When performance artist Dr. E (née Elaine Richardson) released her debut album, “Elevated” in 2010 she had literally reached unimagined heights. The Ohio State University professor turned recording artist had risen far beyond the streets she once walked and worked as a teenaged victim of sex trafficking. Now with “Mutha Werk,” the new single from her upcoming autobiographical album, “Songs for the Struggle,” and a song on the soundtrack of Fox’s hottest new show, “STAR,” starring Queen Latifah, Dr. E continues to beat the odds. Like the aspiring young artists on “STAR,” music has underscored a life filled with drama while easing her pain. “Mutha Werk,” appropriately released during Women’s History Month, is Dr. E’s funk laden ode to the trials and tribulations of women everywhere.
An inspirational ‘soul queen,’ Dr. E’s mission is to uplift everyday women and acknowledge their unsung labor and daily trials. “Mutha Werk” is a soul steeped, groove infused track that resonates with the energy of the women it was written for. “Mutha Werk” joyously jump starts the buzz for her latest project “Songs for the Struggle.” Slated for a May 5th release, “Songs for the Struggle” bridges jazz, funk, and R&B with Dr. E’s bluesy drenched vocals as she takes the listener back along the tumultuous path of her life. Fiery determination and rockin’ rhythm lace each track with defiant feminine power.
Dr. E has intimate knowledge of struggle and how music can season and coax survival. Like the passion soaked track, “Boy, I’m Feelin’ You,” which she contributed to the Fox’s series, “STAR,” Dr. E has experienced the ins and outs of ‘crazy love.’ Singing since the age of five, Dr. E was competing and winning local talent shows with her group “The Shades of Love” by the time she was a teenager. However, a rape at the age of 13, sent her tumbling, and eventually led her into the world of sex trafficking. By the time Dr. E was in her mid-twenties, she was a serial victim of violence, sexual assault and drug abuse. By mid-20’s, spiraling out of control, she turned to Alcoholics Anonymous for counseling and help after her second child was born. It was a flier she came across for Project Second Chance, a Cleveland State University program for sexually-exploited women and girls, that eventually led her to college, a PH.D and her miraculous life transformation.
“Just like the young ladies on the show, ‘STAR,’ as bad as things got, in my heart, I always knew I was supposed to keep singing,” recalls Dr. E. “When I started my recovery, I was desperate for inspiration. Performing-particularly the songs of iconic Black female artists-really filled that need.”
“My music is about me finally accepting who I am,” she adds, “and I want that message of accepting yourself to reach everyone-especially women who have been abused. No matter your struggles or what you’ve experienced, you are worth something. Only when you realize that, can you empower yourself and your community. ‘Mutha Werk’ acknowledges our worth. Our worth is supreme.”
Today, Dr. E is a professor of Literacy Studies, in the Department of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University. She received her B.A. and M.A. from Cleveland State University, and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Dr. E taught for two years at the University of Minnesota, and for nine years at Penn State University. She has written or co-authored five academic books and detailed her life’s travails in her memoir, “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My LiFe” on New City Community Press. She has also produced, performed and toured her one-woman play, which was adapted from her book by Dr. Mary Weems. Music and performance give Dr. E ultimate joy and it is through her music, that she is now hoping to reach women and girls who may feel hopeless like she once did. A “Mutha Werk” video is slated for release in the coming months.
Downloading “Mutha Werk” will fuel her non-profit foundation, Education Foundation for Freedom to empower women and girls vulnerable to human trafficking.
Dr. E belongs to a network of Hip Hop educators and activists and is the founder of The Ohio State University’s Hiphop Literacies Conference, as well as founder of a gender-focused club for teenaged girls, focusing on literacy education, which she hopes to spread throughout Columbus, Ohio.
Her awards include the Cleveland State University Distinguished Alumni Award for outstanding contributions to the profession, community and Cleveland State University, 2007; the Edward Fry Book Award from the National Reading Conference for African American Literacies in 2005; Fulbright Scholar Award Lecturing and Research, University of the West Indies, Mona, August-December, 2004; and Outstanding Book Award by National Communication Association for Understanding African American Rhetoric, co-editor with Dr. Ronald Jackson, 2004.
See her TedxOhioStateUniversity.