Prowess the Testament
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Prowess the Testament

Silver Spring, MD | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Silver Spring, MD | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo Hip Hop Indie




"Video Premiere: Prowess The Testament Assails Conventional Thought On ‘Alpha Centauri’"

As a kid, Tia Abner rarely went anywhere without a notebook and pen. A poet from age 5, she began rapping in earnest when she discovered her cousin shared her obsession with Dr. Dre.

“I’d write a song down and then try to follow the format,” says Abner, who now performs under the name Prowess the Testament. “I remember going to show [my cousin] all these lyrics I wrote out — and he pulls out his book and there’s literally the same thing.”

At that point, there was no looking back.

prowess-the-testamentNow an experienced emcee, Abner has a writerly style and a fascination with the ancient and divine. Her artfully constructed lyrics betray her lifelong experience as a writer — and her verses are eclectic, touching on cosmology, philosophy, Egyptology and folklore.

All these elements rise to the surface on Prowess the Testament’s new single, “Alpha Centauri.” In the song’s video, the Laurel, Maryland, rapper articulates her visions in a grimy setting — she posts up in an alleyway, standing before some of D.C.’s finest hip-hop artists: Enoch 7th Prophet, MC Logic, Ardamus and The Cornel West Theory’s Tim Hicks, who also produced the song.

Abner says “Alpha Centauri” is about breaking out of conventional thought. “Much of my point was to remove that compartmentalized thinking that separates art and science into separate vocabularies,” she says.

With its Kung Fu movie samples and breakbeats, the production on “Alpha Centauri” harks back to the golden age of Wu-Tang Clan. Abner’s delivery steadily grows in intensity before the beat cuts out, pausing for Beethoven’s “Für Elise.” The moment is layered with meaning.

“It is intended to represent a deafening silence in the song,” Abner says. “Beethoven allegedly composed [‘Für Elise’] while nearly deaf. Scholars have been hypothesizing for years over who ‘Elise’ is… I like to think that Beethoven’s muse was simply the stillness of silence.”

Abner began releasing music in 1999 under the name Naiea. But the initial experience was overwhelming and left her burnt out. She moved to Africa, where her passion for hip-hop followed her in an unexpected way.

“I remember waking up in Kenya to Jeru the Damaja,” Abner says. “I’m in the hills… 2,100 meters above sea level, and ‘One Day‘ is blasting out of the compound… I literally fell out of the bed laughing.”

Abner returned to the U.S. and began making music under the name Prowess the Testament, a name given to her by hip-hop elder statesman KRS-One. “Alpha Centauri” is her second single overall and the first from her new EP, Air​.​Human|Breath​.​Divine, officially out today.

In May, Abner drops another EP, called Right Where I Left It. She also hints at other surprises down the line, like an upcoming show with the Hip Hop Unforgettable Tour and a legendary boom-bap artist.

“I can’t give away any secrets just yet,” the lyricist says, “but I can promise it will be epic.”

Prowess the Testament’s new EP is available on Bandcamp. - WAMU 88.5 (By Justyn Withay)

"Studio 901 featuring Prowess the Testament!"

Watch Studio 901 with Prowess the Testament! - DCTV (

"Who is Prowess? The return of the female emcee"

So many people like to think that the age of the Femcee is done but it is not! Tia Prowess is an upcoming femcee who has the face of a good girl and a voice that would rival Buckshot Shorty of Black Moon any day. She can spit lyrical foreplay like Redman or Keith Murrary or she can be cunningly seductive yet tough like her predecessors Roxanne Shante and Eve. During a cipher, she caught the eye of Hip Hop legend, KRS-1, who named her “Prowess”. Known as Tia Abner by those in her circle and a dedicated member of the Delegation Music group, Tia is a a writer, singer, and even publicist for other artists. Prowess shows us that Femcee is not gone and that female emcees are not restricted and bounded to flick of the wrist and pop, squat and drop it. She still shows her sex appeal and femininity in her dress and style but she can come harder than a speeding bullet once you get into a battle with her. Prowess definitely holds her ground as a diva and femcee but don’t sleep, shorty has lyrics to go! Let’s see learn more about this enigma named Prowess.

So what inspired you to be a femcee?

I was fortunate to have been raised in a home where music and the performing arts were central to family bonding. Arts in general sparked dialogue and opened lines of communication. Family gatherings at grandmother’s house were a cornucopia of art conversations debating passions and poisons and a watering hole of sorts for various artistic spirits. My uncles blazed early trails in the arts and created pathways for us all. One of my uncles was a songwriter and lead guitarist for The Temptations, The Gap Band and band director for the Drifters. Another uncle became part of the regional legend that is Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers. They were handed some raw deals but they also experienced incredible successes and achievements and through it all they held music and their artistic crafts in the highest regard. Their stories and experiences stuck with me…they taught me that music was a higher calling and that it was how we communed with the universe. I too have found a sense of solidarity and strength in that philosophy. Being an emcee helped me nurture a solid core of sensitivity, openness, inquisitiveness, and creativity. For me, that freedom of expression is the purest form of love and peace one can have.

What are some of the challenges you face working in the DC market?

I think the challenges in DC are much better categorized as opportunities. I’ve found so much support in the local and regional musician community. It’s close knit community that really fosters creativity and creative expression. In many ways, we’re so vastly different from the rest of the world and there’s great opportunity to change the paradigm for the world. DC is a live music capital in many ways. The love and appreciation for live instrumentation runs deep. I think the difficulty for all artists here is superseding or going beyond that label of being “local” and becoming/thinking globally. DC is home to some of the most amazing and renowned musicians and artists in the world. If you follow the breadcrumbs, the evidence of their works are in the archives of musical history. There’s comfort in knowing one can cut heads and sharpen swords with the best. I am proud to be a member of the DC artistic community, I’ve met amazing people here and been able to build great friendships within that community.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Being a better mother, daughter, and overall person. Doing more of what I love. On an award tour around the world perfecting and actualizing my craft. Musically, I hope to be branching out to more artistic endeavors at that time as part of my evolution. I just may record a project with live interpretations of jazz standards or perhaps venture back into production and getting behind the boards and also doing more songwriting. I’d love to create an audio visual comic book underscored by some of my instrumentals, jazzy, dusty sample and vintage imagery. My mantra is do more and talk less…I hope that I’m closer to living in that truth by then.

Who are some of your favorite artists out right now?

I love a diversity of artists…I love this girlboss movement happening in Hip hop right now, groups like THEESatisfaction, a couple of flygirls out of Seattle, they’re super dope. I love what Sammus is doing in Nerdcore in terms of broadening the traditional ideas of Hip hop. The organic soul of KING has ushered in a whole new appreciation for women voices and Paris Strother’s (of KING) production is so sonically rich and harmonic. Delegation Music artists like Far Exp and Ardamus really push me to keep my sword sharpened as far as performing and owning the stage. They’ve taught me how to have fun on the stage and involve the audience. The list is endless.

So people know you for singing and rapping? What else do you do?

I started out doing graff in about the 5th or 6th grade. I was never really keen on art so much but I found true passion in being able to have fun with it. I got immersed into the culture–hip-hop just sort of naturally followed. I spent a significant amount of time studying cello, Clarinet, Percussion (Tambora drum, timbales) throughout my formative years through high school. At some point, I’d love to learn to play bass guitar. I always felt like it’s been a calling in my life. Its an instrument I’m naturally drawn to. That’s next on my list.

How would you define your image?

Feminine, exotic, textured, classic and minimalist at times. Musically, I’m a mix of textures and tones…I love ethereal melodies and harmonies but I think it’s fun to mix that with dusty soulful samples and boom-bap drums. My music is rhythmic, evocative and emphatically feminine.

Who were your favorite hip hop acts or musical artists from the 80’s and 90’s?

So many! Prince is like SUPREME in my book (When Doves Cry was my first 12″, Prince is also the first feminist I ever remember, for empowering female musicians and sexuality), Michael Jackson, no one would ever guess this but Diana Ross is just my favorite artist. Her risk taking and her poise is just impeccable. She’s such a refined and graceful artist. Sade, Janet Jackson, Mongo Santamaría, George Duke & Stanley Clarke, Phyllis Hyman, Gil Scott-Heron, KRS-One, Rakim, G Rap, Big L, Mos Def, Nas, Common, Pun, Biggie, Tribe, Wu-Tang, De La, Lady Bug, Heather B., Brand Nubian, Gang Starr, Lord FInesse and the whole DITC crew, Organized Konfusion, Kool Keith, Pete Rock & CL, Boot Camp Clik, and a host of other artists and creative thinkers alike. As for the more obvious ones, I’m a diehard underground hip-hop fan and am especially influenced by Juggaknots, Sage Francis, Im Tech, Tone Deff, Latryx, Brother Ali, Eyedea, Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, Sole, Dose & Jel. The following labels have played a major part in my musical palette: Def Jux, Anticon, Battle Axe, Stones Throw, Embedded, Fondle ‘Em, along with Rawkus, and Stones Throw

Who are you checking for now in terms of rappers?

Being in DC has really allowed me to engage and connect with so many amazing emcees and lyricists. Matta fact (S2M) and Flex Matthews (Congo Sanchez/Far Exp) are two of my favorites to watch in how they both captivate an audience with beautiful balance of striking confidence and humility. Black Indian is a huge influence for me. He is one of the first folks [in the scene] to actively welcome everyone to the artistic table. He’s a juggernaut when it comes to performance and one of the most genuine spirits I’ve ever met too. I think Rapsody is great. She’s really coming into her own and I’m excited to see what she does next. I’m paying special attention to Earl Sweatshirt and Mick Jenkins. They’ve revolutionized the art in such amazing ways. They consistently push the envelope of what some consider to be the “classical” check boxes of Hip hop.

How do you feel about the new artists vs the old artists in hip hop? What is your stance on that?

This one is simple for me. Everything must change and evolution is inevitable. There is no old and new, there is only evolution and growth and progress. We’re all simply reflections of those who came before us. Without a proverbial blueprint, none of us would be here.

What city do you think if you had to choose one, that you would want to be based out of?

I’m such a Cali girl at heart…it’s hard to believe I stayed in the East. I grew up listening to Bay Area artists like Maze & Frankie Beverly, Tony! Toni! Toné!, and even Hieroglyphics. I can imagine myself being there in a few years. LA, Houston, Dallas, maybe. Either that, or Paris. What girl doesn’t love Paris.

Name your top five dream producers you would like to work with or have worked with?

Jake One: Numero Uno always. He’s worked with everyone from 50 Cent to Casual to Brother Ali. His creative process is phenomenal, he’s incredibly daring, and he doesn’t limit himself to any one style. He can do Boom Bap to Love Songs and that’s why he’s first on this list. Others include: Flying Lotus, Paris Strother (of King), M-Phazes, Elaquent, and locally based but internationally known sonic superheroes The UnOwn and DubLohSkytzo. It’s hard to pick just five. That’s a dream list of production for me.

How did you get linked up to Delegation Music?

I was already working with Far Exp and when they decided to restructure under the Delegation Music umbrella, the idea was pitched to me as a means of assuring ownership of my creative works. I loved the idea of generating revenue for myself as well as my peers as a “musical hedge fund” of sorts. We invest in ourselves and each other’s various creative projects and then find ways to increase the profit margins. It’s one big innovation lab. The idea of being able to contribute as a thinker and decision-maker as well as an artist really fit me. It was a no-brainer. I love my team and I feel supported and inspired in creating music with them. - Couch Sessions (by Alexis Camoille)

"15 Recent D.C. Records You Don’t Want To Miss"

We’ve never claimed to be all-knowing here at Bandwidth, so forgive us if we occasionally overlook a noteworthy record or two from the region. Blame it on the sheer volume of high-quality stuff coming from the DMV these days. (Do you make some of that high-quality stuff? Participate in our Capital Soundtrack project!) So, in the interest of keeping the summer flowing, here are 15 releases that caught our attention over the past several months:

“Let’z” single, Sugg Savage — Half of the freaky-cool duo Akoko, Sugg Savage no longer calls Maryland home. The emcee from Fort Washington recently swapped coasts to soak up sunbeams in Los Angeles. So maybe it’s the spike in Vitamin D that’s fueling her artistic growth spurt. As a solo artist, Savage has embraced a hip-hop/club hybrid that would sound right at home on Azealia Banks’ Broke With Expensive Taste. Her skittering new single “Let’z” finds her vaulting — with Bilesian finesse — from speedy rhymes to fluid vocals. “You know everybody don’t move like this,” goes the bridge, sounding both slyly boastful and 100 percent factual. (Listen to “Let’z” in our playlist, below.) — Ally Schweitzer

Spirit Plots, Spirit Plots — The D.C. trio has been building to this self-titled LP for a couple of years, and anyone who embraced the 2014 EP or the 2015 single will find a plethora of similar guitar-bass-drum vibes within. Don’t be intimidated by the 15-track inventory — most songs come in below 2:00, focusing on hooks where other D.C. bands with similarly precise sonics might choose to dwell too long in a postpunk groove. Obligatory comparison to a ’90s hero: Every corner of Spirit Plots abounds with hints of the wound-up intelligence found in Ted Leo’s peak work. — Joe Warminsky

Romantic Comedies, Foozle — The D.C. trio’s 11-song second LP captures part of the Gen-Y zeitgeist with its self-aware, post-teen angst and a conspicuous use of emoticons — “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” is the title of the closing track. The retro, lo-fi production never feels gimmicky, and the simple lyrics stay just clear of twee. The album cover depicts a half-unpacked apartment; the songs inside reflect this half-opened, half-boxed-up feeling. It’s ultimately an album about the need for — and fear of — emotional intimacy. (Listen to a song in our playlist, below.) — MacKenzie Reagan

“Wait Up” single, Prinze George — What would a montage of the most significant moments of your life feel like? The Maryland group goes there on “Wait Up.” It’s not just the lyrics, though they certainly help (“now we’ve allowed time and space to build a wall and break us”). It’s more so the ephemeral synths, overlayed with vocals that fall somewhere between Phantogram, Adele and Monsters of Men. A subtle beat and reverbed snapping carries you through a tortuous auditory expression of the “what could have been” — all coalescing in the single frozen moment right after you witness a car wreck and realize you’re still alive. Did I mention the song is good? (Listen to “Wait Up” in our playlist, below.) — Courtney Sexton

Young Jefe 2, Shy Glizzy — The Southeast D.C. rapper with close to 800,000 Instagram followers continues to earn praise for his melodic MC style, with Pitchfork calling him “simply a joy to listen to, one of the most distinctive and technically adventurous rappers working today.” Young Jefe 2 smartly plays up his verbal stylings, couching his sing-songy, introspective street tales within spacious beats. He’s due for a pop breakout at some point, but even if one never comes, he’s permanently solidified his position as one of D.C.’s distinct musical voices. (Listen to a song in our playlist, below.) — Joe Warminsky

Citadel, Dagger Moon — Dagger Moon effortlessly blends the pummeling, heavily distorted riffs of a sludge band with the gritty production and intense atmosphere of early black-metal bands. With the shortest track on Citadel coming in at just over six minutes, it’s an album that relies on a gradually increasing sense of anxiety, pushing and pulling the listener through its apocalyptic soundscapes. It’s gloomy, frightening and absolutely fantastic. — Keith Mathias

“Paused Parade” single, Young Summer — “Paused Parade” reminds listeners that the sunniest season brings a lot of rain, too. Gentle, sparse piano and whispers of percussion are paired with Young Summer’s hypnotic vocals to create a cocoon of serenity. The song ultimately builds a cool hideaway for self-reflection. When she sings, “Are you with me? Or are you with me?” … we’re definitely with her. “Paused Parade” will be part of an upcoming EP. (Listen to “Paused Parade” in our playlist, below.) — Teta Alim

“Blood In the Water” single, Prowess The Testament — Tia Abner, a.k.a. Prowess the Testament, grabbed attention earlier this year with the Air.Human|Breath.Divine EP, which instantly established the short-statured MC as a fierce, intelligent voice. She continues to rain down lyrical lightning bolts on her new single “Blood In the Water” (which also appears on the Right Where I Left It EP). Prowess wields Thor’s hammer and anvil, grinds gods into granules and annihilates the false authenticity of D.C. transplants and other pretend veterans, none of whom could walk a mile in her gladiator sandals. Producer P-Tech Santiago’s boom-bap beat frames it all with the excitement of a classic superhero comic. (Listen to “Blood In the Water” in our playlist, below.)— Justyn Withay

More coverage from of recent D.C.-area releases:
Ras Nebyu
James Wolf
Snail Mail
Color Palette
April + Vista
The Galaxy Electric
Carolyn Malachi
June Gloom
Any Day Now, Lee Mitty — What do you get when you take a slight savior complex and mix it with the realism of Baltimore’s woes? You get Any Day Now. The album, which focuses on the duality of vices — in Mitty’s case, the desire to break free of a tough system that also inspires her — is a complex listen. That’s because it also captures the duality and strife within the city itself. On tracks such as “Bang,” “Leave Me Alone” and “Muses,” Mitty puts her realistic, relatable lyricism over beats that are introspective without being heavy-handed. (Listen to a song in our playlist, below.) — Johnthan Speed

Wanted Man, Wanted Man — Forget vaporous subgenre designations and convoluted classifications — the full-length debut by Wanted Man is a rock album, the kind that showcases stellar musicianship and oozes with cool. Bassist John Scoops and drummer Rick Irby anchor each track with airtight rhythms, backing up Kenny Pirog’s guitar and vocals across 11 tunes that touch on everything from punk to surf. — Keith Mathias

Messix EP, Ocobaya — From Mike Petillo and Aaron Leitko, the two D.C. beat-heads behind Protect-U, comes a side project that’s less heavy on the math and more heavy on the psych. Numbers do still matter to them, of course — namely 4/4, as in the root time signature of classic techno and house. Overall, the Messix EP confidently expands the dance-music conversation happening at 1432 R, the D.C. label known so far for its Ethiopian connections. (Listen to a song in our playlist, below.) — Joe Warminsky

“Mrs. Jones” single, Neffy — The wrenching song from Arlington native Mecca Russell, a.k.a. Neffy, was featured on the “New School Free Press Live” series. Give the song a minute. Literally. The first 60 seconds are a slow, sleepy build to a moment of deep, pointed heartache that comes when Neffy hits the first note in the chorus — and it’s pure soul, killing you softly till the end. The video is great exposure, but doesn’t do the song, or the voice, justice. Neffy’s new EP is scheduled to drop in late 2016 or early 2017. — Courtney Sexton

Mirror Image/Mirage, Big Hoax — Hey, really, why shouldn’t a group from Baltimore take a shot at making an Epic American Rock Album? Vocalist and bandleader Luke Alexander likes to take his voice from a whisper to a yelp, and almost all the tunes build from nearly nothing to totally something (with help from banjo, cello and so on). That dynamic befits a band that calls itself Big Hoax and an album title that refers to a mirror and a mirage. The point here is actually realness, and it’s hard to argue that Alexander doesn’t find some at whatever folk-rock crossroads he’s picturing in his mind. — Joe Warminsky

“Summer” single, Innanet James The Maryland rapper’s most recent track belongs in crowded basements and open rooftops, as long as the heat wave rolls on and there’s enough humidity to make skin shine with constant sweat. Repping MoCo, Innanet James brings just enough charm with his flow so that his lyrical foreplay doesn’t cross over the line from teasing to sleazy. “Summer” is meant to be fleeting — a burst of bright, body-rolling fun that shouldn’t last too long. About his upcoming debut EP, James told Pitchfork in an interview: “I want you want to be like, ‘Oh, that’s witty as s–t.’ I want you to see the words.” (Listen to “Summer” in our playlist, below.)— Teta Alim

“Appalachian Motel” video, Greenland — A moody track from the D.C. rock band’s otherwise lively S***ty Fiction album gets an animated treatment that initially seems like a cryptic but largely two-dimensional commentary on notions of romantic and familial relationships. But then it gets really weird. What’s up with all of those long, pointy noses? No face is safe. — Joe Warminsky -

"'All The Way Live Tuesdays' presents Prowess the Testament"

Hot off the heels of a hugely successful debut, Anacostia Arts Center proudly presents another FREE musical season of ALL THE WAY LIVE TUESDAYS! With a varied line up of hip-hop, R&B, funk, soul and more, this series exemplifies the vibrant creative economy of DMV talent.

Prowess was born just a stone’s throw from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the infamous Watergate Hotel. These artistic and diplomatic roots cultivated her natural gifts as a performer, opening for legends like the Wu Tang Clan, KRS-One, The Mars Volta, Citizen Cope and Pharoahe Monch. Prowess’ specialty of crafting lush imagery, articulating a raw yet honest critique as a credo led to the suffix: The Testament. - Anacostia Arts Center

"Entertainment Pick: Prowess the Testament at 'All the Way Live' Tuesdays"

Hot off the heels of a hugely successful debut, Anacostia Arts Center proudly presents another FREE musical season of ALL THE WAY LIVE TUESDAYS! With a varied line up of hip-hop, R&B, funk, soul and more, this series exemplifies the vibrant creative economy of DMV talent.

Prowess was born just a stone’s throw from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the infamous Watergate Hotel. These artistic and diplomatic roots cultivated her natural gifts as a performer, opening for legends like the Wu Tang Clan, KRS-One, The Mars Volta, Citizen Cope and Pharoahe Monch. Prowess’ specialty of crafting lush imagery, articulating a raw yet honest critique as a credo led to the suffix: The Testament.

All events are free and open to the public. In addition to an evening of great music, guests will have access to in-house boutiques as well as a selection of invited local vendors. Anacostia Arts Center is located at 1231 Good Hope Road SE. Shows begin at 7PM.

July 31 Prowess The Testament
August 28 Aztec Sun
September 25 FINALE!!! - Congress Heights on the Rise


Still working on that hot first release.



Prowess The Testament 

Prowess has always found herself at the center of attention. The Legendary KRS-One gifted Prowess with her moniker following a standout performance during one of the elder statesman's "Hip Hop Appreciation Week Event" and since that time Prowess has lit up stages with notable acts including: Wu-Tang Clan, Pharoahe Monch, Boot Camp Clik, and Citizen Cope. Fresh on the heels of two distinct but acclaimed projects, Prowess is eagerly prepping several releases in '19 including a graphic novel distributed through Fantagraphics Books.