For the word “artist” itself to be thought of as such a defining one, the definition actually comes off quite bland.

“A person who works in one of the performing arts, as an actor, musician, or singer; a public performer” and “a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill” are a couple of them.

But in the case of Crystal Tamar, the title “artist” fits well, but before it’s all said and done, she will have redefined it.

Born just outside of Houston in the small town La Marque, Texas, big city-minded Crystal learned early that nothing comes to those who stand still. As a child she was put in a singing group with her sisters and cousin, and they made a name for themselves shooting their own homemade music videos. As she grew older, she made a habit of traveling to Houston often to get access to what she called “real life.” In the early 2000’s she began attending nearby Prairie View A&M University.

While there she performed as one of the “Black Foxes” on PVAMU’s Marching Storm. She also formed another R&B group with friends and wound up spending much of her time in school traveling and recording in studios all around the country. The group situation dissolved, and after graduating Crystal went into the working world. But she still found a way to display her performance skills and represent Houston as a cheerleader for the NFL’s Houston Texans. As a captain on the squad, Crystal performed for more than 70,000 people at each of their home games for three years, and was chosen to represent the squad at the 2008 NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Then, she got a life-changing phone call.

“I heard from a friend that I hadn’t heard from in years,” she says. “She asked me to join her new singing group Sophia Fresh and asked if I could drop everything and come to Atlanta for three months.”

After thinking about it for a weekend, Crystal packed up and left for Atlanta. Sophia Fresh was signed to Atlantic Records as part of T-Pain’s Nappy Boy Entertainment imprint/ family and the group enjoyed modest success working with the likes of Cee-Lo Green, Marsha Ambrosius, TI, Kandi Burruss, Tyga and a dozen others. Their 2008 single “What It Is” featuring Kanye West received heavy airplay on West Coast radio stations and their 2010 single “This Instant” with T-Pain appeared on the Step It Up 3D soundtrack and remains a dance music staple to this day.

However, after seeking a release from the label, instability on the management and business end became too much to bear for the group. Attempts to reinvent the group presented a strain on group chemistry which lead to the group splitting in 2011.

“When you’re being vocal coached in a group, you have to conform to the groups sound,” says Crystal. “And we often couldn’t agree on singles with the label either. But now, I’m excited about doing things my way.”

That way is bold.

Since relocating from Atlanta to the Bay Area, Crystal has found a new focus as an artist. Drawing inspiration from singers like Lauryn Hill, genre-bending rappers like Kanye and adding her soulful background as a gospel singer, Crystal is set out to change the way your ears listen to music. With a voice that reminds you what it really means to “sang” and songwriting that tugs at the heart like it is supposed to, Crystal’s upcoming solo debut will be one that artists after her will either copy or build from.

Whether it’s singing about the experience of starting a new life in a new place, or dealing with the loss of a loved one, Crystal can pull off both with ease. A professional performer who has perfected her craft in the studio and on the stage, Crystal also sets the bar for what it means to be a real entertainer. With a universal sound built from living on both coasts and just about everywhere in between, Crystal Tamar is bound to put her unique blend of Hip Hop and R&B on the map.

By @Maurice_Garland