We would of never put it together ourselves we would of messed it up.
Q. When did you form the Rakiem Walker Project?
Rakiem: The Rakiem Walker Project was formed in 2012. Prior to that it was called the Rakiem Walker Experience and I changed the name. Which I’m glad I did. It gave it its own distinction on the live music world in NYC. And Gloria became a vocalist in the band in January 7, 2013.
Q. Tell us about the Rakeim Walker Project band?
Rakiem: It’s become a staple of musical standard in NYC. We got the exclusive events and didn’t need a booking agent. The people that were key to that were Red Rooster. And with that were also the stars that came through such as the late Natalie Cole, Norman Connors, Mariah Carey, Al B. Sure, Christopher Williams, Clive Davis, Jermaine jackson, Lyor Cohen, Jennifer Hudson, Michael B. Jordan, Oprah, Mary Wilson, Michael K. Williams, Diddy, SWV, ASAP Ferg, biz markie, Tito jackson, Teddy Riley and Dapper Dan.
Q. Who were your musical inspirations?
Gloria: Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Minnie Ripperton, Mariah Carey, Teena Marie, Ella Fitzgerald, and now I’m getting into my Rock sounds with The Beatles, Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner.
Rakiem: Duke Ellington, Count Basie,Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Burt Bacharach, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Debussy, Stravinsky, Quincy Jones.
Q. Unplugged Monday Nights at Red Rooster became the best night in not just Harlem but NYC. What was that like for you guys?
Rakiem: I had no expectations for Unplugged Monday’s at all. I allowed the spirit of music to tell me what to do in the moment. And as a matter of fact to tell me what to do in each moment.
Gloria: So I was trying to get into Rooster in 2011 and I was blocked by another singer. When I ran into Rakiem at the closing of Lenox lounge, he heard me sing and I started with the band in 2013. I was open and available and took direction. For me Im like the host and I allowed the people to have the most exaggerated experience.
Q. What cities or countries around the world have you been to. And where would you like to go?
Rakiem: We’ve been to Berlin, Germany, San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas, Melbourne, Australia, Rio, Brazil, London, Miami, Dallas, Aruba, Atlanta. We were booked to go to Sweden but then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. But when things open up we will be in Africa and Japan.
Q. Tell us about the makings of Gloria’s hot new song Good Life?
Gloria: That was a great process. It was fun because Quincy ( our son) was little and was there in the studio during the process. It was just a lot of fun.
Q. Tell us some of the projects you guys have worked on?
Rakiem: I’ve worked with Wu Tang, Roy Ayers, Norman Connors, Freddie jackson, Tichina Arnold, Timbuktu, Isaac Hayes to name a few.
Gloria: Jennifer Hudson, Freddie Jackson, Rihanna, Paul McCartney, Lela James, Kanye West, Ashford & Simpson, Vesta Williams, Ray Chew, Usher
Q.How has being parents to Quincy changed you? Have you starting talking to Quincy about being a young Prince in world and obstacles he may face?
Gloria: Being responsible for teaching another human and ytheir well being is one of the scariest jobs in my life. He’s our heart and he forces us to look at ourselves and our flaws. We haven’t had the Black man in America conversation because he’s still young. But it’s coming and it coming quick. When I about 6 or 7 I started to look at the world we lived in through eyes of color at that age. He’ll ask, “ Am I a Black Boy?” And we answer, Yes. So it’s definitely coming.
Q. How did Covid-19 affect you personally and your work?
Gloria: Our last day of work was Monday, March 9th. Even though the city shut down the following week. So that gave us upto the next week to set up. We piled up on our supplies, food, medical etc. First of all we became teachers, each other’s doctors, therapists, chefs. So in the process of getting prepared I found out that I had this physical injury. I could barely walk. So it’s emotional, physical. It was a time for me to sit down. So Rakiem and I are big on being quiet and still right now. It was our time to be still. But I didn’t have a choice and that gave us a chance to sit and listen. But as creators we have find other ways to keep creative.
Q. What’s up next for Rakiem Walker Project?
Rakiem: We are doing more television projects. A lot of stuff for A&E, Lifetime, etc. Also working on Gloria’s solo album,and new music videos.
Q. What would you tell aspiring musicians?
Gloria: Practice and be yourselves. Take lessons and learn your craft. Be watchful of people who don’t pay you what your worth.
Rakiem: Do not lust after accolades and being seen. Beware of people that want waste your time in this business. And if you’re a bandleader or music director like me, pay your people on time.
Creative director & Photographer: Paul Morejón Studio
Wardrobe: @dapperdanharlem @Gucci