Goapele Mohlabane is a mononymously-known contemporary R&B singer and songwriter whose sophisticated recordings reflect a wide range of inspirations that includes Nina Simone, Sade, and Portishead. The daughter of a South African political exile, the Oakland native grew up in a socially conscious and politically active family. At an early age, Goapele attended the Berkeley Arts Magnet School, where she led a pre-teen peer support group, and also became involved in organizations that combated racism and sexism. Goapele sang in the Oakland Youth Choir and was in a semi-professional music group called Vocal Motion. Upon high school graduation, she attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston and studied music theory. During her post-secondary education, she also began to refine her songwriting skills.
Closer (2001), Goapele's independent debut album, arrived just after the commercial peak of neo-soul, but its refined sound, based in traditional soul and jazz with shades of trip-hop, led to a deal with major-label Columbia. The association yielded an expanded version of the debut titled Even Closer (2002) and Change It All (2005), the latter of which featured collaborations with Linda Perry, Jeff Bhasker, and Sa-Ra. After a release-less period of several-years that involved the birth of her daughter, Goapele temporarily moved her Skyblaze label to the independent Decon for Break of Dawn (2011), a full-length that narrowly missed the Top Ten of Billboard's R&B/hip-hop chart. A triennal release schedule was maintained for Strong as Glass (2014) and the Dreamseeker EP (2017), two of her most eclectic and uplifting studio efforts. ~ Andy Kellman & Jason MacNeil