Local singer/songwriter Renee ‘Shi’ Wisdom is on a roll. Her song, “R.I.P. (I’m Ready For Ya)”, which she co-wrote with Toronto alum, Drake, appears on Rita Ora’s debut album, and sits high atop the UK music charts. And she recently launched her EP, “LVSPK”, at an event that sold out in the first 72 hours. Not bad for someone who only started to seriously focus on her music career over the past two years.
“The real world is where I should have been to begin with,” says the promising artist. She says she realized that she belonged in the arts world, more specifically, working in music, and the former York University student who majored in French couldn’t be happier.
“I am completely fluent and I love the language but music is where I want to be.”
Wisdom focuses on a different type of language these days – music – which she creatively presents in her latest EP. LVSPK is a very honest collection of material in which she experiments with different musical stylings. She admits that the collection is a cohesive sound that allows the audience to sit down and listen to the way it is performed – it’s something to be analyzed.
With no formal vocal training and some lessons in piano, a love of music appears to course through her veins.
“My grandfather talked to me and gave me advice about the business,” she says. And her grandfather is none other than Jimmy Wisdom who was part of the musical duo Bob & Wisdom in the 60s. Wisdom owns and operates Wisdom’s Barber Shop and Beauty Salon in the Eglinton & Dufferin area.
“I always knew Shi was musical,” says the soft-spoken barber who has been cutting hair in this city for over 40 years and who now finds comfort singing in his church choir. It wasn’t until recently that Jimmy Wisdom sat down and listened to her music which is ironic because she admits that she never really heard her grandfather perform until recently when he started singing in the church.
“With Shi, her musical style is different from the norm of today. Yes, her grandfather is a singer and she is a singer, but she stands alone,” he says.
While Shi Wisdom’s influences are R&B/hip-hop and Jazz, her grandfather is a soul singer.”
Jimmy Wisdom compares his granddaughter’s sound to that of Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.
Shi Wisdom disagrees. “Some people say I sound like Erykah Badu or Lauryn Hill, but I don’t hear it,” she says. However, it is difficult not to make that comparison – there is a definite hint of their trademark sound in her music.
Wisdom says that she grew up listening to Badu and Hill but it was only recently that she began to take them in. As an adult, she can now fully understand their message and agrees that they are both wonderfully gifted artists.
The singer/songwriter finds that it is much easier to perform because she understands the music that she has worked so hard to compose.
“You don’t have to learn the song because you already know it. You understand the feeling and emotion behind it,” she says. “If it is written for you, it has to be learned and you have to try to understand it before you can perform it.”
Wisdom is busy writing more songs to add to her long collection of yet-to-be released music. She also hopes to do so more collaboration once the rest of her songs are established.
Here favorite song on the latest EP is the title track, “Love Speak”, because it reflects everything she has accomplished so far. It is a song that spawned a sense of accomplishment up to this point in her life. When asked how much music means to her, there isn’t a moment’s worth of hesitation. “Without music I would be nowhere.”
By ANGELA WALCOTT