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On this past Tuesday night, at Houston’s own Zanzibar Bar & Lounge, R&B songstress on the rise Love Dominique hosted an official release mixer for the retail LP version of her “Wicked Heart” EP. Those in attendance were treated not only to the sounds of the album itself, but also got to indulge in homemade cupcakes. It was part “Cupcake Party” – in the artist’s own words – part album release event, but all more or less a showcase of what happens when one does it entirely themselves and still manages to get nearly everything right.

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The event started around 7 PM or so. Personal supporters, in the form of Dominique’s friends and family members, and local industry heads like blogger and Jacqueline-of-All-Trades Queen Bobbi, found their way to Zanzibar, a uncrowded venue that was fitting for the event. At the back of the bar, right next to the entrance, two tables were set up: one bearing an assortment of frosted and sprinkled cupcakes; t-shirts emblazoned with “Love Nation” and physical copies of the Wicked Heart available for purchase rested on the other. GA Photography was on hand to get snapshots of all the goings on.

Zanzi wasn’t standing room only, but that gave the release event an intimate quality that it otherwise might not have had. Love Dominique, adorned in a simple green dress that she made look elegant, was already in a jovial mood given that Wicked Heart, which had dropped digitally at midnight, was already on iTunes’ homepage banner as a “New and Notable” release halfway into the day. She employed some of that very same charm that got her spotlighted in XXL Magazine’s Eye Candy feature, greeting everyone who entered Zanzibar with a smile whether they were there for her event or just stopping through for an early drink, introducing herself and of course plugging her album.

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The DJ on hand kept the Wicked Heart LP playing on a loop starting at around 8 PM, playing the album’s seven tracks succession over and over. Lead single “Down” proved to be a crowd favorite, as at one point, one young woman in attendance proceeded to “work the pole” (not like that, though) and sway alongside the DJ to the song’s alluring beat. “Old Thing Back (Freestyle)” – which didn’t make it onto the retail version of the project – also got people in the bar nodding their heads and snapping their fingers along, as did “Come Back” and “Goin’ Hard.”

“So, with regards to the album and everything… you did it all yourself?” A bystander asked at one point during the event. “I did EVERYTHING!” Love Dominique exclaimed, laughing even as the words spilled out with an almost relief. And it’s true – save for the big-ups from XXL, the studio time, the acquisition of beats and producers and mixers, hell even the cupcakes provided at the event – were all the product of independent hustle from the onset of 2013. There was no local or mid-major label backing her, but for an album release event held in the middle of the work week, a good crowd was present. She was clearly relieved to see her hard work bear fruit.

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Arguably, as an R&B artist, one’s lane is not as clear-cut as it is for rappers in the city. But Love Dominique seems not only willing and able to create her own lane but to also, in the process, show others who “do it without the middle man” and go the independent route how to do the same. Perhaps Tuesday marked a small start of something that won’t be stopped until it makes it big.

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