Solid as a rock.

Go see Kindred the Family Soul in concert. That should be the beginning and the end of this story because like few in the business, they have perfected the art of turning a sold-out concert venue into an intimate, feels-like-they’re-in-your-living-room, storytelling, singing, and comedic adventure.  Complete with jokes and stories about parenting their five children (with one more on the way), impromptu forays into the crowd to hear the singing skills of audience members, a little bit of jonin’ (Aja Graydon looks at an audience member and asks: “Doesn’t he look like Clyde Drexel?” And he does.), and a sign language interpreter that interprets Kindred’s cover of DC native William DeVaughn’s, “Be Thankful for What You Got,”–Diamond in the back/sunroof top/diggin’ the scene/with a  gangsta lean/woo-ooh-ooh-with a  certified gangsta lean with her palm spinning an imaginary steering wheel. When even the sign language interpreter is going off script, you know you should sit tight, cause this is gonna be a ride.The Philly based couple, discovered by Jill Scott, have been called the best husband and wife duo since Ashford and Simpson–without the pre-onstage battles, or Womack and Womack–without the scandalous back story. Ashford and Simpson were notorious for their backstage battles before they bombarded the stage in a unified front and belted out, SOLID!/Solid as a rock!Kindred has no problem expressing those private conflicts and the struggles of raising soon-to-be six children-both in their lyrics and their stage shows, earning them the moniker of the realest couple in R&B. They are busy doing spot dates rather than an official tour to promote their third album, The Arrival, with the atmospheric lead single“The House of Love,” and the pleading radio friendly single, “Can’t Help It.” Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson adds his drumming to the new Philly sound with a guest appearance on “Always Be Arriving (The Finale).” The couple is in the process of shopping a reality series, Six Is It, based on the struggles of raising a large family and navigating the shifting landscape of the music industry.At the new $27 million ARC Theater on Mississippi Ave. in S.E., a few miles from where Aja grew up in the Marbury Plaza apartments, she graces the stage with a baby bump, a gray maternity dress, a jewelry studded black half-sweater, and black stiletto heels. Yeah..stilettos. Stylish ones. Ones she manages to navigate enough to drop it like it’s hot on more than one occasion with only intermittent water breaks for “the grandmothers in the audience who were thinking to themselves, ‘She needs some water for that baby!’” There was a worrisome moment when Aja had to leave the stage. But only for a moment. Her husband explained, “Baby girl done popped her shoulder out.” He sung as she left the stage momentarily, “We gonna pop it back in, we gonna back it back in,” and explained that this was something “she does all the time.” She came back a few moments later and jokingly explained it as an, “old wartime injury.” And they kept it going. Going through their hits: “Can’t Help It,” “Rhythm of Life,” “Far Away,” “Where Would I Be (The Question), “Stars,” and “Woman First”–peppering them with anecdotes and stories as lead ins. While Fatin sits on the speaker, Aja explains how she caught a glimpse of herself in the full length mirror and didn’t like the oatmeal caked to her clothes and her hair all over head. “But no matter what goes on he still makes me feel sexy,” she says before launching into “Woman First.” They did a few covers of old school classics, like the OJay’s “Loving You” where Fatin does a growling, church rendition with a digression in lyrics-”As long as I keep the bills, bills, bills paid baby! The mortgage, the electric, the heat…we paying those bills down.”They’ve got the whole package and they do it all with a 10-year-old son, a 7-year-old daughter, a 5-year-old daughter, twin 2-year-old daughters, a baby due this month and without corniness or without the audience feeling like voyeurs on intimate moments. They sat down to talk about their life and love and how music informs all of it.Q. So, Aja you grew up in DC and Fatin you grew up in Philly, right? How did both cities influence your sound? At what point did you choose singing as a career? What were your early struggles to make it happen?A. Aja: I got my first record deal when I was 14. I guess I wanted to be the black Hannah Montana. I worked on an album for several years and went through different changes in the record business. The album was on Delicious Vinyl which some people probably know as a rap label. In the early ’90s they had Tone Loc and Young MC. I worked on a record but it never came out. Next thing I know I was 18 years old and the kind of material I had worked on was outdated in my life.Fatin and I met at a time in my life when I had decided to branch out and find out who I was as an artist. I decided to come to NY to work on some material. Fatin was introduced to me as a songwriter. He was a little older and a little wiser.Fatin: I started out as a musician, went to Creative Performing Arts High School, (?uestlove, Amel Larrieaux, and Boys II Men went there). So I started out playing the sax and rapping and singing. From singing I just starting writing songs and just honing my craft. Q. How does Philadelphia influence your sound?
A. Fatin: It’s inspirational to come from a city with such great music. It inspires the sound of what we do and the backdrop to a lot of the music that we create. But we don’t try to duplicate what has been done. We just try to infuse into our own inspiration and see whatever it is we come up with.Q. How did you get involved in the reality show project–Six Is It?A. Aja: Right now the show is a web series. We like to think of it less like a reality show and more like a documentary of sorts. I think it’s important for people to understand that we’re a real family. We’re in the entertainment industry,we have a large family, we’re a fairly young couple. Let’s face it, as far as African Americans are concerned there’s not a lot of representation of young women and young men who have families that are intact. We’ve been together for 11 years and all of our children are the product of our marriage. You have people documenting the lives of families and we’re just not necessarily included in that. We are just trying to show people what we’re all about and at the end of the day we have all of the same struggles that other families have. It’s not scripted.A. Fatin: we recognize the void of a positive African American family on television being shown in a positive light at this time and we happen to have footage of our family and happen to do music. So it kind of goes hand in hand. But we’re developing the concept at this time. Q. In your songs and in your stage show you don’t have a problem about some of the real issues that happen in a marriage. Having to hide from children to have sex, not feeling sexy..A. Aja: Other artists deal with those issues, but they just don’t write songs about them. A lot of artists are afraid to delve into what it’s really like in a real relationship cause then I guess it loses a little bit of its sexy, I suppose. I don’t think that’s true. I remember we did a show and Mo’nique was the host and my husband and I sang together as a tribute to Teddy Pendergrass. She said that’s the sexiest thing she had ever seen–a husband and wife singing to one another in that way. I wish a lot more people would be honest about what they’re really going through and who they really are and what the real deal is in their relationship. Q. You have this incredible live show, excellent music–the whole package, you would think you’d be more universally well known…A. Aja: There are a lot of factors why artists are not household names. For us it doesn’t really bother us. It’s all about being able to get out there and being true to ourselves. Certainly for us, we have a beautiful and dedicated and loyal audience and really no matter what the industry is doing, whatever they decide they’re about on any given day, one of the things that people never stop doing is falling in love and people never stop having their family and understanding what it is to have children. One of the things that makes our music timeless is our fearlessness in what we decide to talk about and what we decide to be about. We think they just haven’t caught up with us. We’re famous in our own mind.[laughs]
A. Fatin: There are a lot of musicians out there like us. There are a lot of great people who have made considerable strides in the music industry and in the world of art who have not gone on to be the best known people but that doesn’t stop them from contributing and that’s what we’re here for. We’re trying to contribute to the musical library that we respect and appreciate. That’s the first reason we do it. But of course we want to sustain ourselves and make a living from what we do cause not only do we love what we do, but it also pays our bills. We keep doing it for the love, and just hope that we really have contributed. We just keep being inspired. Q. Do you feel that with your children the pressure was on to make it in the industry?A. Aja: In my opinion I feel that I have a wonderful job that I love. I don’t feel the pressure to be successful in this business because I’m successful in life. My children are a motivation for me to constantly tweak who I am as a person and understand the world around me. I think people with children are bigger hustlers than anyone else in the world cause at the end of the day they have lives that are dependent on them. I definitely feel like we’ve carved out a pretty wonderful life for ourselves and feel pretty satisfied in what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I don’t think there are a lot of artists with the top five records in the country right now that can actually say that their music helps and changes people’s lives. I can say that. That to me makes me massively successful. And for my children that’s giving them an example. You can talk to any person and of course they want to make more money. Who doesn’t want to go to Venice as opposed to Virginia Beach? But the bottom line is that either way it’s about who goes on the trip with you, who will love you and care for you at the end of the day. Me and my husband we have that, we don’t have to worry about that. We have each other’s back. We have wonderful gorgeous children that are smart and capable and we’re doing our best to make sure they leave out of this house prepared for the world.The thing that always touches us is when people use words like powerful and touching when they talk about our music and our show. For us those are things that set us apart from so much that’s out there. It kind of gives us a lot of strength to do what we do

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