Most singers work an entire lifetime while hoping to create that magical, musical moment that is deemed worthy of the highest honor in the recording industry; a Grammy nomination. For Antonique Smith, that moment happened out of the box with her debut single “Hold Up, wait a minute.” Nominated for “Best traditional R&B Performance” along with some industry veterans, Antonique might be a freshman on the music scene; but she is no stranger to the stage or critical acclaim. After starring on Broadway in the smash musical “Rent,” Antonique went on to portray Faith Evans; the wife of Christopher “Notorious BIG” Wallace in the hit movie “Notorious.”
With the success of stage and screen under her belt, she began her journey down the path of her first true love, music. It seems as though everything Antonique attempts, she conquers with great finesse & skill. She was clearly born to be an entertainer. A combination of talent, determination and hard work have propelled this charismatic songstress onto the music scene while in the finishing stages of her debut album.
Antonique is on a winning streak and is building quite an impressive resume as the latest triple threat to emerge onto the world stage. UrbanBridgez.com‘s Grammy Nominated Ivan Matias interviewed recent Grammy Nominee Antonique Smith, to find out what she’s been up to since her last chat with us a year ago.
UrbanBridgez.com: I know it’s the millionth time you’re hearing this but I also know it doesn’t get old so let me just say Congratulations on your Grammy Nomination.
Antonique Smith: Thank you! It does not get old. I’m still in shock but thank you so much.
UrbanBridgez.com: So, where were you & what were you doing when you got the news of the nomination?
Antonique Smith: I was in L.A. in bed; screaming. I actually found out through Twitter. I was trying to find it. I was trying to refresh the Grammy page. For some reason it was showing the old nominees & the old winners. I just couldn’t get the information. I started getting tweets. I really didn’t think that the tweets were going to be about anything like that. I opened my Twitter. I saw ‘congratulations’, I saw Grammy & then it was all a blur. I was like ‘no way’ like ‘WHAT?’ I just couldn’t believe my eyes.
UrbanBridgez.com: I posted your video on my Facebook as my favorite new female artist of 2014 & so many people inboxed me saying they know you & what a sweet & talented person you are so you’re doing something right.
Antonique Smith: Aw, Thank you.
UrbanBridgez.com: I kept saying to myself ‘she looks so familiar’ when I first saw the video. Weren’t you literally the poster girl for the broadway show “Rent” you starred in, here on Broadway in NYC?
Antonique Smith: I was yup, I was on the cabs.
UrbanBridgez.com: The first time you saw yourself on the billboard, was it anything like when you first heard you were nominated for a Grammy?
Antonique Smith: You know what? It was amazing. To see myself riding by on a cab, it was really incredible, so yea. It has that same effect but, Iv’e been dreaming of a Grammy since I was a kid; so this is out of this world.
UrbanBridgez.com: So you’re from east orange NJ. Are you Still on the east coast?
Antonique Smith: Yup Originally from East Orange New Jersey but I’m bi-coastal.
UrbanBridgez.com: In your last interview with UB you talked about your dad helping you with your first demo that you recorded with Jazzy Jeff, Dre & Vidal. Other than your dad, do you have other family in the performing arts?
Antonique Smith: I do. I have some cousins. Actually My cousin Marcus Taylor is playing Suge Knight in the NWA movie. I thought that was cool. He’s like “you played Faith, I’m playing Suge.”
UrbanBridgez.com: That’s kinda crazy.
Antonique Smith: It is. I’m really proud & happy for him. My cousin Alacie Smith Bennett is someone who when I was a kid, I looked up to her. She taught me how to Riff (vocal scat). She recently played Phyllis Hyman in a show in New Jersey.
UrbanBridgez.com: Did you attend any specialized school or do any special performing arts training?
Antonique Smith: I didn’t. I went to Christian schools actually. When I tell you, every play in school & church that I could do or be a part of; I was in it. Between that & being in my grandparents living room making puppet shows. That’s really where it all started & how I honed my own lil skills. But you know, Whitney (Houston) was really like the beginning. Listening to her & trying to sound like her. That’s really what I wanted to do.
UrbanBridgez.com: Being a triple threat what would you say is your greatest passion of the 3 & which is your greatest strength?
Antonique Smith: You know, I’d say singing. Singing was just the first thing. Whitney captured my imagination at a very young age. I was just kinda obsessed with wanting to sound like her & then I developed my own voice and THANK GOD! A lot of people want to sound like Whitney Houston & they can’t sing & I think I got my voice as an answer to the prayers of a little 7 year old Antonique; wanting to just sing & God gave me a voice. I honestly think it’s the biggest gift he gave me & I’m supposed to share with the world. So yes, my biggest passion is definitely music & making people feel. I am able to do that with my acting too but, with my music, being able to touch how people think & feel things. I love that & I really want to do that all around the world.
UrbanBridgez.com: Cool. What type of role would you most like to play at this point?
Antonique Smith: I’ve always wanted to play Lena Horne.
UrbanBridgez.com: Hey, I was going to ask you about that. I heard somewhere that you were being considered for the role of Lena Horne. Is there any truth to that rumor?
Antonique Smith: Wow. I haven’t heard that but, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. I mean, they might have been thinking about me & just haven’t reached out.
UrbanBridgez.com: Well let’s put it into the universe & see what happens.
Antonique Smith: I receive that, yes! I receive that! (laughs)
UrbanBridgez.com: You’re such a chameleon. you have the ability to transform for a wide range of roles. What is your ethnic background?
Antonique Smith: I’m Black. A black girl from east orange New Jersey. I’ve got my great grandfathers that are irish & somebody in my distant family was Jewish, but they were so far removed. My parents were black, their parents were black. So, I’m pretty light skinned but um, I’m a black girl; and proud.
UrbanBridgez.com: You’re in a unique & fortunate position to get a Grammy nod before the release of your debut album. It’s the ultimate introduction & promotion & it also says you’re one heck of an artist.
Antonique Smith: Thanks!
UrbanBridgez.com: After the Grammy nod, do you feel any pressure with regard to your album or just as an artist in terms of expectation?
Antonique Smith: Honestly, I haven’t even calculated it as pressure yet. I feel like, it’s an awareness that has been put on my music. An awareness that has been put on me as an artist. I was already going into the album wanting it to be incredible so I don’t feel anymore pressure as far as the album because I still want it t be the most incredible album possible, ever; anyway. I would say I don’t feel pressure, I feel gratitude that there are going to be more eyes on it.
UrbanBridgez.com: The process of making an album is about things constantly changing up to the last minute it’s released as you probably know.
Antonique Smith: Ah ha. YES. (laughs)
UrbanBridgez.com: From direction, song listing to image, demographic or audience changing. In the past year since you last spoke with UrbanBridgez, what has changed if anything about the direction or sound of the album?
Antonique Smith: I wouldn’t say it changed. I just think it’s more clear & more refined. We were able to focus, drop off some things & focus on Love is everything. What the entire message is. All the different methods of love. Like, there’s self Love like “Hold Up, wait a minute.” That aggressive, put your foot down; take your power back moment. Then there’s that sad love. (laughs) I always say I’m gonna have that Adele moment where we can just kinda cry & live in that emotion, ya know. Then there’s the love of wanting to kinda elevate each other & make a relationship better & doing the things necessary to work with somebody. Then there’s the “this ain’t working walk away” love, ya know? There’s all those different characters & facets of love & I just wanna drop some Jewels on the ladies & fellas & hopefully help somebody with whatever they’re going through.
UrbanBridgez.com: Who have you worked with on the album & when can we expect it?
Antonique Smith: I worked with Jukebox That did “Whip my Hair” for Willow Smith, Toby Gad who did “If I were a Boy” for Beyonce, Dangerhandz who worked with Justin Timnerlake & I worked with Dr. Dre. We’re looking at early next year.
UrbanBridgez.com: That’s awesome.How about in terms of music collaborations. Any artists or producers you’d like to work with if not on this record, in the future?
Antonique Smith: Two artists slash producers that I would love to work with are Pharrell And Kanye. Either one of them could produce, rap, they can sing; or do whatever on any one of my songs. I love both of them very much.
UrbanBridgez.com: About you music; who would you say have most greatly influenced your style as it relates to your upcoming album?
Antonique Smith: This is kinda how break it down: Vocally I was influenced by Whitney, Celine & Aretha. Vocally, that’s still how I sing. Musically & feel wise, the person I grew up listing to, just loving her music was Mary J. I love hip hop so I love Biggie & Pac, Jay’z & all of that. Combine the way I sing with pop, soul & hip hop, it’s really the fusion that makes up my album which is what I like to call pop/soul with a hip hop appeal to it.
UrbanBridgez.com: I see you went blonde for your recording artist look which is different from the look you had when you were plastered all over NY as MIMI in Rent. Did you consciously want something different for your recording artist side?
Antonique Smith: You know what, yea It was definitely strategic. Everybody just loved how I looked in notorious. It was kinda like a backhanded compliment if you ask me cuz it’s like “you look better as a blonde.” I’m like “I look better as a blonde” uh, ok thanks. (laughs) So we try to give people a lot of what they’re asking for & I went back to the blonde.
UrbanBridgez.com: If you could name a song by another artist that you wish was yours, which would you pick?
Antonique Smith: That’s a good question. that’s a hard one. The only thing I could think of right now is a song I covered on YouTube. It’s Adele’s “Someone Like you.” I think that would have been a good Adele moment on my album.
UrbanBridgez.com: An ANTONIQUE moment.
Antonique Smith: (Laughs) Yes!
UrbanBridgez.com: Over the past 2 year you’ve really focused on your recording career. The road of a recording artist & actress are fairly different.What have you discovered about the process of being a recording artist that you didn’t know or didn’t expect or How is the daily life of an actor different from the life of a “Grammy nominated recording artist?”
Antonique Smith :Um, It’s not that I didn’t know but, the grind of an artist is way more than the grind of an actor. Actors don’t have set schedules but if they have an audition, they’re going to work on that. they might go to a class or two. When they book something they gotta go dig into the role & the shooting. They have somebody giving them a time to wake up & the car is going to pick you up at this time & the shooting time where; everything is kinda structured. With artists there is no structure until you’re on some kinda promotional tour where there is a schedule & you gotta be here, here & here. When you got that Itinerary where your whole day is planned out. That’s one thing but, the beginnings of an artist life is self motivated. Trying to build your fan base & being interactive with your followers on social media. There’s writing when you don’t have studio sessions & practicing your songs & getting in the mirror & practicing your little dance moves to figure out how to elevate your performances. All of that little stuff unless you have an awesome manager like me who helps & reminds me when I’ve been slacking. He definitely reminds me of when I need to step my game up, Most of the time, you don’t have anybody to do that. It ends up making & breaking people. That ends up separating the girls from the women. (laughs) You know the successful ones from the people who are just kinda like, sitting at home wishing they were on the Grammy’s.
UrbanBridgez.com: You mentioned social media. Where can your fans interact with you online, unfiltered?
Antonique Smith: I’m actually active on all of mine. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. I love talking to my people. I always tell them if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to do what Im doing so this is my way. I give back by liking, commenting, retreating so I’m grateful for all my social media friends, support & love.
UrbanBridgez.com: In terms of your body of work so far, if people only had the opportunity to be exposed to only 1 of your works to get a sense of your artistry & brand, which would you recommend?
Antonique Smith: “Hold Up wait a minute” ya know? “Hold up wait a minute”
UrbanBridgez.com: (Laughs) That’s what’s up. I’d agree with that because not only does it give people your vocal side but, the attitude. The way you laid it down in that video was everything.
Antonique Smith: Absolutely! Honestly, to me “Hold up,Wait a minute” is more than just about a bad dude although, that was the core of my initial experience. The dude was taking my money to go see another girl. That’s super “hold up, wait a minute.” But, it goes so much further than that. We all have “Hold up wait a minute” moments. Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin; all that stuff is hold up wait a minute. The little Nigerian girls getting kidnapped, ISIS, it’s just so much messed up. The climate change movement & people not caring what’s happens to this earth. All that stuff is “Hold up, wait a minute.” I feel like all of the things that are close to my heart & the fact that this world just needs more love. I think, in a sense “Hold up, wait a minute” encompasses all of that. So, I would definitely say if they look to “Hold up” they’re getting a good majority of Antonique.
UrbanBridgez.com: When you look back on your career in 20 years, what type of entertainer would you like to be thought of or what would you most want to be known for?
Antonique Smith: I guess known for touching people. Known for making people feel things & maybe changing some lives with the things that I said in my songs. You know there are some songs that really effect you & make you make some different decisions. So I hope & pray that my music effects people like that.
UrbanBridgez.com: Have you settled on an Album title yet?
Antonique Smith: Yes, it’s called “Love is Everything”
UrbanBridgez.com: As if the Grammy Nominated debut album wasn’t enough to look forward to, is there anything else we should be looking out for from you right now or is all your focus going into this highly anticipated LP?
Antonique Smith: Well Right now available on iTunes is the “Home” Album. It’s an album with me, Common, NeYo, Elle Varner & my bro Malik Yusef who got me involved. It’s with the Hip Hop caucus & it’s to raise awareness for climate change movement. People don’t realize that climate change isn’t about the polar bears & the ice glaciers melting. It’s not just that. Not that far away. Right in your inner city right in your home. The pollution of the plants & factories near by that are polluting the air & water supply are killing people. It’s giving people cancer, heart disease & Asthma. Right now 4 million people a year are dying a year from pollution & people don’t even know this. We put the album together to raise awareness just to get the young people involved. The hip hop culture did the “vote or die” & they helped to get Obama elected by getting the young people involved in the whole process. We’re hoping to get the word out to those same young people & get them all involved in this movement so that we can make some necessary changes. We don’t have a lot of time to make these changes & save the earth pretty much. So um, THAT!
UrbanBridgez.com: Awesome! Thank you so much. Best of luck to you at the Grammy’s & I just want to tell you that you’ve already won as you’re way ahead of the game with your nomination.
Antonique Smith: Oh Thank’s so much!
*You can see Antonique Smith at The 57th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 8th, 2015 on CBS*