Damion Shade & The Boom Bap Chorus: A Powerful Musical Experience with a Purpose
“You the shit!”
“You the shit!”
“You the shit!”
A middle-aged man stands in front of the Mercury Lounge stage, shouting and pointing at each member of The Boom Bap Chorus. Damion Shade at the center of it in his signature black sportcoat and ballcap, often representing a Tulsa brand.
This exuberant fan isn’t the only one thinking it. The crowd, here either by way of intention or luck, experienced it.
Damion Shade & The Boom Bap Chorus kicked off their Monday Residency with a bang. Bringing together horns, keys, guitar, bass, drums, and vocals for an energy that has no business existing on Monday night.
Yet, this is what they do. Doesn’t matter the day of the week or size of the venue.
“Yeah, that band can do anything,” Damion tells ASLUT. “I'm like, you guys realize all we really need to do is just shift the pocket we sit in, right? For the record we're working on right now, I wanna be James Brown's band from 1968 at The Apollo, playing Kendrick Lamar music from like 2015.”
It washes over the crowd. Big sound filling the areas left by anyone missing out. Those present are moving where the experience takes them. No room for whatever bullshit isn’t here.
“It's nice to see people emotionally responding and just seeming to go into a really good place,” Damion says. “I like to think of our shows almost a type of church service. An emotional and spiritual experience that hopefully you'll go through a time of some joy and dancing and exuberance and happiness.”
Instead of an escape, it’s an opportunity to feel.
“And hopefully you'll have some serious shit that matters, you know, and that affects you,” Damion continues. “It makes you think about the world and yourself in a deeper and more meaningful way too. So I think of music the way I think a lot of people think of faith.”
Up on stage, he is practicing what he believes in.
“It really is a spiritual and complete experience,” Damion explains. “If I'm in the right place where I'm supposed to be performing, Nina Simone talked about this, right? It's like, it's true freedom, you know, to be without fear. No fear, just purely in the moment of the song.”
The artist and father of a four-year-old is also the executive director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, which is the criminal-legal-system reform organization in the state.
“Music is my heart, and criminal legal reform is like my soul or something,” Damion says. “Nothing is more important to me than music. My family is right in that same place, but I feel like closing prisons and jails is why I was born. To try and push back against this system, you know?”
He started pushing back as a criminal justice analyst for the Oklahoma Policy Institute in 2016. OCJR gave him his biggest opportunity to push back yet by appointing him executive director in July 2022. They serve as a catalyst for systemic change in Oklahoma’s criminal legal system to promote just and appropriate accountability while reducing mass incarceration and its generational harm to families, according to the OCJR website.
A local music scene in The Town is exploding, while the criminal justice system in the state desperately needs impactful reform. Damion's adopted hometown as a child has become exactly the place he needs to be as a man.
It’s all happening in Oklahoma in 2024 for him. The Boom Bap Chorus plans to release an album. The Oklahoma Legislative Session in the Spring, with a heavy ballot available for voters, come Fall. And he’ll celebrate his daughter turning 5.
Damion has led the crowd for almost an hour, and the service is coming to an end. Before he steps off the stage, he directs drummer Jake Lynn to take the crowd to space. The Chorus follows as Jake goes wild with the sticks for a final boom.
The blast off ends within a minute. Back on Earth, the music has left the room, and the air seems to with it. So has Damion. Small steps and giant leaps await.
Follow @wemakeshapes on Instagram for the next chance to witness Damion Shade & The Boom Bap Chorus live. Visit okjusticereform.org to help Damion push back.