Jenelle Uppman is not as hip-hop as her new album might suggest.
The local R&B singer-songwriter sparked a buzz in the underground hip-hop scene when she linked up with Spokane producer Isaiah Moss, aka Mozez Beats.
Their collaboration culminates with their first full-length CD, “Initium,” which they’re releasing tonight at The Red Room Lounge.
But Uppman said the album is a departure from the live instrumentation and heavier jazz inflections she’d like to make happen on stage.
“Mozez is great at what he does and we work great together, but my roots are jazz,” Uppman said. “I’ve already been recruiting musicians and taking what we created in the studio and making it a live product. It will be more jazzy and the instrumentals will be more intricate. Simplicity is key sometimes but we want to add more instruments. I’m less hip-hop than the album portrays.”
Uppman got her start by performing in talent shows at age 7. From there she went on to sing the National Anthem at stadium events while participating in vocal competitions in high school and college.
“My high school teacher put me on to jazz because I was having a hard time finding a niche for my voice,” Uppman said. “That’s when I learned about Nina Simone and Muddy Waters and all these people who’ve influenced my life and my music for the last 15 years.”
Uppman took a break from music when she got married and had kids. When her marriage ended, she returned to the stage in what started as an acoustic duo. That sprawled into a full band that facetiously called itself Jenelle and the Sex and Money Band.
“It was kind of a joke we started about the band because of what we were about, which was jazz, and we knew we would never be mainstream,” Uppman said.
After the group disbanded, Uppman connected with Mozez Beats on the recommendation of KYRS on-air personality Ghengis Black. For a while Uppman appeared in sporadic collaborations with other local hip-hop artists, but tonight signals her return to performing her own music live for the first time in a year and half.
“Working with Mozez really took me out of my comfort zone. I had never crossed over into hip-hop and I really enjoyed it,” Uppman said. “I was shy in my writing but hip-hop gave me that attitude back. I remember when I used to be a girl who didn’t take crap from anybody and I got a part of that back through recording the album.”