By Wiley Henry
MEMPHIS, TN — If you listen to “Free From Me” on the EP “Black Diamond,” you’ll learn a lot about Mariah Michelle Stokes. She is a young, rising soloist striking a familiar chord that young women like her would understand.
“I’m very emotional and vulnerable,” said Stokes, 22, who uses “Mariah Michelle” as her stage name. “I wrote that song when I was depressed during a very dark time in my life.”
What resulted from that somber experience was Mariah Michelle’s heartfelt testimony that she set to music. “I went through some things in life and I felt like music is my testimony,” she said.
With rock-solid confidence now, Mariah Michelle hopes to inspire people, young or
otherwise, via “Black Diamond,” a compilation of five R&B/soul selections with message-laden lyrics that inspire and motivate.
“Black Diamond” is the title track. The others are “Go Get It,” “Be Loved,” “Break,” and, of course, “Free From Me.” The songs are produced by Ja’Mar Productions.
“All the songs have a message,” she said. “Black Diamond celebrates us. It’s a celebratory song about black people, about tearing down all stereotypes.” The remaining songs on the EP are just as compelling, she added.
Consider the chorus in “Black Diamond:” “You’re a black diamond, you gon shine forever/ They try to tie us down, but we gon reign forever/ When you black and you proud, it just don’t get no better/ All the mess we overcame, we on another level.”
While Mariah Michelle radiates confidence and touts the finished product as good – which took over a year to complete – her journey to creative expression could have ended before it began.
At the onset of her life, not long after awakening into the world, Mariah Michelle was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease called alopecia areata, which attacks hair follicles.
Completely bald now, the image that she showcases on stage and in her daily life is bold, alluring, and self-assuring. People gaze upon her baldness in admiration and surmise that it is fate that God has ordered.
“Black Diamond” is Mariah Michelle’s foray into the music industry. But like many black singers, whatever the genre they inevitably end up singing, the church was their springboard. It’s no different for Mariah Michelle.
“We still got to walk by faith. Sometimes in the music industry it takes a while [to get noticed],” Mitchell Stokes, her father and manager, said. He plays lead guitar for his home church, Golden Gate Cathedral, and for The Soul Shockers, an R&B group.
Mariah Michelle is a praise dancer and sings in the church choir. The message that she conveys in her music is tantamount to the message that comes forth when she sings God’s praises.
“My music is clear and inspirational,” she said, denouncing music about money, sex and drugs for music that uplifts and makes a positive statement.
“She has a gift and she’s anointed to do what she’s doing,” Mitchell Stokes said. “We want her to continue to grow in Christ, continue to love herself, and continue go after her dreams.”
Her mother, Sandra Stokes, embraces the objective of ensuring that Mariah Michelle is grounded and rooted in faith. She and her husband believe that all things are possible, considering the unpredictability of the music industry.
“I’m just the prayer warrior,” Sandra Stokes said. “I don’t know about music. I just try to keep her committed and connected to Christ.”
Mariah Michelle initially didn’t want to sing professionally, her father said. But then something happened. Someone had seen a video on social media of Mitchell Stokes’ little girl singing and contacted him.
“She has always sung,” he said. “Our family is musically-inclined. It’s inside of her.”
Mariah Michelle added her spin: “Music is in my genes. It’s a natural gift.”
Although music is her passion, “in my genes,” education is underscored. This year, Mariah Michelle will graduate from the University of Memphis with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Why psychology?
“I’ve always been interested in the way people think, the way the brain works, and how people behave,” she explained.
Until she walks across the stage with her degree in hand, she’ll continue to sashay across the stage at other venues, where she’ll sing songs that accentuate the positive and evoke thought.
A song on the EP, “Go Get It,” released on Nov. 29, is reflective of Mariah Michelle’s endeavor to go after what she wants in life with a clean-cut message that sets her apart from her contemporaries.
“…I’m gon do my own thing and go get it/ Go get it and unleash the champion/ Go get it…” she sings. “Whatever you want, go get it/ What you been hoping for, go get it.”
“Go Get It” is streaming on all major platforms, such as Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, Apple Music, and Google Play. “Black Diamond,” the EP, is $5. For more information, email [email protected], or call 901-338-7028.