She’s the soundtrack to real hip hop.
Her voice howls like a ghostly siren in the background on Talib Kweli’s “Too Late.” Then, without flinching, she can turn straight diva on her solo hit, “They Say Vision.”
Her name is Shareese Renee Ballard, better known by her stage name, Res. Born in Southwest Philadelphia and raised on the Main Line, she’s the true definition of fresh local talent. Res started singing when she was 8, listening to her parents Motown records, then experimenting with Broadway tunes in high school. She grew up around the corner from the late, great Teddy Pendergrass.
She signed her first demo deal at age 19. In 2001, she released her debut album, “How I Do,” with its first single, “Golden Boys,” being famously remixed by rapper Nas.
“I’m the hometown hero, right?,” Res tells Metro. “It’s great being from a city that has so many great musicians, but that wasn’t the scene I lived in. I wasn’t in the clubs and all that growing up. I met The Roots and Jill [Scott] after I started doing music. Philly has great music, but the camaraderie isn’t there.”
On the surface, she may appear to be a hip-hop junkie, but that’s far from the truth. Res has experimented with everything from classical music to ’80s retro pop. Her newest offering, “Refried Mac,” is a full album of Fleetwood Mac cover songs that she worked on with instrumentalist/producer Tom Spiker. It’s set to be released tomorrow, with pre-sales ongoing on iTunes and Amazon.
“People told me I sounded like Stevie Nicks and I was like, ‘Who is this girl?’” Res says. “I found out who she was and was like, ‘Oh, I know her. I love these songs.’”
Res has another offering, entitled “Reset,” loosely set to drop after the New Year. She’ll also be performing at World Cafe Live in University City on Nov. 17. Like with everything Res does, expect the unexpected.
Res and Kweli: Best friends
Listening to Res talk, it’s no wonder the biggest influence on her career has been Talib Kweli. The deep-thinking rapper was the one who gave Res her big break, at a time when not a lot of people would put their money where their mouth was.
“When we first met, I didn’t have a deal yet,” Res says. “He told me, “Look, I’m a fan and I have the means to do it [help her], and he did it. A lot of people talk, but don’t do anything. I’m pretty lucky.”
Kweli and Res have been friends since the early 2000s and formed the group Idle Warship in 2008. Their debut album, “Habits of the Heart,” was released in 2011.
“She’s one of my best friends,” Kweli says. “She’s one of the greatest live performers I’ve ever seen. She has such a unique sound. It’s time for her to shine.”