by Nikia Brown
Dianne Thompson, otherwise known as ‘Brieze,’ describes her band, Badd Kitti, as “one of the best kept secrets on the Philadelphia music scene.” As we sipped Saxby’s coffee in her car on a rainy Tuesday evening, she unveiled how young passions evolved into a thriving career. With her mother’s strong background in music, six- year-old piano playing Thompson was privy to the latest and greatest jazz music of that time. At an early age, she frequented jazz performances and sat behind the scenes with greats such as Duke Ellington. The glamour of that lifestyle immediately allured her and sparked a flame for jazz and funk that consumes her even to this day.
When asked about her stage name, the keyboardist/singer-writer says Brieze refers to “cool breeze.” “My friends use to call me that in high school because of my laid-back personality.” Similarly, her band name, Badd Kitti, also has its roots in the past. “After performances, people use to come up to me and say, ‘You are one bad cat!’ I guess the name just stuck with me.”
Three years ago, music was not a profession for Thompson, but a hobby. With a degree in Information Systems from Drexel University, she built a strong foundation as a computer programmer. Her experience and talent afforded her opportunities to provide services to Fortune 500 companies and consulting firms throughout the city. During this time, Thompson’s two interests—technology and music—merged and the idea of pursuing music as a career increasingly became more feasible. Nevertheless, it was not until she was laid off from work in June 2012 that she mustered the courage to step out on faith and live her dream as a full-time musician. One week after being laid off, Thompson received a phone call from a friend requesting that she organize an all female band for an upcoming show. That call not only marked the beginning of Badd Kitti, but also strengthened Thompson’s resolve to “live by faith.” Faith means, “You’ll get what you need when you need it,” she says.
Inspired by legends such as James Brown, Sly Stone, and Nina Simone, Thompson desires for their audience to see the “cultural relevance of funk and jazz.” “Funk music is a political and social movement that took Black people into a place of consciousness,” she says. “We hope to trace the evolution of funk while making it more palatable for younger audiences.” Thompson is deeply concerned with their audience knowing the history of funk music, its purpose, and relevance to conversations presently circulating Black communities. “Miles Davis created music that affirmed Black beauty. It made me feel proud and want to do positive things.”
Thompson believes that their music can also be used as a medium to express “social ills, anger, and love of self.”
As an artist who straddles “a nine-year old dream with the practicality of expressing something creative and intelligent,” Badd Kitti endeavors to create music that generates a new Black cultural movement, empower women, and form a cultural identity. Fans are eagerly awaiting the four-song EP that will be released this September. When asked, “What do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?” Thompson responds, “ I want them to feel locked in the groove; I want our music to lock people into a mental state of funkiness.” She continued, “Funk is freedom, improvisation, self-expression, feeling good about who you are and what you’re doing in the moment.” Thompson is very hopeful about the future of Badd Kitti. In regards to her vision for the band, she hopes to join a festival circuit, organically grow a broader audience, and tour Europe, West and South Africa. Stay tuned for more from this eclectic band that desires to engage diverse audiences with musicality and empowerment.