On Thursday TV One will mark the season five premiere of its NAACP Image Award-nominated variety show, “Lexus Verses And Flow.”
This season, show producers expanded their programming -- which usually centers around R&B and spoken word performances by various talent -- and will now infuse hip-hop and classic soul music with performances by Raekwon the Chef and B.O.B., as well as R&B-funk veteran Charlie Wilson.
In addition to musical performances from Estelle, Chrisette Michelle, Sevyn Streeter, Avery Sunshine, Jazmine Sullivan, Melanie Fiona, Jussie Smollett, Leela James and Melanie Fiona, more than 28 talented poets will offer spoken word pieces.
The show, which is hosted by actor Laz Alonso, was first launched as a marketing platform the Lexus brand to introduce emerging artists, which so far includes, Luke James and Melanie Fiona. The branded music event has since evolved into a TV One franchise and aims to bring more recognition to poets and artists.
“Poetry was something that no one was doing any more,” show creator and executive producer Ayiko Broyard told HuffPost.“So I decided if I put music with poetry, that could be a platform that people could be embraced, and something that the poets would be excited and ecstatic to do, because they was being exposed on a much larger platform. When Def Poetry Jam was on HBO, it was big. So I said, ‘How do I bring that back?’ And so, the idea was to put the two together. Something that was very familiar with a lost art form, which is poetry.”
Coincidentally, as the series enters its fifth season it has once again found itself filling another void. Since its launch, popular music-themed shows including BET’s “106 & Park” and “Bobby Jones Gospel” have announced cancellations of their television series -- leaving “Lexus Versus & Flow” as one of the last TV platforms for black artists to showcase new music.
“When we first started five years ago, MTV videos were still there. 106 & Park was still there. That stuff started to fall off during our second, third year and we were like, ‘What a minute. We’re the only outlet for these people on TV,'” Broyard said. “There’s no outlet for real music on TV anymore. There’s none of these iconic music shows anymore, where it kind of regulated fans to hearing them on satellite radio or going to a show.”
For Avery Sunshine, singer-songwriter and “Versus & Flow” season five music guest, the rise of new media platforms and the surge of reality television has led to the shift in the way people consume music.
“I think the way our culture is now, we’re getting music on Spotify, we’re watching music on YouTube,” Sunshine told HuffPost. “And so people don’t want to sit and watch it -- it has to be interesting. Especially when it’s competing with reality shows -- that has become our regular television diet.”
Broyard went on to suggest the success behind Fox's “Empire” as a positive sign that music based programs can work on television, but she still encourages more programming for live music.
“There really needs to be somebody else out there coming up with ideas to be able to showcase music in its pure form -- which is live music,” she said. “Because if we don’t continue the live music -- especially in the black music space -- we’re going to lose that art form.”
TV One’s “Lexus Versus & Flow” airs Thursdays at 10PM/ET.
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