Shirlette Ammons is a Durham, North Carolina-based poet and musician. She is a recent alumni of the Next Level Cultural Exchange Program, an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in association with the Department of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Through Next Level, Shirlette spent three weeks in Nova Sad and Belgrade, Serbia teaching hip hop lyricism as a form of conflict resolution along with a critically-acclaimed, award-winning team of instructors. She toured Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in Summer 2014 as part of the Purple Velvet International Female Hip Hop Tour with German rapper sookee and South African-based Lex La Foy and DJ Doowop.
Her debut solo album, Twilight for Gladys Bentley (Springstoff Records, Berlin Germany), was released in March 2013. Shirlette calls the album a ‘re-imagining’ of 1920’s blues singer, Gladys Bentley. Her forthcoming album entitled "Language Barrier," features music by Daniel Hart (St. Vincent, Broken Social Scene) and guest appearances from Grammy Award-winners The Indigo Girls, Hiss Golden Messenger, Amelia Meath (Sylvan Esso, Mountain Man), Median (The Foreign Exchange), Heather McEntire (Mount Moriah), German rapper, sookee and others.
Shirlette’s body of work also includes two collections of poetry and three music projects and numerous collaborations with artists of various genres including Grammy Award Winners, The Indigo Girls and Rhiannan Giddens of The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Her writing has appeared in The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South; What Your Momma Never Told You: True Stories About Love and Sex; The Asheville Review, The Journal of the Academy of American Poets and several other notable publications.
“Writer and musician Shirlette Ammons is not afraid of intimacy,” wrote Frank Stasio and Lindsay Foster Thomas of WUNC-FM’s The State of Things. “Her poems and songs are like diary pages that she invites audiences to flip through at their leisure.”
Shuffle Magazine says, “Ammons’ swagger is monstrous on this record….Whether she’s slinging playfully brutal battle raps, louche sex rhymes, or the occasional bout of introspection, she goes in hard, showing more verbal virtuosity than ever before.”
After opening for The Roots at last year’s Hopscotch Music Festival, she will be making her debut solo appearance at the 3-day event this September with assistance from her 3-piece band and very special guests.
Shirlette's collaborative works include a 6-song EP with Chapel Hill based rock band, The Dynamite Brothers called And Lover’s Like. The album includes guest appearances from Justin Robinson (formerly of The Carolina Chocolate Drops), Kelly Crisp (The Rosebuds), Juan Huevos, Greg Humphreys, Yahzarah, Jocelyn Ellis, and Pierce Freelon.
Shirlette has shared the stage and/or recorded with such diverse talents as Meshell Ndegeocello, Angelique Kidjo, Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown, Tres Chicas), Chris Boerner (The Foreign Exchange) Daniel Hart (St. Vincent), Django Haskins (Old Ceremony) and Phonte Coleman (Little Brother, The Foreign Exchange) while playing side stages at arena shows featuring Mary J. Blige, Beyonce, and Destiny’s Child.