Local artists you need to know, May 2022 edition
Michele Thibeaux

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 some past editions.

But now it’s time for this month’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.


Russell Guess

I’m not sure any one word can fully capture the brilliance of Russell Guess. He’s at times a visionary, producer, creative, artist, musician and truth-teller. At other times, he’s any combination of those, or all of them at one time. And it’s that eclectic, dynamic, multi-faceted energy that comes across in the pieces of art he has a hand in creating. Believe me, them Houston streets know. Doubt my words? Okay, wherever you are in H-town, go outside, stand in the middle of the street and yell, “RUSSEL GUESS,” and nine times out of nine, the response you’ll get is, “Aww-yeah; that brother dope” (or something to that effect). To start listing the crazy talented artists that Guess has worked with would take up a few gigabytes of memory. But check out just a sampling below, beginning with a beat he laid down for Houston’s Poet Laureate Outspoken Bean and directed by another local artist you need to know who we’ll feature in June, Lauren Zoe, using Willie Nelson’s classic “On the Road Again” as its foundation.

“On These Poems Again” by Outspoken Bean (beats by Russell Guess):

“Y” by Eimaral Sol:

“Sunflower” by Eimaral Sol (featuring Denis Cisneros):

“Waiting on You” by Khiara:

“G M W” by Lux (featuring Jax Yohana):

Website: https://linktr.ee/guessur?fbclid=IwAR2ZeHI_2lJ97grYJ__txyciid2hXpdnHKyGlNt4MO6N17prBSHf2qh2PtI

Soundcloud: GuessuR

Instagram: Guessur

Facebook: Russell V Guess

Twitter: Guess

Spotify: Russell V Guess


Michele Thibeaux with Bel Ami.

If this world made sense, Michele Thibeaux would be a global household name. Folk in H-town know of her skills as she’s worked with some of the city’s brightest talents including Russell Guess, H.I.S.D., Alycia Miles, Bel Ami and the late Zin, just to name a few. Listening to Michele puts be in the mind of Sassy Sarah Vaugh, Ella Fitzgerald, Amel Larrieux and Nina Simone…all at the same time! And if you don’t know those iconic artists, look’em up. And that won’t be hard, because listening to Michele Thibeaux will have you looking up to the heavens from wence she comes, and praising Jah for her gifts.

Renaissance Suite Jam Session:

“De La Show” (featuring Savvi): “Ring” by Free Radicals (featuring Michele Thibeaux):

“Caution” performed at the Tiny Desk:

“Dancin’ N2 the Sun” by KTC (KADRAE, Thibeaux, Cisneros):

“Piano Sunrise” by H.I.S.D. (featuring Michele Thibeaux):

“Runnin’” by H.I.S.D. (featuring Michele Thibeaux):

“Ring” by Free Radicals (featuring Michele Thibeaux):

Instagram: #michelethibeaux

Twitter: MicheleThibeaux

Facebook: Michele Thibeaux


Norma J. Thomas

This sister is the definition of an underground force to be reckoned with. Not only has she shaped generations of performing artists as a teacher, she’s also done so as a playwright, producer, director, composer and co-founder of French Creole Productions. And she acts too! Those who have seen her plays can’t stop raving about them. Still, the national spotlight and the acclaim that comes with it has alluded her. But not to worry. Norma Thomas doesn’t do what she does for so long and for so strong because she’s chasing the adulation and approval of others. This bonafide “Church Lady” answers to a higher authority, and has stayed true to her divine artistic calling through it all.

A snippet from her website (NormaT.xyz) may give you a fuller picture of the talent this sister possesses:

“Author of The Smell of Garlic on Sunday and Bibi’s Girls: Early Years Collection, a collection of three children’s stories, screenwriting finalist in the Hollywood Black Film Festival screenwriting contest and winning playwright in the Texas Educational Theatre Association PlayFest, there is no artistic stone that Norma T leaves unturned. She has transformed the least-likeliest of places into live theatres, from gymnasiums, to living rooms and car ports. She has mounted award-winning and acclaimed productions from educational theatre, film and theatre festivals, to professional road-houses. A few of her most recent original works include, live stage productions, Personifications (adapted from the book, The Smell of Garlic on Sunday), Lest We ForgetAn Urban Christmas Tale, The Wizard of Swag, All Wrapped Up, and Church Ladies; the latter three included her own original music compositions, as well. Music video, Do Something, and Harvest Moon, a short film, have been Norma’s calling cards of video and film production.”

On Acres Homes Fest 2018:

Church Ladies Promo & Excerpt 1:

Church Ladies Excerpt 2:

Website: https://normat.xyz/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BibiRaa


Ikechi Ojore

Renaissance man and TSU alum Ikechi Ojore is a licensed barber, part-time model, visual artist, photographer, videographer, relationship guru, skateboard designer and globe-trotting musician (bass, drums, keyboards, etc.) who has played with the likes of Brian McKnight, Kirk Whalum, Chante Moore, Brian Courtney Wilson, Jeremy Winston Corral and countless others. He’s also a recently ordained minister whose ministry is as broad and diverse and creative as he is. Oh, and did I mention he’s an author of a book on relationships (To My Future #WCW) that has him criss-crossing the country to serve as panelist and guest speaker at relationship conferences both near and far? So, add relationship guru to the long list of things this artist not only does, but does exceptionally.

Ikechi shaped young minds as a music instructor at several HISD campuses, including Worthing and Kashmere high schools, as well as Johnston Middle School (now Meyerlad Academy) and Foster Elementary. And while at TSU, he was a proud member of the Ocean of Soul. But before, during and after Ikechi’s teaching career, he found time to tour with many big-name stars, going on tours that touched nearly every continent.

KickN’ It with Tiffany Scales & Ikechi Ojore:

“Live it Up by Vanessa Hill (directed by Ikechi Ojore):

Community Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church (service produced by Ikechi Ojore):

To My Future #WCW:

Rickey Paul Getwood Jr. Life Coach Commercial:

Performing with artists Bel-Ami:

Website: iojoreimagery.com

Instagram: IkechiOjore

Facebook: IkechiOjore

TikTok: Mr.IkechiOjore

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...