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Mike Kitchen works to break artists in the Charlotte market 

Remember when Esperanza Spalding shockingly won the Best New Artist Grammy in February? Mike Kitchen, who puts on shows under the name The Sol Kitchen, wasn't surprised. The 40-year-old promoter brought her to Charlotte for a concert at the Knight Theater in 2010. He's got an eye for talent like that and consistently brings acts to town that are on the verge of hitting it big and that you need to be aware of — if you aren't already.

Estelle performed at a Sol Kitchen show hosted by John Legend weeks before her hit "American Boy" came out. DJ Jazzy Jeff and ?uestlove are familiar names, but it's not often they do DJ sets at small clubs in the Queen City. The Sol Kitchen arranged those, too, along with area performances by artists such as Nas, Common and PJ Morton.

"I look at the last time an artist was in Charlotte and then figure out the best way to get them back here," Kitchen, who is more commonly known as "Kitch," says. "Most of the time, if someone says, 'I haven't seen them in eight years,' there are probably 2,000 more people that feel the same way." The best time to lure artists, he says, is during that period immediately surrounding the release date of a new project when they want to get a grassroots buzz going. "When they're promoting something, they'll play anywhere they can," he says.

Kitchen began promoting shows in Charlotte nine years ago. He puts on a variety of events — from liquor promotions to concert after-parties to the weekly Pop Life series at RE:Public. In June, Big Boi made an appearance at Pop Life. "Sometimes it's better for an artist to show up at an event, play a song or two, take pictures, kiss babies and leave than to put on a show and have to sell tickets," Kitchen says.

Among the shows he's working on securing are Janelle Monáe, who has never been to Charlotte, and a return appearance by Estelle.

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