Neo-soul artist draws on Chicago roots for music, message

Cameron Clark

Soul artist Andreus’ Saturday night performance in Evanston was a homecoming of sorts.

The 33-year-old Andreus, born Deandrias Abdullah, is a native of Chicago but moved to Evanston with his family in his teens. Many of the 150 people who packed Nevin’s Live, 1450 Sherman Ave., were family and friends.

“I went to high school with Deandre,” said Danielle Dickerson of Evanston. “I always hung out with him, but I didn’t know he was musically inclined. This is the first time I have ever seen him perform live. It was outstanding.”

A Jan. 16 article in the Chicago Tribune also brought fans to the show who otherwise might not have heard of the emerging artist.

Evanston resident Joey Kallem said she came to the concert because a friend faxed her a copy of the article, but was not disappointed by Andreus.

“I thought he was fabulous,” Kallem said. “He reminded me of Marvin Gaye and a lot of the good old funk music from way back. It is amazing how he blends all different musical genres.”

Andreus performed tracks from his album, “Street Troubadour.” A recent deal with Wea, a major CD distributor, landed the album in U.S. record stores in September.

Accompanied by a seven-member band and two backup singers, Andreus performed songs ranging from the free-spirited tribute to his mother’s home state, “Mississippi,” to the reflective lament,”For the Love of Money,” which he dedicated to a friend who recently was released from prison.

Andreus said he derives much of his content from his experiences growing up on the South Side of Chicago, where he constantly dealt with drugs and violence.

He said he turns the negatives of “hood life” into a positive message for those who experience the same things.

“If it wasn’t for that move, and for music, I definitely wouldn’t be here talking to you right now,” Andreus said. “My music is street. I want to be remembered as a soldier reppin’ for the poor, using my music to combat AIDS, guns, drugs — everything that is killing the kids.”

Andreus no longer is running with gangs and “getting locked up,” he said, but the life of an aspiring musician still has its challenges.

Tricia Abdullah, Andreus’ mother, said her son still is a starving artist and she sometimes has to pay his rent.

“It has been stressful at times, but I realized that it is something worth supporting,” she said. “Music has delivered him from a lot — it’s been his saving grace.”

Andreus and his manager, Eric Parris, are looking to expand the artist’s fan base among younger audiences, who have been excluded from many of his shows, including Saturday’s, because of 21-plus age restrictions, according to Parris.

“We’re working on getting more all-ages shows,” Parris said. “We’re trying to expose the youth. They need to hear this message more than the garbage on the radio now.”

Andreus’ next performance is Feb. 12, at the Gentle Persuasion Lounge, 8959 S. Ashland, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door.