Local Artists You Need to Know, June 2022 edition
Lauren Zoë, K-Rino and Jo Jo Dancer

The Defender issued a call for the names of local artists who deserve some shine; folk with insane talent, but who most people in the city, state and country simply don’t know about. Yet! We called, and you, our community, responded. Big time.

Thus, we decided to do this spotlight once a month, featuring artists of all kinds. And just to catch up (if you missed our previous spotlights), here are the March, April and May posts.

But now it’s time for June’s shining stars. We hope you enjoy… and that if you know of any artists whose work is worthy of attention and celebration, you forward that info (artists’ names, social media links, videos, etc.) to aswad@defendernetwork.com ASAP! The more the merrier.


Lauren Zoë is Houston version of a Renaissance Woman, meaning she brings incredible skills to multiple disciplines. She’s graphic artist, photographer, writer, videographer and about “eleventeen hunnet” other things I don’t have the room to type. Zoë has written for Station Museum of Contemporary Art and the Free Press Houston, directed videos for various singers and musicians, conducted photoshoots that would make the best in the business take pause, and all while teaching others these fine arts as an assistant professor of visual communication specializing in graphic design and web design. Oh yeah, she designs websites too. See, I told you she does “eleventeen hunnet” things.

I was first made aware of this artistic shining star while featuring Russell Guess in the May edition of “Local Artists You Need to Know.” She shot the video “On These Poems Again” that featured Houston’s Poet Laureate Outspoken Bean on camera backed by Guess’s music. I mention that to underscore the fact that is not just hanging and working with Houston’s artistic vanguard, she IS one of Houston’s artistic vanguard.

Examples of Work:

Nuwaters Co-op: http://www.laurenzoe.com/nuwaterscoop

Various Logos: http://www.laurenzoe.com/logos

Typography: http://www.laurenzoe.com/typography

Photography: https://vsco.co/laurenzoegadson/gallery

“Coltrane for Breakfast”

“On These Poems Again” (performed by Outspoken Bean; music by Russell Guess)

“Arts Practice” (Lauren Zoe in her own words)

Website: www.laurenzoe.com

Instagram: lauren_zoe

Twitter: @goldie_LOOKS


In life, it’s always a good practice to research and learn about those individuals who inspired the people you admire most. For example, if you’re a Bob Marley fan, you might want to read a book on one of the people he quotes most in his songs—Marcus Garvey. If you admire Malcolm X, it will deepen your understanding of the brother to learn about two persons who shaped his worldview—the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Marcus Garvey. And if you’re a student of the African Freedom Movement of the 1950s, 60s and 70s that produced some of the world’s greatest revolutionaries, it’s a must that you read the words of the person who had them all organizing around the principle “Africa for the Africans.” Again, that’s Marcus Garvey. Okay. I’m a huge Garvey fan. But the principle applies even when it doesn’t lead to Garvey.

And this principle is really telling in the world of the arts. Sure Prince, arguably the greatest musician ever, was influenced by James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. But did you know he absolutely idolized Patrice Rushen, the talented singer/songwriter who played (and still plays) multiple instruments? Well, in hip hop circles, especially hip hop coming out of Texas, one name comes up more than any other. And that name is K-Rino. None other than the legendary Bun B called K-Rino “the OG of all Houston lyricists/rappers and the greatest metaphor conjurer I’ve ever seen in my life.” Bun B added that K-Rino is the “preeminent MC from this area.” And don’t take my word for it. Go to YouTube and search for the video “Who is K-Rino?”

A seasoned artist who is still active in the game, K-Rino is also a conscious brother. He has to be, because he was recommended to this list by NOI Student Minister Dr. Abdul (Robert) Muhammad. So, do yourself a favor and take a listen to the MC your favorite Houston rappers grew up idolizing.

“Houston Is”

“Only in the Hood”


Facebook: K Rino Rapps

Instagram: #krino

YouTube: The Real K-Rino


In Houston, there is no African dance without Christina “Jo Jo Dancer” Gerard-Sylla. With over 20 years professional experience as a dancer, Gerard-Sylla left decades of touring behind to continue her path of lifelong learning, with her eye on discovering the origins of hip hop. That decision put her on a path that would place her in the company of some of the most world-renown drummers, dancers and griots, and to the continent to not only learn, but then turn around and share what she learned with others.

The vehicle through which Gerard-Sylla teaches and performs is the KoumanKe’le’ (kuman kelen, a Malinke phrase that means “the final word”) African Dance & Drum Ensemble founded in 2003. But before and during her time with the ensemble, Gerard-Sylla served as an art educator in nearly all Houston-area ISDs, and with too many organizations and community centers to count. This mother, wife and grandmother has traveled the world, teaching and performing dance. And last year, she graced the big screen as a soloist in Eddie Murphy’s Coming 2 America. Still, this powerful artist remains grounded in Houston. And we’re all the better for it.

Performing at the Stafford Center:

Mix of Performances

Houston Life (KPRC):

Houston Life on Coming 2 America:

Website: www.koumankele.com

Facebook: Koumankele

Instagram: Koumankeledance

Twitter: KoumanKele

YouTube: KoumanKele Dance & Drum Ensemble

Booking info: 832-859-2156; info@koumankele.com