Who Is Dionne Farris? BET's ABFF Honors Performer Is A Boss In The Music World

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This time of year is all about the best in film, and BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors is going to keep the celebration going when it airs on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. ET on the titular network. The ceremony, which was taped on Friday, Feb. 17 in Los Angeles, will "celebrate Black culture by honoring individuals, movies and television shows that have had a significant impact on American entertainment," according to BET. In addition to honoring the likes of Denzel Washington, Queen Latifah, and Terrence Howard, the ABFF Honors featured two very special musical performances: the sweet stylings of Maxwell and the soulful, almost alternative sounds of Dionne Farris. And if you're not familiar with who Dionne Farris is, you better correct that quick.

I mean, take one look at the above photo of Farris, which was taken during her performance at this year's ABFF Honors, and just tell me that you don't want to learn more about who this clearly unique performer is. Well, outrageous costume or not, Farris is talented, successful, and she definitely demands your attention.

So whether you learn about Farris before or after watching her rock the ABFF Honors, I have a feeling that you're going to want to put her discography on repeat on Spotify long after this awards show ends.

She Has A Major Connection To Film

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Farris wasn't chosen to perform at the ABFF Honors just because she's a singer; she actually has a special connection to one of the films being honored that night. She paid tribute to the 20th anniversary of the film Love Jones with a rendition of her hit song "Hopeless," which was featured on the movie's soundtrack, Variety reported. Though the tune has a bit of a pessimistic title, listening to it should actually fill you up with hope.

She Wowed The Music Biz In The '90s

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Farris broke into the music biz contributing her vocals to alternative hip hop group Arrested Development's hit song "Tennessee," according to her bio on Billboard's website.  But soon enough, Farris broke ties with the group and embarked on her solo career. She was signed by Columbia Records and released her debut album, Wild Seed - Wild Flower in 1994. The album was co-produced by Farris, Michael Simanga, and future American Idol judge Randy Jackson, according to PopMatters.

She Climbed The Billboard Charts

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And on her debut album was Farris' biggest hit of her career so far, "I Know," which stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 38 weeks, reaching a peak of No.4. Farris also earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for this tune in 1996. If the '90s could be described in one song, "I Know" would basically be it. Good luck getting this earworm out of your head anytime soon!

She Performed Her Music Live From New York

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What's one of the hottest, new artists to do as his or her star is on the rise? Perform on Saturday Night Live, of course. That's exactly what Farris did in a 1995 episode in which Damon Wayans served as host. Ooh, it was so '90s-tastic, I can barely handle it!

She Started Her Own Record Label

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After Farris left Columbia, she decided to quit major labels and do music completely her way in 2008 when she started her own record label, Free & Clear Records. “I don’t want any parts of the traditional experience of the music industry”, she said during an interview with PopMatters in 2009. “What I would like to do with Free and Clear records is help promote other artists who have talent but also put them up on game and make sure they know their business and know what the business is ... and be fair about it.” The first artist Farris signed to the label was herself, and she released the company's first album, Signs of Life, in 2008.

She's A Fan Of Prince & Vice Versa

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Farris dropped her last name in June of last year, officially changing it to just Dionne, according to an announcement on her record label's website. The change seemed to be inspired by another artist who once grabbed headlines for his name change, Prince. Dionne started work on a new seven-song album titled Revelation 10 days after Prince's death last April, and its release date has not yet been announced. Dionne also says that she was the muse for the Purple One's album The Truth and his song "Dionne" was written about her. Whether or not Dionne actually inspired Prince, with lyrics like, "Dionne / You should have held my hand / You should have let me be your man," Dionne must feel pretty special whenever she hears this song.

Let's hope the ABFF Honors puts Dionne back in the pop cultural zeitgeist where she belongs.