Jecorey “1200” Arthur is about to drop his long-anticipated full-length album. The eclectic hip-hop and classical artist has become a local media darling with a series of high-profile breakout performances, including shows at ReSurfaced and a set at last summer’s Forecastle Festival.
For the release of his album, Arthur will present an ambitious show at the Kentucky Center for the Arts on Saturday, Jan. 14, which he’s dubbed “1200 Live.” The performance will feature dance, art and, of course, music.
Insider met with Arthur at his Butchertown studio, a space he shares with artist Katie Lee Jones, who is part of the team of artists who will bring “1200 Live” to the stage.
The many facets of Arthur’s creativity were on display inside his studio. A dance rehearsal was finishing up, featuring two fifth-grade ballerinas from Arthur’s class at Hite Elementary. They were dancing to a sweet but haunting ballad, “Alive,” and Arthur’s voice filled the space sonically.
“This show is a combination of every show I’ve done before,” says Arthur. It also combines his passion for teaching, reflected by the dancers and vocalists who are students of his, as well as the attitude of activism. “When people leave the show, I really want them to have an idea of what the world is like and have an idea of what we can do to make the world a better place.”
In other words, Arthur wants to “spark the thought of creativity within” his audience, he says.
His album is broken into two halves, dark and light, called Séance and Spirit respectively. But both sides have the same goal, according to Arthur. “Everything I do is meant to better the world,” he says. “Even if you hear something super dark and angry, just know it’s an awareness thing. I want people to know — this is what some people live like.”
Another of Arthur’s passions is curation, which he feeds in this show by bringing a variety of artists on stage. The audience on Saturday will see The Compass Quartet, as well as vocalists like Cheyenne Mize, Tyler Dippold and Jackie Blue.
The performance also will feature an original large-scale piece of art co-created by Letitia Quesenberry and Jones. Arthur says it was Jones who brought Quesenberry to his attention.
“She was, like, ‘Look at this art, look at this art, it’s wonderful,’ and I loved it,” he recalls. Arthur was interested in having Quesenberry contribute to “1200 Live,” but he assumed she might not be interested. He was incorrect.
According to Quesenberry, she was already a fan. “It seemed like all of the sudden people all around were talking about him and super excited by his music and what he was doing,” Quesenberry tells Insider via email.
She describes the process of working with Arthur and Jones: “I began by looking at images they had pulled together and listening to Arthur’s experiences. His initial love of Legos as an entry into creative making really struck me. I wanted to create a similarly simple geometric structure that could in turn echo a portal into other worlds.”
While talking about his busy schedule and trying to find time to record, Arthur mentions an upcoming project that grabbed our attention — a short hip-hop opera he’s writing with Teddy Abrams, based on the life of Muhammad Ali.
“I don’t even know if I’m supposed to talk about it right now,” jokes Arthur. “It all originated with Teddy (Abrams) writing that piece for Ali when he passed.”
Arthur was invited to write some lyrics to go with the music Abrams composed, and the two hit it off — Abrams appears on the new album — and decided to deepen their artistic relationship. “He was, like, ‘Let’s do something bigger and better,’ and I’m, like, ‘I’m with it.’”
The piece in still in its nascent stages, but the idea of Arthur and Abrams creating an Ali rap opera is incredibly exciting.
“I’m Ali in the piece, so it’s super scary, but it’s wonderful, and all the music is inspired by his original writings and also political figures, so we’ll have a narrator that represents the different presidents,” says Arthur, whose excitement is visible. “It’s a really complex piece and all brand new — a completely different experience — and I’m really excited for that.”
On top of supporting his new album, hoping to take “1200 Live” to other venues, working on an Ali opera and keeping up with his teaching and activism, Arthur is considering a special tour.
“I’m working with an organization called Funding the Future, and they give … free assemblies to different schools, and different ages, about financial literacy … I might go on tour with them.”
That’s a stunning amount for one artist to take on. But Arthur doesn’t stress.
“Sometimes it’s a bit much, but at the end of the day, I tell people, ‘I don’t like the word busy, I like the world involved,’” he says.
Catch “1200 Live” on Saturday, Jan. 14, at 8 p.m. at the Kentucky Center, 501 W. Main St. Tickets are $20.