Foster shares musical journey with FAMUly

FAMU alumna Kendra Foster giving acceptance speech after receiving her Grammy
Courtesy of Kevork Djansezian

Nervously walking up the stage to accept her first Grammy for her song "Really Love" as Best R&B Song and the album she co-wrote with D'Angelo "Black Messiah" for Best R&B Album of the Year, Kendra Foster was elated at the possibilities unfolding before her eyes.

The Tallahassee native knew she was destined for greatness.

Foster officially attended Florida A&M University from 1996-2001, but she said she's always been around campus.

"I grew up on FAMU's campus because my father was a math teacher there for at least 35 years, Dr. C.A. Foster," she said. "My mother was an English professor there in Tucker Hall … my other mom worked in the Career Center … so I would have so much fun on the set."

Although she didn't start off centering her studies around her passion that is music, Foster said she honed her raw talent while at FAMU.

According to her website, her interest in jazz music developed in high school, but while attending college she tried going the "practical" route.

"I started out being practical, being a math major. Then I switched to chemistry. Then I switched back to math," Foster said. "I finally stopped trying to avoid the artistic side. So, I totally changed my major to jazz studies and commercial music."

At the time, FAMU hadn't developed a program for vocalists but Foster was one of the few pioneers. Her campus mentor, Marty Robinson was the band director at the time.

While still a freshman, she met trumpeter and keys player Whitney Russell. He heard her sing, swiftly made her his protégé and introduced her to Michael "Mike P" Patterson. This spearheaded the start of Foster's budding career.

She locally performed in the rock-funk band Smoke, and was later lead vocalist in the group Fish-N-Grits.

All while being a full-time student, Foster worked part-time and still made time for her music.

"I was working and going to school (so), I would squeeze in the practice room after hours either at FSU and FAMU," she said. "It wasn't always easy."

She remembered making many sacrifices, specifically once she started making music as psychedelic funk legend George Clinton's student in Monticello.

"When I started trying to work with George, driving like 45 minutes out to Monticello … it's two in the morning. It's dark. It's scary and I have to be back at school at nine in the morning," she said. "I just wanted to be in the atmosphere of legends and people that were really doing stuff. It was a thirst."

Clinton saw that hunger in Foster. She said that was one of the reasons why he wanted to sign her to a production deal.

"…I reminded him so much of how they (Parliment Funkadelic) were on the brink of their fame. He said that dedication helped seal the deal."

With that opportunity, Foster left FAMU to "join the circus," work on her album "Myriadmorphonicbiocorpomelodicrealityshapeshifter" and become a part of Parliment Funkadelic.

"When I started touring with George, I was signed a production deal … I've been writing for a long time in efforts to create an album," she said. "Along the way my other dreams have come true, like working with D'Angelo and the Vanguard."

Released in April 2014, “Myriadmorphonic” gives you an Erykah Badu vibe while adding a "soul based fusion of jazz, hip-hop, funk and rock. Foster said her new album will still have her authentic sound, but more evolved.

"…You can tell I grew up. With the album, it will be basically all me: songwriting and a lot of the production," she said. "In my songwriting and in my delivery, I grew up."

Before touring with Clinton, Foster frequently performed with Tallahassee Nights Live. Her music cleverly integrates her personality and artistic ability. Creator of Tallahassee Nights Live Darius "Doc D" Baker saw it firsthand.

"She's always been a free-spirit," Baker said. "She's always been the more consistent artists in the area. She doesn't change; her style is unique. She doesn't change with the current trends of music. Kendra is Kendra."

Although she couldn't give out an exact date, Foster said her new album will debut at the top of the summer. For now you can listen to a snippet of her single "Promise 2 Stay Here" on her website or soundcloud.