Addition to “VIPS & Me” Page: Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley
Today, I have a new addition to my “VIPS & Me” page: Ms. Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley. One of my favorite discoveries while living in New York City (Brooklyn specifically) is that of Black Velvet Mondays at The Village Underground in, well, the Village in Manhattan. My first time going was back in the winter of 2008 with some old college friends. That was my first taste of the true power of Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley. In the late 1980’s, she had a big R&B hit with the Full Force produced “Thanks For My Child,” but these days, she’s one of Tyler Perry’s main go-to-girls for his high-grossing Madea musicals. She not only has an unsurpassed singing voice and charasmatic sense of humor, but she’s incredibly gracious, approachable and encouraging. Every Monday night, her versatile band, Hot Chocolate, accomodates numerous singers and musicians, coming to “share their gifts for free,” as Cheryl puts it. I’ve been one of those people since the day I stepped in. For me, singing on stage at Black Velvet Mondays has allowed me to stay in touch with music in the purest way possible. It keeps my writing perspective authentic, and I feel that it separates me and my work from that of pretentious know-it-all critics and smug intellectuals who’ve never picked up an instrument in their lives. The band is hot, the people are beautiful and the cover is unbeatable ($7), but Cheryl is the number one reason why I always return.