The Thirsty Hippo hosted a soul session organized by Southern Miss graduate Imani Steven to focus on self-reflection Nov. 16.
Steven has organized open mic nights every Thursday at the VFW, where a music community was created and flourishing. When the group could no longer use the venue, Steven decided to bring everyone back together for a soul session.
“I feel like this event is very important. In our daily lives we have to put on these masks and do all these things so that we can fit in, but here in this space, we can be who we want to be,” Steven said.
Steven’s musical interest began as a child when she learned how to sing in church. From there, she realized that her singing ability was a gift she could use elsewhere.
“I can [sing] anywhere I go and everywhere I go,” Steven said. “It is important to carry the light with you. You don’t have to just think about your soul on Sunday—you can think about it every day,” Steven said.
The original, neo-soul music Steven plays is lyrically inspired by her life and musically inspired by artists such as the late Aretha Franklin. Steven has three original songs titled “Cyclic,” “Glitter” and “Beautiful Faces.”
“The songs I write are precious to me. It’s like I’m taking you on a journey with me, a journey through my life, through these words you hear my story coming through the lyrics,” Steven said.
Steven performed alongside seven other musicians during her set. She encouraged the audience to “live easy” and “breathe easy” during the performance. Along with her originals, Steven played medleys and other familiar songs such as “Tell Me Something Good.”
During one of the first open mic nights Steven hosted, she met Gautier native Charity Hicks who goes by the performance name “Vitamin Cea.” She chose the name not only because her mom believes vitamin C fixes everything, but also because of the influence of her former youth pastor.
“I was initially a part of a collective called ‘The Remedy’ with my little sister and big brother,” Hicks said. “Our youth pastor told us that we are the medicine, and medicine helps the body do what it is already intended to do which is heal itself.”
“It’s not about being a cure but about being medicine for a sick world,” she said.
Hicks has been singing since she was in middle school but decided to become more serious about it four years ago when she was in community college. She dropped her first project in April titled “Joyful Noise.”
Performing solo with background tracks she created, she said her music “is a vibe. It’s very soulful and introspective,” Hicks said. “I’m pretty candid in a lot of my music. I’m very open.”
The musical influencers of Hicks’s music include artists such as Anderson Paak, Lauryn Hill, Kirk Franklin and the local artists she has met through open mic nights. Her lyrics come from personal life experiences and the lives of those around her.
Hicks is currently working on a new project she hopes to release in January.