For the past six years, singer and rapper Jermaine Wells has built his reputation in the Capital Region as the frontman for hip-hop and R&B band The Ill Funk Ensemble.
But that’s only one side of Wells’ artistic personality. The Bronx native spent his high-school years in a singing group, has dabbled in acting (he’s had small roles in the films “Random Hearts” and “The Yards,” as well as a starring spot in a Claritin commercial), and appeared at the Apollo as a solo rap artist. He was even signed to a few record deals during his time in the city, though none panned out.
Now, with his debut solo EP, “For Dancing Girls & Admirers,” Wells is looking to introducE Albany fans to some of these other artistic endeavors. The five songs on the EP showcase his abilities as a producer — he recorded all of the instrumentals himself using a keyboard and MIDI controller — and a rapper, in a more pop-oriented approach.
“I always write and record songs at home,” he said. “Because I’ve always been using dance elements, elements of dance music and pop music in the projects that I do at home. One night after performing with the band, I stayed down at a couple of the clubs, and that just inspired me to do an EP for the clubs — for people in the scene to dance to.”
Jermaine Wells CD release
with The Ill Funk Ensemble
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Dublin Underground, 1 S. Pearl St., Albany
How Much: $5
More Info: 426-9647, www.thedublinunderground.com
The EP will officially be released on Friday, but Wells will be introducing his solo live show, as well as the first of two music videos from the EP, to the Capital Region at a release show at The Dublin Underground on Saturday night. The CD will be available at the show for $5.
Although The Ill Funk Ensemble will also be performing, Wells will perform the new songs with a CD backing him — quite a change from the five-musician punch of Ill Funk.
“With the CD, you’re pretty fixed to that medium, to that tempo, so you really have to deliver every time,” he said. “There’s a song I have on the EP called ‘Energy,’ and I’d better deliver it all the time with energy. With the band, sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh, I have a cold today, you guys have to step it up for me.’ I can’t do that with this — I better have energy performing ‘Energy.’ ”
This performance will be the first time Wells has stepped out on his own in this manner, at least in this area. But it definitely won’t be the last — he has plans to continue touring behind the album and is looking into an endorsement deal with Red Bull (“Energy” references the drink).
“I guess with pop music and with hip-hop music, the avenue is wide open for people, all the way to the extent of The Black Eyed Peas or Tinie Tempah,” Wells said. “B.o.B. is one of my favorites. And there’s always people like OutKast, that went way left of what hip-hop was doing at the time, and still have success. And I believe they’re able to do it because it comes from what’s in their hearts, and they have good production. With a person like BJ [FitzGerald], my guitarist [in The Ill Funk Ensemble], he’s a very good producer — he produced our first album. This is me kind of stepping out as a producer and an artist in another kind of facet, too.”
The tracks on “For Dancing Girls & Admirers” reflect everything from party and techno-influenced music such as The Black Eyed Peas, to old school hip-hop influences from the late ’70s and ’80s. All of the instrumental tracks were recorded by Wells with his own home recording setup, utilizing MIDI samples.
“If you have a little bit of knowledge and a couple of bucks, you can get a music program and you really can have some software compose for you — all you have to do is type in a key, type in a style and it’ll compose for you,” Wells said. “The only thing is, you may be able to notice a program is doing it. You’re not putting your stamp on it, so it can kind of be stale if you do that cheat all the time like that.”
For vocals, engineering and mixing, he worked with Justin Metz of Rockwell Productions in Nassau.
“With me especially, I like to have someone else help when I’m doing the vocals,” Wells said. “I can get wrapped up in that forever.”
Just the beginning
The EP is only the beginning for Wells’ solo ventures. Next year, he’s planning two more EPs — an online release on his website, www.jermainewells.com, inspired by the photography of some of his friends, and another R&B and dance inspired collection. He’s also hoping to get back into acting, inspired by the recent productions that have taken up residence in the area.
And Ill Funk will also be back next year with more shows and a new record, eventually.
“I would like for us to be recording by the summertime, and hopefully at least release maybe even an EP by the summertime,” Wells said. “We’ve all been really busy and had some good side projects, such as the Big Dog series on YouTube, but that’ll pick up again soon, probably right after the New Year’s.”