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Damaged but not broken

GOING SOLO: Coree Richards and Jasmine

TODAY WHEN I see JLS taking over the world I’m proud and happy for them. Their parallel acts back in the day could’ve been a number of bands like Another Level, Ultimate Kaos but probably most notably Damage.

With their hits Wonderful Tonight and Ghetto Romance, the band worked hard in the 90’s with minimal success, as the UK chart wasn’t as urban-music-friendly as it is now. This week I caught up with Damage’s former lead vocalist Coree Richards. His story is incredible, full of highs and lows, pain and pride.

Coree revealed that up until 10 years ago the band was still performing to pay their bills - nothing more. The pleasure had gone from their group relationship. He had shared his feelings with the band about wanting to occasionally do solo work as well as remain with the band, because he wanted to be more individual and do his own thing. Apparently the group were extremely unhappy about this and forced Coree to choose between a solo career and them. After painful deliberation he chose a solo path, which did not sit well with his band members:

‘’The guys all stopped speaking to me after that. I was so depressed I went to Thailand and partied to cope with the pain and pressure of now trying to go solo. It was hard. I had so many initial fears and didn’t know what I was going to do next.”

Even I recalled the time when the London music scene was whispering about Coree and his use of drugs and alcohol. The singer confirmed that he had hit rock bottom but found a way to make it through: “I eventually found my love for music again. I taught local kids to sing at local schools in Harrow, near where I live. I still teach them, it helps me give back to the community.”

Back from the brink, Coree bought himself a computer and taught himself how to produce music. And it was at that point that he found out many of his peers had turned against him.

“Certain producers that used to work with Damage, that we had given their first breaks to were either not returning my calls or trying to charge me sums that were out of my range!”

Other industry brands were seemingly blackballing him too, as he added: “Damage used to be the Choice FM babies but now DJ’s like Jenny Francis wouldn’t even get back to me!”

Former band member Andre is the son of ChoiceFM presenter Daddie Earnie, so things there were probably always going to be frosty. Things got colder for Coree, he remembered the last time he saw his one time fellow band members:

“There was a Ghetto Romance party arranged in Muswell Hill. A past Damage team staff member had invited me to come along and try and be cordial to the boys. I turned up and security wouldn’t let me in. Eventually I was inside and the entire band was really throwing me negative vibes. Andre, who seemed the worse for wear, maybe because of alcohol, was quite aggressive’’.

Coree feels there was added pressure due to band member Jades relationship with Spice Girl Emma Bunton, he said: “Andre hangs onto Jade. Jade hangs onto Emma and that’s what is priority.”

Coree revealed the way that he learned that he had been chucked out of the reformed group was shocking and unprofessional. The band wrote a letter to their fans in 2010 to tell fans they’d asked Coree to leave, without even having the decency and manners to tell Coree first.

Still, Coree has set up his own production company called Black Swan Entertainment and is currently working with a few producers like the UK’s Smujji. He’s currently made around 60 tracks for his solo album Damaged but not broken. The tracks are mostly Up-tempo. One track is titled A Fathers Word for his two-year-old son. He revealed that he’s been fighting to see son for the last two years.

Corees can-do attitude will surely persevere. He agrees “Doing music and being great at it is my way of dealing with my struggles. My fans keep me motivated when they communicate with me and being a father affects my music because it’s more serious now. I know I Must make more of a business with it and I want to give back to the youth and help the new generation.”
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HELPING CHILDREN IN NEED


CHARITY MAN: Jonzi D

Congrats to my one time dance partner Jonzi D for being awarded funding from BBC’s Children In Need to continue his brand Breakin’ Convention for Hip Hop Hospital.

A project that delivers a programme of hip hop related activity to children’s hospital wards across the country, the Hip Hop Hospital sees artists visit children’s hospitals across the UK to bring interactive workshops in rap, music, dance and graffiti to hospital bedsides and social areas.

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