If you live in their Philadelphia neighborhood, it’s possible you may see Aja and Fatin Dantzler going about their daily errands, picking up and dropping off their children, hanging out at a neighborhood festival or going about the business of heading to a studio or airport for their next recording session or tour. They are celebrities but accessible ones – jus’ folks but with a talent that separates them from their peers.
The duo, who have six children together, have been married for 17 years (18 on September 19th) but singing together longer than that and have just released their sixth studio album, Legacy Of Love. The first single “All My People,” along with the album, is climbing the radio and streaming charts. Kindred’s music has a contemporary feel, for sure, but it also hearkens back to the days when you could hear albums played on a turntable instead of a device. They are part of the Philadelphia soul renaissance that also brought you Boyz II Men, Jill Scott, Musiq and Bilal and was that was inspired by homegrown superstars like Patti Labelle, Teddy Pendergrass and the entire Philadelphia International Records roster led by legendary producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
I chatted with them recently about music, love, life and marriage.
Buy the Kindred album, and connect with them via social media by heading to their official website HERE.
BAW: Does ‘all my people” have a different meaning now than when you got started?
Kindred: Aja: The last few years have been really significant for us as to how we’re seen as members of our community and we see that each thing goes so much further. Like anyone else, we’ve been affected by the things that have happened in the world. We had a record out called Love Has No Recession because people were suffering through a financial time that was really bad in this country. We watched that and then watched society go through the racial and societal unrest and while we were watching those things, it was happening to us. Fatin: We were trying to save our own home during that time. Thankfully, we made it through those difficult times to go on to other difficult times. But God is good and we’re very blessed to tell the stories that resonate with so many people’s lives. It’s a blessing and what keeps us moving forward.
You guys make music from an authentic place. Do you think that’s a rarity in music these days?
Fatin: Maybe. But we always felt like outcasts, even when we first started. We got married young and that wasn’t the direction other artists were taking at the time so they kind of looked like us as oddballs. We always had that chip on our shoulder that we were not special but different. We felt that we had what it takes to be respected. Aja: I think we’ve always come from an authentic space because we’ve seen people try to orchestrate what we do and it doesn’t connect in the same way. We’ve developed friendships with fans through social media. We have fans that have a history with us now. Social media has allowed me personally and as a member of our group to connect with people and really understand where our fans are coming from.
You are able to move in a certain way in public. Would you give up what you have now to be on the same level of professional success as a Jay Z and Beyoncè?
Aja: Who don’t want a couple dollars? But I wouldn’t want people superimposing faces on my kids and making memes out of them. I’ve had people come for my kids in a small way and it hurt and it was hard to deal with. I would never want to have to live like that. I love being able to go to the corner store. I like being able to do what I want to do without having to think about the group. I get to do the group when I feel like it. Fatin:
People respect us a whole lot differently than they do Jay Z and Beyoncè. A friend of mine said to me ‘The groupie thing must be real bad on you.’ I don’t really deal with that and I know Aja doesn’t really deal with that.But a Beyoncè and a Jay Z they clearly do in some way, shape or form. Being a husband and wife and really being a husband and wife, people respect that. Because we respect those boundaries, we really don’t have to deal with people coming at us a different kind of way. That is a blessing and a protection on our relationship.
On this latest album, you’ve worked with a lot of in-demand Philadelphia-based producers who’ve produced acts like Jill Scott, Usher, etc. It seems that you still have the respect of your peers even in a numbers-driven music industry.
These are our friends and these are people who we’ve come up with and they have a mutual respect for what we do. They realize it’s worthwhile as well. It’s a real project.
There are people in the industry who have longevity and there are those who are one-shot artists because they’re great at the social media hustle. Does that impact the way you make your music?
Fatin: We try to stay the course on being our authentic selves and continue doing music that we genuinely enjoy, even as trends change. We know that that the neo-soul movement is not what it was in 2004. We are now continually focused on being soulful, not making neo-soul music but being soulful. That was always the vision, because it was music that we loved. Now it’s just staying in the traditional lane of music that we love and that is in our hearts. And that is what has worked for us thus far and that is what continues to seem to work for us.
Do you consider yourself in the same wheelhouse as an Eric Roberson, a Lalah Hathaway – people who will always be able to make music and sell concerts regardless of what’s hot and sexy at the time?
Fatin: Frankie Beverly and Maze has always been our inspiration. This guy was selling out the Essence Fest at 60 years old. He doesn’t have a lot of followers on Instagram and Facebook. He doesn’t need to. He’s got the people’s hearts. They love him. Not his Instagram, not his Twitter, not his Facebook. Everybody that’s on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter knows his s–t. They ain’t liking his pictures but they’re selling out his shows. Who don’t want a couple of followers? But what you really want is to have a real relationship and to have people respect what you do and to come out and support you when you need to be supported.