Carnegie Mellon alumnus Tim Lowe (CFA '05) is back in his home state of Georgia, ready to take on the city of Atlanta with his unique brand of hip "funkyjazzy" hop.
Known to his fans as Sa'J — pronounced "sah-JAY" — the artist is not your typical emcee. Just ask anyone who attended Commencement 2005. (Don't miss the video in related links.)
"This is my dream. This is my passion," explained Lowe, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon's School of Architecture, who is as comfortable with a piano at his fingertips as he is with an alto sax, a guitar, drums or congas. "To see many people from various backgrounds enjoying, appreciating, becoming a part of what I create — it brings a special excitement to me. It's important to me to touch and inspire others, because I know that I can."
Lowe traces his own inspiration back to his childhood, recalling many warm Georgia nights when he drifted asleep to the sound of soothing piano melodies coming from the living room.
"My mother was the church pianist, so the songs she would practice were gospel," he said. "It brought a sort of calming feeling."
Equally inspiring were the raucous jam sessions with his brothers and sisters, and the endless stream of instruments his father brought home for him to explore.
After enrolling at Carnegie Mellon, Lowe was encouraged by Riccardo Schulz, associate teaching professor of music, to record his first collection of songs with his band Sa'J 7 in the School of Music's recording studio. Sa'J is taken from his zodiac sign, Sagittarius, and the '7' represents the seven types of music that influence his sound: hip hop, R&B, funk, blues, jazz, gospel, and rock.
Lowe organized the band with the vision of strengthening the presence of live instruments in hip hop, which is the foundation of their sound. All the band members who played on the CD, called "Emergence," were undergrads at the university.
One of the most talented students Schulz has known, Lowe wrote both the music and lyrics; rapped; made beat tracks; played percussion, keyboards, electric bass and saxophone; and coached the others in his band to complete "Emergence."
Schulz added that Lowe's quiet charm and easy-going manner morphed into a passion for perfection in every detail when it came to making music. "He was as demanding of his recording engineers — who were also Carnegie Mellon students — as he was of himself and his musicians. It brought the recorded sound in the School of Music recording studio to an unprecedented level of excellence."
Lowe is now working on his second CD and booking gigs around Atlanta. And the all-night jam sessions he enjoyed so much with his family are about to become the norm again, in the new house he will soon share with one of his brothers. Meanwhile, Lowe pays the bills by working part-time as a church musician, modeling, acting and investing in real estate.
"When I am 80 years old, with elastic skin and more pep than most teenagers, I would like to look back and see that my music made a difference," Lowe explained. "Perhaps it will be a difference in how hip hop is listened to or performed — or perhaps it is a difference in what is thought of as mainstream. Whatever it is, I want to be remembered for making an impact on the world."