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The ‘H’ Is Silent

Oh my god she’s SO HOT. That is, I’ll admit, the first thing I think when I see Thara Prashad walking through the glass doors of Cocoa Bar, a trendy café-meets-lounge on the Lower East Side of New York City. It’s the end of summer, and it’s steaming out, but she has somehow arrived freshness […]

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Jun 21, 2009

Oh my god she’s SO HOT.

That is, I’ll admit, the first thing I think when I see Thara Prashad walking through the glass doors of Cocoa Bar, a trendy café-meets-lounge on the Lower East Side of New York City. It’s the end of summer, and it’s steaming out, but she has somehow arrived freshness intact, wearing these snug-bottomed jeans and leopard pumps, which click against the tiled floor as she crosses the room.

She is stunning.

Prashad’s good looks are perhaps the main reason she was lifted from obscurity; the girl-next-door who grew up just twenty minutes outside the City. They’re probably responsible for her being cast in several high-profile music videos including Jay-Z’s ”˜Excuse Me Miss,’ Sean Paul’s ”˜Ever Blazin’’ and most recently ”˜Stay,’ a track off British Asian R&B-er Jay Sean’s album My Own Way. Her looks are also at least partly why she’s been featured in print and television ad campaigns here in the States for companies like MTV, American Eagle Outfitters and Verizon Networks.

But pretty girls are a dime a dozen in this town, which makes it fortunate she has other stuff going for her too. Lots of other stuff. For one, she can act. She’s made appearances on popular American daytime serials Guiding Light (she played Summer) and One Life To Live (as Carrie). A few years ago, she landed a modest role in Miracle Boys (Spike Lee’s urban coming-of-age mini-series), and in an ill-fated TV pilot about the hip-hop industry’s dirty underbelly called Alphabet City. Then in 2007, her first feature film: the Aditya Raj/Rishi Kapoor project Sambar Salsa.

All this isn’t bad for a young twenty-something, getting her start in the business. Except, she’s not really interested in “the business.” At least not in that business. She tells me music is her true passion.

Before you start rolling your eyes at this, let me just say that I understand. The model-turned-video-chick-turned-singer path is one that has been travelled often. It generally dead-ends quickly. It disappoints. But Thara is different. Different, because she can actually sing. I promise.

Five years ago, she was signed to the urban label Desert Storm Records. Also on the roster at the time: Fabolous and the, now deceased, rap artist Stack Bundles. Thara’s first solo single, the club-banger ”˜You Want It’ was on rotation at dozens of radio stations nationwide. Early on, she collaborated with Fab on his track ”˜Ghetto,’ produced by hip-hop heavyweight Scott Storch. Sony Playstation 2 fans of the game Midnight Club 3 will recognise the song from the game soundtrack.

But this was back in 2004. Since then things haven’t been the easiest. A split with Desert Storm meant Prashad was left to navigate the City’s music scene on her own. No easy task. Still two summers ago, she opened for R&B superstar Ne-Yo in Japan. This, on the heels of another set of collaborations: with close friend Jay Sean (on the solid up-tempo track ”˜M.U.R.D.E.R.’) and with multi-Grammy-winner John Legend (look for ”˜Maybe/Don’t Be Afraid’ on iTunes). She seems to be doing just fine, more than fine actually.

And her new label? Well, she’s not on one. But who cares? Especially since the album, as a sellable unit of music, now appears to be on its deathbed. Sales have been slipping steadily for years and the days of releasing a record with 18 cuts, although not over, soon just might be. Music fans today like to pick and choose their tracks, piecing together playlists of their favourites. Distribution is digital, and singles are increasingly downloaded off MySpace and other, similar sites. Why buy an entire CD, the thinking goes, when you can cherrypick the songs you like, and save yourself a chunk of change in the process?

All this means the road to being discovered perhaps no longer runs solely through a fancy label’s skyscraper offices. It’s forked, and winding. It has room for Thara. If there’s a mantra for this new generation of music consumers it probably goes something like: “rip, mix, burn, repeat.” And for artists like Prashad, that’s a mantra which is music to the ears.

Hilal Nakiboglu Isler lives, writes, and teaches in the United States.

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