Where he’s at

Soul artist Darryl Moore finds his roots

Soul musician Darryl Moore used to sleep with a gun under his pillow. Now, he smoothes it out with a mic.

Soul musician Darryl Moore used to sleep with a gun under his pillow. Now, he smoothes it out with a mic.


When Darryl Moore came to Sacramento in 1994, he was looking for a fresh start. Back in the streets of Oxnard’s rough Port Hueneme neighborhood, he struggled in “a world of darkness” as a member of the Southside 805 Crips. “I was banging back in the day,” he admits, noting that he used to sleep with a gun under his pillow.

“I got out of that lifestyle because I got tired of going to jail. My life was going around in circles instead of a straight path,” Moore says.

Those days are a distant memory he’s reluctant to talk about. Now, he lives in Natomas with his wife, Melinda, and six children. He works as a student aid adviser for a private firm, and sings in the Born Again Gospel Choir.

And in May, he released his debut album, the rootsy soul excursion Where I’m At.

Ironically, it was one of his old homies that brought Where I’m At to fruition. Moore is childhood friends with Dudley “Declaime” Perkins, who emerged in the late ’90s with an Oxnard-based collective of hip-hop artists, led by reclusive production genius Otis “Madlib” Jackson Jr.

Perkins recorded several acclaimed albums, including heralded Madlib collaborations such as 2003’s A Lil’ Light and 2006’s Expressions (2012 A.U.). Then, he established SomeOthaShip Connect with his wife, the brilliant iconoclast Georgia Anne Muldrow, who has performed with Erykah Badu and Mos Def. (SomeOthaShip Connect is nationally distributed by E1 Music.)

However, Moore says he didn’t work with Perkins until now because Dudley was more of a “political rapper,” and he was more “street.”

“I didn’t honestly think we’d be able to collaborate,” Moore says. It took years of artistic and personal growth for him to appreciate Perkins’ music. The latter’s recordings with Muldrow proved an inspiration. “I began writing prolifically,” he says.

The maturation process began in the late ’90s after Moore moved to Lincoln Village in Rancho Cordova. Still “dippin’ and dabbin’, doing illegal things,” he finally distanced himself from the streets when he met James Johnson at a telemarketing job. Johnson is the director of the Born Again Gospel Choir.

“He asked me to come by the church for rehearsal, which I did,” says Moore. “When I got there, he had a song written already called ‘Dear Jesus.’ I learned the song, and next thing you know, I was leading the song.” It proved an entry point into the church. “I found my roots again. This is where I’m supposed to be.”

Meanwhile, he collaborated with Derek “DOA” Allen, who has written material for Brandy, Angie Stone and the late contemporary jazz star Wayman Tisdale. Allen produced Moore’s original mainstream credits. First, there was Dr. Cornel West’s 2007 compilation Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations, which featured Moore’s “Soul Sista.” That same year, Moore sang backup vocals for another DOA production, Atlanta hood rapper Gorilla Zoe’s “Take Your Shoes Off.”

Where I’m At compiles batches of recordings from the past decade. “Pancakin,” a G-funk celebration of cruising and ’hood barbecues produced by Ivan Johnson, earned airplay in 2005 on 102.5 FM’s Future Flava Show, a since-canceled Sunday-night program that spotlighted local musicians. There is “She’s My Everything,” a lovely dedication to mothers everywhere. Then there are two tracks Moore made with Muldrow, “805 Sundaze” and “Long Gone.”

“Five long years” yielded many songs for Where I’m At, but financial issues and a general lack of focus led to delays. “I had the music, I had the songs, but I didn’t have direction, because I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know the business part that well.”

Muldrow and Perkins are teaching Moore about the music industry. And while Where I’m At has many producers and tones, it’s held together by Moore’s gutsy, rough-edged voice and achingly sincere delivery. It’s an important stepping stone.

“We’re working on my second album as I speak,” Moore promises. Helmed by Muldrow, it will combine the sensibilities of Al Green, Donny Hathaway, and Betty Wright and will “lift your spirits, give you hope and understanding.”

Later that day, after the phone conversation ends, Moore performs at the UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival as part of G&D’s sprawling, bohemian SomeOthaShip collective. It’s a long way from the street life.