Under the context of The Washington Projects, brother/sister duo Jekob & Rachael Washington merge insightful hip-hop, scintillating soul, rippling R&B, old school funk and pure bred pop. It's an astonishingly inventive merger that's given them instant accessibility steeped in street credibility, while breaking down boundaries more than any other eclectic troupe in recent memory. And while this fitting moniker may appear to be a new force on the horizon, the pair previously comprised two thirds of the Word/Warner Brothers recording group SoulJahz, who took the industry by storm in the early 2000s with a jaw dropping spread of radio singles, press acclaim and prominent appearances.
For starters, the troupe performed alongside the lauded (and diverse) likes of No Doubt, Nelly, Counting Crows, Ja Rule, Ashanti, Garbage, Kirk Franklin, TobyMac, Boyz II Men, Erykah Badu, Mary Mary and Sixpence None the Richer (to name a few) on a cross country tour in support of its major label debut The Fault Is History. That project also set a streak of precedents, making SoulJahz the first new hip-hop/funk/soul act in history to write, produce, executive produce and co-engineer a major label album, not to mention group member Rachael becoming the youngest composer/producer/songwriter in the history of Warner Brothers Records (she was 17, beating out Prince at 19). The project's first single 'All Around the World' became the fastest chart topper in the history of the CHR format, while its follow-up 'True Love Waits' was simultaneously the most added on the CHR and AC mediums.
Five Dove Award nominations followed, (including 2003 prizes for 'Urban Album of the Year' and 'Rap/Hip-Hop/Dance Recorded Song of the Year'), along with extensive features on CNN Headline News, E!, Billboard, The WB, plus a slot on Sessions@AOL beside Christina Aguilera, 50 Cent, Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Red Hot Chili Peppers. But even with the tremendous amount of buzz and overwhelming fanfare, record label red tape soon wrapped itself around the burgeoning band, putting an extreme delay on what would've been its sophomore CD.
"Basically we were about to begin our new record after being gone on tour for at least a year and a half on that first record, but the entire staff of our label flipped upside down," Jekob recalls of the incredibly trying time. "When it came time to talk with the new cats, they had a different thought process on where our sound needed to go and there ended up being a lot of problems. We basically had our second record shelved entirely and spent the next several years trying to get out of our contract."¯
Despite the lack of a new CD, the band took trips to Iraq in 2005 and 2006 to entertain troops, though back home in America, their lawyers and a constantly switching staff of label executives were waging war of their own. Eventually the group was allowed to exit its deal, but at the expense of leaving the SoulJahz moniker in the label's hands.
"As all of this went down, we literally retreated to Hawaii for a time because we have family out there, which were the bonds that helped keep us going," Jekob contends, also citing periods of prayer and surrender. "But it actually all turned out to be a very good thing because we recharged our batteries and the break helped give us a fresh perspective and new start. SoulJahz has a certain amount of recognition as a brand, but The Washington Projects is a name that's even closer to our hearts because no one can ever take that one away from us!"¯
With the battle flames dying down, The Washington Projects hit the studio for its debut in this format Commanders of the Resistance, an enthralling soundtrack of hope covering just as many relevant themes as it does sonic spectrums. A quick combing of the set list indicates everything from the club thumping 'Crazy' to the neo soul shuffle of 'Deliverance' and the rap/R&B attack of 'Take It To the Streets'.¯
The project also possesses endless trenches of lyrical depth, such as the standout 'Zephyr Wings' which showcases relationships from a spiritual perspective and the need to put God in the center before any other person. Though 'Diamonds' possesses an unshakable groove, it's equally important as an anthem for women to treat their bodies like temples and the precious jewels they were created to be. "It's all about self image", explains Rachael of the latter. "Girls today don't always see themselves the way they should and end up settling for less Never gaining the respect they desire because they lack respect for themselves. I wrote ˜Diamonds' to encourage them to think differently."¯
Yet the album also packs the unconventional punch of 'I Will Stay With You' a no holds barred love song from Jekob to his wife. "I wrote it as a surprise for my wife that I wound up singing at our wedding"¯he admits. "Some people might say it's a worldly song, but how could you think that when it's about saving yourself for a girl and then committing to stay with her for the rest of your lives? Outside of that song, the record touches on all sorts of areas because kids need to hear about real issues. I would love to get to the point where I'm spending 20 hours a day worshiping God, but the reality is that I'm usually running around praying for a thousand different things, and struggling daily to be a better man. Within The Washington Projects, we're Christians living in the world who are simply talking about real life through the prescriptive of people who are saved and blessed, even though every song might not overtly touch on those topics."¯
No matter what the audience, Commanders of the Resistance connects with class and cohesion on all levels, while reaffirming the passions of its extraordinarily gifted players. Fans and newcomers alike will have the chance to judge for themselves come its November release, while over 80,000 concertgoers are slated to catch The Washington Projects on the extensive Dare 2 Share Tour (running November through next April with Hawk Nelson, Sanctus Real, Lincoln Brewster, amongst others). And similar to the studio, expect additional genre fusing action on stage, sure to bring the latest chapter in Jekob & Rachael's colorful careers to additionally vibrant life.