By Laura Latzko, October 2016 Issue.
As defined by Merriam-Webster, a doyenne is “a woman who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular profession, subject, etc.”
For Phoenix-based recording and performing artist The Doyenne, born Syeed Poole, that profession is being himself.
“I’ve always thought of [The Doyenne] as being the most prestigious and experienced version of myself there could ever possibly be,” he said. “Still, I suppose that’s not entirely true to the actual definition of the word and I’m romanticizing it for my own purposes.”
His intention in choosing the name, he explained, “was never to claim superiority in any professional field, but rather to claim and validate the present me as the culmination of every me before,” and “a way to be loud and up front with my own femininity.”
And he has done a fine job of that in his 10 years in music.
From wigs and costumes to politically and sexually charged lyrics, he has made a name for himself by unapologetically bringing his perspective as an openly gay hip-hop/electronic music artist, songwriter and producer to audiences of all varieties.
The Back Story
At an early age, The Doyenne began singing in his church choir and continued to pursue choir and vocal ensemble in high school, which is also when he began dance classes. He moved from Flint, Mich., to Arizona with his immediate family in 2000 and graduated from Glendale’s Independence High School in 2003.
In 2006, while enrolled in Glendale Community College’s music business program, he started producing his own music under his label, House of Creation.
By 2011, he was booking gigs – many of which were for punk and alternative music crowds. Doing these shows, he said, helped him stick out from other performers, which ended up exposing him to new audiences.
“I feel like you have to fend for yourself a lot when you are the only gay, black person with white, punk kids,” he said. “I would walk in with a kimono and a long wig on and they would be like, ‘Who is this?’”
The Doyenne went on to regularly perform at The Trunk Space and local house parties.
While he credits strong female music icons such as Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott, Peaches, Kesha and Beyoncé, for influencing him musically, it’s local drag queens, including Mia Inez Adams, that have had a significant impact on the artist’s stage presence.
“That’s how I learned how to be on the mic, from listening to them,” he said.
As an entertainer, The Doyenne incorporates wigs, kimonos and choreographed moves into his shows.
“I always did something … to embrace being different,” he said. “That was a big part of it.”
In the past, the artist has often performed in spaces with open dance floors, which allow him to interact with the crowd.
“I would make everybody get in a circle around me, and we would just dance together,” he said. “When you are on a stage, you are above everybody. It feels restrictive and strange [and] that’s one thing I’m not super into.”
The most enjoyable part of performing, he said, is being on the same level as the audience and being able to see their reactions to the show.
While The Doyenne has collaborated with other artists for sets at the Phoenix Pride and the Rainbows festivals, he has predominately brought his music before straight Valley audiences – with the occasional show in Tucson and Flagstaff.
“The problem with not performing in a room full of LGBTQ people [is that] I never got the opportunity to really see if my message really connected with [LGBTQ] people or if they would really get it,” he explained. “It’s something I want to find out because that’s who it should be for, people just like me.”
The Doyenne’s future goals include increasing his out-of-state performances and getting his music out to the LGBTQ community.
Additionally, he shared that he is currently working on a concept for a new show, which would incorporate singing, rapping, costume changes and choreographed dance numbers.
Although The Doyenne has taken a break from performing for the past year to focus on school, in May he released his latest EP because he has some things to say.
“There’s so much going on. Everyday, a trans woman has been killed. Every day, a person of color is getting hurt or killed,” he said. “You see how unfair stuff is, and you see how withdrawn people are, and they don’t say what’s on their minds. It’s the only thing I have going for me is [saying] what’s on my mind.”
The new EP features seven new songs, including “PreGameShow,” “FREE.RADICAL,” “SHADOWS” and “AFTERGLOW.”
While staying loyal to his signature high-energy sound, The Doyenne’s music has matured as he has evolved to reflect his growth as both a person and an artist.
“I want people to see not just the quality of the music but the growth of the person who initially didn’t think they could [make it],” he said.
While The Doyenne is still trying to find his voice as an artist, he acknowledges how far he has come in a short about of time.
The artist has provided glimpses of his personal journey through 10 separate album releases, the most recent of which include DARKWORLD, ArtHo and The Renaissance in 2015 and SLOW,From You, strange kind of love. and 4202016 in 2016.
Writing and producing his own music as an independent artist under his own label has allowed The Doyenne the freedom to tackle timely and controversial issues with his lyrics.
“ … The past few months have weighed on me with what’s happening to my hometown, the police brutality and the Orlando shooting … with everything that’s happened I feel that every vulgar, rude, introspective thing I have to say is pretty much all I can do.”
A recent visit to his hometown, he said, reignited his passion and drive to speak up through his music.
“I went home to Flint earlier this year to bury my grandfather and the headlines don’t do the crisis justice,” he said. “My hometown is dying, my people are dying and it’s extremely frustrating.”
Moving forward, The Doyenne expects social issues to be a major influence on his music.
“I’ve been slowly, but surely, putting together a debut album with the intent to get it out there and try and say some of the things that I’ve been wanting to say,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be exactly saying this is what’s going on now, but there’s definitely going to be an energy about it. There’s a defiance now. I’m not angry, but I have to say something.”
A driving force behind his music, he said, is the hope that he is giving a voice to those who, in many cases, don’t have one. And sharing glimpses of his personal story has allowed him to connected with audiences on a deeper level.