One of a handful of neo-classic soul artists to emerge following the late-’90s success of artists like D’Angelo and Lauryn Hill, Atlanta’s India.Arie stood poised at the beginning of 2001 to make a major impact. A studied songwriter and guitar player rooted in the R&B, soul, Motown, and blues of the past, but grounded in the post-hip-hop urban world of today, Arie’s debut, Acoustic Soul, was rich with textured songs, hooks, and impressively mature lyrics, considering the artist had only been writing songs for five years.
Born in Denver, CO, to parents from Memphis and Detroit, music was always in Arie’s life. The family moved to Atlanta when India was 13 and after high school she began playing guitar at the encouragement of her mother. Involvement in the fertile Atlanta urban music scene led to the formation of an artist’s collective called Groovement and an independent label, EarthShare, which released a compilation CD featuring Arie’s first songs. A second-stage slot on the 1998 Lilith Fair tour garnered major-label interest, but Arie eventually signed with Motown after being assured of having full artistic control.
Work on Acoustic Soul dragged out over nearly two years, but Arie’s relentless pursuit of perfection and musical integrity yielded very pleasing results: as successful a graft of classic soul and modern hip-hop-style productions yet attempted. The album’s first single, “Video,” received strong radio and club play early in the year, and the full-length followed in March. Just over a year later, Arie had completed her second record, Voyage to India, and it appeared in September 2002. Four years later the singer hit number one on the Billboard charts for the first time with Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship, which also netted her three Grammy nominations. Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics was released in February 2009.