The Soul Cypher at the 2023 Soul Train Awards didn’t disappoint. As Bryan-Michael Cox spun an instrumental version of his and Jermaine Dupri’s production, Usher’s “U Got It Bad,” singers Nicci Gilbert, Arin Ray, Marsha Ambrosius, and Eric Bellinger freestyled over the iconic melody.
Gilbert, the founding Brownstone member, sang about uplifting the community and her 30-year legacy. “No ego, I’m regal / For my people, I will go to the valley low,” she belted. “I will go to toe to toe […] Maxee watching over me/ Brownstone, we’re never alone.”
Next up was Ray, who lived up to his crooning ways and figuratively serenaded a lover. “What’s on your mind?/ Girl, what you sad for?” he sang. “Used to beg for it/ Waiting on me, in the bed for it/ Hit the mission like a task force/ Hit the kitty like a crash course.”
Bellinger opened his freestyle by hitting Ursher‘s iconic run (which makes sense considering he often does background vocals for the King of R&B). He not only flexed his skills as a vocalist, but also as an award-winning songwriter.
“I be so deep in my bag/ I hit the studio and write your favorite song just like that/ On my independent swag/ Tell me who else can say they got R&B up on they back?/ Put me on the track, it’s a hit/ That’s a fact/ ‘Cause they know I’m the man/ Can’t even be mad/ Been on my grind/ Actually working overtime, I’m the GOAT and the CEO/ ‘Ppreciate the love in advance,” sings the hitmaker.
Last but not least, Ambrosius reflected on the last time she appeared on the Soul Train Awards, when she won the Song of the Year, and how her highly-anticipated Dr. Dre-produced album Casablanca is on the way. The British songbird teased her song “Say Yes” and reminded skeptics that she wrote Michael Jackson’s “Butterflies.”
Watch this year’s full Soul Cypher above.
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