Arms stretched long, hips set free, eyes closed, and mouths open in a song.
We’re dancing. We’re singing bops by Frankie Beverly & Maze, Tevin Campbell, Beyoncé, and SZA. We are a symphony of joy.
The days are long and the world is hard, but once a month there is our soft place to land: Silk, an R&B party, a celebration of us. What started as a night to slow jam for about 125 people in the fall of 2018 at the W Hotel has grown into almost 2,000 people a month at Big Night Live, the music hall adjacent to TD Garden.
College kids, athletes, young professionals, and elected officials all look forward to Silk. It’s one of those nights where Boston is at its best: inclusive, loving, and free.
Silk happens every month. Attendees anticipate the announcement. Tickets sell out each time. It’s become the party.
“We don’t have a lot of spaces that are big and beautiful and well-curated,” says Massachusetts state Senator Liz Miranda. “At one point in time I was the top woman event producer in the city of Boston. I ran Avalon. Boston’s Black community has very few big night clubs and many of them are gone. I haven’t seen anything like Silk in over 10 years. It’s a multigenerational, multicultural space where our city, our cultures, our music, and our love of community is all in one place.”
It started with 36-year-old Chimel “DJ Real P” Idiokitas. The people’s DJ. He started DJing at 15, spinning parties at Freedom House. Hip-hop, afrobeats, drill, house, reggae — he’s played it all.
After years of doing residencies at Boston nightclubs like Venu and ICON, he wanted to curate a different kind of night. More and more, he was slipping R&B into his sets, an homage to the artists so many of our favorite hip-hop hits sample from. He creates a bridge between genres and generations. Another DJ, Braun Dapper, suggested they expand that vibe and make it a night.
“He pushed me to think outside the box,” Real P says. “I think music is this language that we can all understand, and if we are able to create that vehicle for people to bond that’s amazing.”
And thus Silk was born as a residency at The W.
Silk sold out again and again. Real P prides himself on collaborating with other DJs, so he invited local and national spinners to join the night, a tradition that continues today.
The collaborations weren’t always the longtime Boston DJ names. In fact, it was a young guest DJ who became Real P’s right hand. The two of them together are the foundation on which Silk has boomed.
Baby Indiglo started making mixes as a teenager on SoundCloud and Tumblr. She only began officially DJing parties in 2019, when she was barely the legal drinking age of 21. And that’s the year Real P invited her to play a set.
“I feel like it was the best Silk to date at The W,” Real P says of her debut. “It felt different, there was this multigenerational energy. I asked her to be a resident and I am glad she said yes. The rest is history.”
Makayla Alexander is Baby Indiglo. At 25 years old, she prides herself on being a student of the music. A native of Inglewood, Calif., she grew up between the West Coast and Massachusetts. Her influences span the coasts and the diaspora.
For her, that means a sound that infuses the soul, beats, and energy of Teena Marie, Dom Kennedy, Kendrick Lamar, with Fela Kuti, and Pharrell. For us in the crowd, it’s a wave of wonder and memory.
“At a time like now, when everything is extra heavy, R&B brings people together,” Baby Indiglo says. “It lifts anxiety, stress, whatever you have been going through. It brings me back to a family cookout at my grandma’s house. I always want to bring that type of feel into the party.”
And the party got bigger and bigger. They were outgrowing the W.
When the pandemic began and we pressed pause on party culture, it could have been the end of Silk. But Robert Eugene, a restaurateur and marketing genius with a long history of party promotion in Boston, reached out to Real P with encouragement. As a national manager for Team Hennessy, he has relationships with venues across the city, including places like La Fabrica and Big Night Live. And in 2022, he used those connections to ensure Silk opened a new chapter.
“Rob has this big, infectious personality,” says Ed Kane, cofounder of Big Night, the dining and nightlife collective behind Big Night Live. “I love him. He talked to our head of VIP about doing the night here and my team was enthralled with it. I didn’t know Real P before but he is amazing. What he and Baby Indiglo have created, the messaging is good and something magical.”
They just celebrated a year of that magical something Silk brings to Big Night Live last week. And even with a special guest, nationally loved DJ Drama of Gangsta Grillz fame, Real P and Indiglo shined just as bright.
The magic is in the music and in the people. We plan around the monthly party date. We download the official Silk playlists. We feel the magic of Silk because Silk is a reflection of us.
For Real P, Silk is a lot like a reclamation. While Boston’s Black community is often overlooked, it’s Black Boston that raised him. A Roxbury son.
“I don’t have the perspective that we are not seen,” Real P says. “We may have to take our stake a little more, and I feel like that’s what we are doing . . . We belong downtown. We shouldn’t just be relegated to small halls in Mattapan or Roxbury. We can fill up a Big Night Live. I love my city.”
And the city loves Silk. Embrace Boston collaborated with Silk for their Embrace Ideas festival. Real P has been a community partner for city events, museums, and collectives like Side Presents, Boston While Black, and more.
“Seeing all of those people singing at the top of their lungs is a unifying experience,” says Greg Ball, director of Embrace Ideas for Embrace Boston. “It’s a snapshot of what happens when we all come together.”
Ultimately, Silk centers love. Black love. There is the love of a chosen brother and sister that is Real P and Baby Indiglo, there is the love they have for the music, for Boston, and the love that Boston, especially Black Boston, has for them.
“I think Black love, when it’s person to person, there is this kind of a match that happens, a light,” says Real P. “We all naturally have that and tap into it. R&B ignites that light and that’s why it’s beautiful.”
That glow, that heart and soul, is for everyone of all ages and identities. And that magic of Silk is captured by their motto:
All R&B. All love. All night.