THEESatisfaction: “Erykah Badu Is The Queen”

The mutant hip-hop duo talk about their excellent debut, “awE naturalE”, criticise homophobia and reveal their main influences

THEESatisfaction are one of the new young and brilliant names on the spiritual (and experimental) neo-soul and hip-hop scene. We talked to Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White about life and music.

Many feel that Shabazz Palaces' debut album “Black Up” was one of the best records to come out in 2011, because of the excellent beats and the freshness and originality of the overall sound. Those who've heard the LP will know of Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White, two rappers rhyming and singing on several of the tracks. The high expectations raised by the duo (further increased as they released new tracks on their Bandcamp page) were met on 27th March, when Sub Pop released their first album, awE naruralE, as THEESatisfaction. Over the course of thirteen tracks and little over thirty minutes, the Seattle twosome take you on a lysergic and exciting trip - dopey and fun - on the hip-hop highway; with plenty of stop-overs at cosmic jazz, psychedelic funk and future soul gas stations. With its impossible rhymes and truly catchy rhythms, this record stands out particularly for the combination of two very different, yet compatible personalities: Cat loves her hip-hop and R&B, but her teachers are the female voices of classic jazz; Stas, in her turn, is more about 90s gangsta rap.

To begin with, I would like to talk about your debut album. How long have you been working on it? I have read that you have been getting ideas for the last three years, haven’t you? Why did you decide to produce it on your own? Was it a financial necessity or it was just something that you wanted to do, like doing everything yourselves?

Cat: Well we make our own beats because it’s something we enjoy doing, no obligation except the one we have to be ourselves. It’s great to have a group of people to work with who support and care about the music you are creating.

"Mainstream music is fun and addicting, but we mostly find ourselves looking ahead and beyond what's right in front of us"

I think that one of the things that make your sound so different from current hip hop bands is the variety of your beats. Where do you like to look for inspiration?

Stas: We take inspiration from everything, whether it’s conscious or sub-conscious or unconscious. Whatever makes us feel good, we roll with that. Staying open to all genres is golden.

Before recording your debut, some media talked about you as the “collaborators of Shabazz Palaces”. How was that experience? Actually, “Black Up” was one of the best albums of last year for many magazines in Spain.

Cat: Being on “Black Up” was something else. Tendai & Ishmael have great vibrations emitting.

What’s your opinion about the hip hop scene nowadays? Do you feel part of any particular scene? Do you like listening to any mainstream hip hop, like Kayne West or Drake, at home? What do you think about new artists like Azaleia Banks or A$AP Rocky? Last year, Odd Future played at the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona. People were really divided between people who think they are the new heroes of hip hop and others who think they are just trying to be provocative. What’s your opinion?

Stas: I think there’s plenty of room for people to express themselves through music, especially black youth. We all have interesting and different stories to tell. Mainstream music is fun and addicting, but we mostly find ourselves looking ahead and beyond what's right in front of us, or reflecting on overlooked sounds of the past.

Anyway, your music includes many other influences, apart from hip hop: there’s a lot of black music, funk, soul… I suppose you like Erykah Badu, don’t you? In your songs there are also a lot of ideas from jazz—when did you begin listening to jazz?

Cat: Yeah, Erykah Badu is a Queen. We’ve been listening to her for a long time. We are also big fans of jazz. Miles, Billie, Ella, Sarah, Coltrane. They are all bad.

I was reading some articles about you these last days and I realised that the majority of people who talk about you mention the fact that you are lesbians. Doesn’t it surprise you that in this day and age some people are still giving importance to an artist’s sexual identity? Would you say that there are still some sexual prejudices and homophobic attitudes in American hip hop?

Stas: People are always curious about sexual identity, but at the end of the day it’s no one’s business. There are sexual prejudices and homophobic attitudes in American hip hop, and in American country music and in American advertising and in the American government and all over the planet. It's time that it be brought to the light so that we can get rid of it in its entirety.

In this sense, it has been said that your music contains a political view. What would you say are the main ideas you’re trying to express with your music?

Cat: We want to put out a sense of self-awareness. Get to know yourself to be your best self.

I heard that your recent show in SXSW was incredible… Did you have fun there? What other bands did you have the opportunity to see in Austin?

Stas: SXSW was cool, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We got to see Big KRIT, Alice Smith, Turquoise Jeep, Nas and Erykah Badu.

I didn’t have the opportunity to see you the other day in Madrid, because I was at home in bed with a fever. Was it your first gig in Spain? Did you have time to spend some free time in the city?

Cat: Sorry to hear that. It was our first time in Spain. It was a lot of fun, though. The audience at Festival Electronica was great. We got to see a little bit, but not much, we only had one day.

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