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Antoine Stoudamire and Claire Elizabeth Grace collaborate and put out two timely singles - 'Be Still' and 'Champion'

COURTESY PHOTO: HAL HARRISON/ROSE CITY PHOTOGRAPHY - The Portland singing duo of MadgesdiqCEG, Antoine Stoudamire and Claire Elizabeth Grace, come from different backgrounds, but they have made beautiful music together. They have a four-song EP, 'Come Alive,' coming out this summer.Sometimes people meet, and they just click, and for Portland natives Antoine Stoudamire and Claire Elizabeth Grace, they started to collaborate and became "Wonder Twins" — as in "Wonder Twin powers, activate," borrowing the characters and their relationship from an old cartoon.

Stoudamire, a well-known former basketball player, has long been displaying his musical talents in his hometown as the hip-hop artist Madgesdiq. He has put out five full-length albums and played venues around the city. Grace has taken on the moniker CEG — pronounced "sage" — and projects a smooth singing voice. She's a poet, singer and emerging songwriter.

Together, they are MadgesdiqCEG — "Majestic Sage" — and they have put out two new timely singles en route to an anticipated four-song EP this summer.

Oh, and they're also yoga instructors at The Yoga Space Northwest.

"Man, it's so much fun to work with Madgesdiq — he's my twin, a male version of me," said Grace, who turns 26 on June 28. "My weakness is his strength, and my strength is his weakness. In so many things we share love," including music, food and yoga.

"Our energy is real and pure. Everything flows seamlessly, very easygoing. We're always having fun. Learning to teach yoga together ... a lot of yoga philosophy goes into it. We, as adults, don't study as much in (our) older lives; for us, we read a lot of books and bounce things off each other, (there's) a lot of philosophy talk in our conversation."

The two met at Verselandia in 2017, reconnected last year, and eventually made their way into the recording studio in the summer and "it was like magic from Day One," Stoudamire, 48, said.

"Connecting with her has been a blessing," he said. "I felt that what I was doing individually had some power to it. I enjoyed it. But, I felt something could be added and take it to next level. I've been asking the universe what it was, and the universe delivered her.

"She's a great writer. When we collaborate, we really collaborate. She's writing verses, I'm writing verses, and bouncing stuff off each other. She can also do rhythm, and she can rap, too. It's lovely and powerful, and the way people have reacted to it has been beautiful."

MadgesdiqSage has put out the singles "Be Still" and "#Champion," produced by local producer Gulls, and each of them have very timely themes. They are available via Bandcamp, as well as on other platforms and their website.

"Be Still" came out just as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis hit.

"It's a meditative song," Grace said.

Added Stoudamire: "When the (health/shutdown) situation happened, it seemed perfect and profound for the world. We're constantly busy, constantly looking around, constantly on the internet and on phones. Not enough people take time to 'Be Still.' Meditate, reflect — those moments can improve your outlook on life. And, you can 'Be Still' while moving, too."

The song "#Champion" was released late last month just before voices, including black voices, were raised at protests in the wake of George Floyd's death.

"It's a war out there" is one of the lyrics, "give them a champion, fighters need a champion."

"The timing was incredible, the song is universal," Grace said. "It can mean any moment you can stand up and be a champion."

Stoudamire added: "The song was recorded before the George Floyd stuff happened, and it made so much sense. It came out so well. The message, the timing — for a musician, that's an opportunity thing. ... It's about maximizing yourself as a human being; exercising every day; seeing something wrong and stepping up and saying something about it."

Stoudamire made the most of his athletic career. He's the cousin of former NBA player Damon Stoudamire, and the brother of former collegiate star Salim Stoudamire and Karis Stoudamire. Antoine played at Jesuit High School, and then at Georgetown and Oregon.

At Georgetown, he played alongside Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo — both became NBA stars — and lived with each of them at one point. He later played at Oregon with fellow Portlander Orlando Williams and others.

Stoudamire participated in NBA training camps with three teams, but never played in the league. He quickly pivoted to his other career upon finishing with basketball.

"It wasn't a plan, but more of a love," he said. "I fell in love with hip hop in 1978. 'Rapper's Delight' was the first hip-hop song I loved, and once I heard that song, I was locked in."

He sang at his first show in 1999, and then worked on his first album, "Rebirth," releasing it in 2002. It was a natural, though somewhat nervous, move into music.

"I'd been a freestyler and flowing with hip hop since I was a kid. Definitely, I still get butterflies now, almost 20 years later," he said. "I was confident; some of that confidence comes from being naive, and having a huge amount of success in basketball, I was comfortable playing in front of people, confident in my ability to write and knowing the material was good. There was nothing that inhibited me from giving the right kind of energy on stage."

Stoudamire has performed solo and with his band Everyday Mystics, off and on for 12 years. After "Rebirth," he put out a self-titled album in 2005, "I Wanna Be Free" in 2008, "Rastamerica" in 2012, and "Herb in the Mornin'" in 2018.

Grace's background was different. She was adopted and raised in Northeast Portland, attending local schools including Grant High.

"Gang violence affected my life, and I had to transfer schools — Lincoln, Scappoose," she said. Eventually, she earned a degree from Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, also known as Rosemary Anderson High School, "and it changed my life; POIC helped me get on track. It showed that my future didn't have to be 'traditional.' They supported me and helped me get educated."

Grace writes poetry (and now music), teaches yoga and also manages social media for companies.

"I've been singing my whole life, but my focus was art, in general," she said. That changed when she met and sang in the studio with Stoudamire.

The two are hopeful for their musical partnership. In addition to their singles and EP, they tentatively have gigs set up at Alberta Street Pub, for when gathering restrictions have been lifted.

"It's been a beautiful experience to watch it unfold," Stoudamire said.

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