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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

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Milwaukee native Drea Smith is a rising star on the hip-hop scene.
Milwaukee native Drea Smith is a rising star on the hip-hop scene.

Drea Smith's star is rising in the musical galaxy

We read about them, tweet about them, dress like them and sometimes, we obsess over them.

It's one thing to idolize a celebrity and decide to borrow their hairstyle or adapt the non-practical idea of wearing liquid leggings and 5-inch heels every day, but it certainly is on another level to be able to say that you know them personally.

If you are friends with a high-profile individual, there is a good chance that down the line you can become a socialite, accumulate more famous friends, live life a celebrity and eventually land your own reality show. Or so you think!

The funny thing about being famous is that some people are destined to become stars due to talent, and others due solely to opportunity. Before they became the God MC, "bootylicious" or the Kings of Rock, they were someone's next door neighbor with a lot of dreams, waiting on the right opportunity.

Those who enjoy some entertainment -- be it music, art, fashion, etc. -- know that Milwaukee has its share of community members worthy of fame and stardom.

My favorite soon-to-be-famous Milwaukee starlet has a sound that is so unique, and so worthy of a million Twitter followers, that I can't wait for the rest of the world to find out.

Who am I talking about? Drea Smith.

Smith started writing music in grade school, and playing guitar at the age of 15. While attending Milwaukee High School of the Arts, she honed in on her talent and became a jazz vocal major.

Smith's musical selection as a teenager was more mature than her classmates', but this could be attributed to her drive to become a multi-talented musical phenomenon. Some of her music influences include: Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, Fiona Apple, Nina Simone, Joan Jett, The Clash, The Cure, Joy Division, Siouxsie Sioux and Billie Holliday.

In 2004, Smith packed her things and headed to Chicago to attend Columbia College with hopes of becoming a sociology teacher. Instead she linked up with a local hip-hop socialite by the name of Mano -- better known as Million Dollar Mano -- and that is where it all began.

After playing a song for Mano, he convinced Smith that she should pursue her passion, and check her current path at the door. In 2007 the two realized that they met for a reason, and formed electro-indie-pop duo He Say She Say.

The duo had developed a sound that was so electric, and magnetic the buzz was everywhere, even in the camps of Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco.

Booking gigs in Chicago is one thing, but signing to Lupe Fiasco's label 1st and 15th in 2008 put Smith on a whole new level.

On the release of Kanye West's album "Graduation" and "Glow in the Dark" tour, He Say She Say were asked to do spot dates opening up for N.E.R.D, Lupe Fiasco, and, of course, Mr. West. Some of the venues they performed in included New York's Madison Square Garden and Chicago's United Center.

Smith was living the dream. I still remember running into her backstage at the United Center while Rhianna was performing. She seemed right at home, grinning from ear to ear as she joked with Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D. about the stage they had just shared.

Smith continued to write for artists on the 1st and 15th label and in 2009 she and Million Dollar Mano rocked the Lollapalooza crowd. Performing is second nature to this artist who once sat in my mother's living room and serenaded us with her acoustic guitar, singing Bob Marley's "Redemption Song."

Wonder what is she up to now?

Smith is currently working on solo project with OK Go bassist Tim Nordwind. Aside from playing gigs and writing with other artists such as Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, she makes time to come to Milwaukee to visit her family and friends.

Its evident that the stars are aligning for her and if I could offer you one word of advice ... if you haven't yet, you should start following her on Twitter.


Tarik Moody | March 31, 2010 at 9:29 a.m. (report)

Great look on Drea. I caught He Say She Say at Moct over a year ago. I interviewed them, and I was playing their music on my radio show a few years back. Good luck to Drea!

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pfunkyouup | March 29, 2010 at 10:03 p.m. (report)

This was by far your very Best article. I believed every word. Your hope for and belief in her success is presented very sincerely. Milwaukee School of the Arts should be proud. Milwaukeeans should also be!

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