Floetry: Opposites Attract

It’s funny how two women who used to play against each other on the basketball court in high school now are credited with making some of the most soulful music together. As different as Floetry members Marsha Ambrosius (the Songstress) and Natalie Stewart (the Floacist) seem to be, the better their music gets.

The two splashed upon the U.S. coast from Britain with a spoken word/soul combination that lead to their 2000 debut Floetic. They garnered critical acclaim with six Grammy nods, six Soul Train awards and a NAACP nomination for Outstanding New Artist. A heavy tour schedule that has included at least 160 shows per year since the release of Floetic gave birth to a live album in 2003, Floacism, and fans have been eagerly awaiting new music from the duo.

Anyone who reads the duo’s album liner notes would know that they have not been spending all of their time on the road. An accomplished songwriting and production team, Floetry has penned songs for Jill Scott, Bilal, Glenn Lewis, as well as the chorus on the Styles P hit, “I’m Black”. Michael Jackson’s “Butterflies” was a Floetry creation, and you can hear Marsha in the background of both Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” and The Game’s “Start From Scratch”.

It has been a busy time between albums for Floetry, but they are back with a new single, “SupaStar”, which features Common. Armed with more confidence and a deeper understanding of their femininity, the Floacist and the Songstress spoke with AllHipHop.com Alternatives about their upcoming album Flo’Ology, and the process of becoming better with time.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: I just saw you two at the Sugar Water Festival Tour. I wanted you to perform longer though.

Natalie: I know, so did we. It was a festival, and it was a lot of people to be on that one bill. All of us could have done that entire show by ourselves, material wise. It was great to get on that. Unless you make your festival start at two o’clock in the afternoon there’s no way to give people a long amount of time. It’s difficult to please audiences though. It was a great show all together for the timeline we had to work within.

AHHA: How was it touring Sugar Water Festival Tour with Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah, and Jill Scott, and the Kool Philosophy Tour with the Roots?

Natalie: We stay on the road; we do like 10 months every year.

Marsha: The Roots tour for me was fantastic, with the live band. It was amazing just to be on the road with them. It was a very diverse crowd of people there to appreciate the music. The Sugar Water tour, even with the time that we had, was a great learning experience to be around so many powerful women on the stage at one time. I thought it was great.

AHHA: Let’s talk a little bit about the new single, “SupaStar”. How did the song come about, and how did you hook up with Common?

Natalie: Adding Common was the very last part. Our label though it would be good to do a collaboration, and Common is someone we definitely admire. We chose to ask Common to add a piece of the male perspective. In terms of putting the song together, as always Marsha and I hear a beat and there’s something to talk about… the subject matter, the music speaks, the moment speaks. If there’s nothing to say at that time then we don’t do it. If it’s a song for someone else obviously it’s different, but this song was for us.

We worked with producer Scott Storch on it. We went into his lab and went through his index of beats, some of his beats were crazy. We went through a whole bunch of stuff until we found two pieces that spoke to us. [The song] is about enjoying the energy and the divine femininity of the mother. It’s speaking about the recognition of potential. Everybody wants to be at the finishing line right now. Nobody wants to put in the time and the effort. People don’t like to commune and come together and support, whether it be masculinity or femininity. And we just had that piece in us at that point.

AHHA: Since one of you is a singer and one of you is a poet/emcee, how do you combine those two different elements and write a song?

Natalie: The funny thing is, we’re both singers and we’re both poets and we’re both emcees. We just kinda do whatever comes to us with the record. Don’t sleep – Marsha can spit a couple of bars real quick, and I’m a bit of a Reggae crooner, deep down inside. Creating with Marsha is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. I can’t remember doing a song and being like, ‘Don’t say that,’ or ‘Say something else.’

Marsha: As far as the collaborations go, we kind of stay in our lanes and play our positions to the point where no one is stepping on each other’s toes. If there ever came a situation where Natalie thought she had to sing and I thought I had to emcee that’s what would happen. It wouldn’t be an issue. It would just be how the song dictated itself.

AHHA: So are we going to hear you emceeing on the new album?

Marsha: To me I already do, just the patterns and the melodies…

Natalie: It’s a melodic version of an emcee.

Marsha: “Mr. Messed Up” was emceeing pretty much. Nat’s voice and the Reggae tone she added to that was so melodic to me, it makes my job easier to write because I can already hear the tones in what she writes, and vice versa.

AHHA: With so many people doing spoken word poetry, how do you keep that element fresh in the music that you make?

Natalie: The art of being a poet is a God-given gift. Like jumping high or running far or singing well. That truly is what I am, I’m a poet. My gift is words and communication. So we don’t have to work on collaborating and keeping fresh, they are what we do, they are what we be. So keeping the spoken word element fresh; it just is. Poetry is relative terminology; I paint poetically, I write songs poetically, I speak poetically. It’s a standard of language, a standard of which communication can be measured. So it is what it is, it does what it does.

AHHA: A lot of people aren’t aware of the songwriting and production work you’ve done with other artists and for yourselves. Do you feel you get less recognition for that?

Marsha: We don’t concentrate on that too much. I think we haven’t been out there that long for people to know our resume. I think it’s an experience to get our name back out there for those who don’t know. People who want to know, they know where to look. It’s not something bragged about on our part. For Floetry, for ourselves, that’s our baby, that’s what we do. We really try to concentrate on that and do our job.

AHHA: Tell us about the new CD and how you’ve grown between now and the first CD.

Marsha: The new CD is Flo’Ology, even if we didn’t do it I would love the album… The difference between this CD and the first one is the time we’ve had since the year 2000. We were five years younger and coming all the way from the U.K to American to do a bunch of poetry gigs, not knowing we’d end up with a recording deal and an album in stores. All the time in between that made the women that we are now.

Natalie: The new CD, like Marsha said, is an aging process. Art is like wine and cheese, you’ve got to live a bit A lot of people try to put everything into the space that they’re at. My grandmother had this saying that she’s been my age and I’ve never been hers. That builds with the fact that things get more mature; articulation grows, understanding grows. There’s no “Headache” on this album, there’s no “Ms. Stress” on this album. There are new situations that we’ve come across. If you continue to make the same song about the same issue, there’s no progress. We’ve progressed and have a higher articulation and a higher understanding. There’s a lot of that kind of growth on the album. It’s such a strong album, there’s a lot of strength, divine feminine strength, on here. A lot of responsibility and knowing where we are…a lot of taking matters into your own hands and being mothers. There’s a lot of mother energy. Like “SupaStar” – most men… the last time they were called ‘superstar’ was when they were like three. This is more about defining what we want by saying what we want, not what we don’t want. The universe doesn’t listen to the English language. A request is a request. This album is really about defining what you want.

AHHA: On the new album you’re doing a remake of “Waiting in Vain” by Bob Marley. How did you decide on that song and what kind of spin do you put on it?

Natalie: Well the spin on it is that a female is singing it, like when Marsha and I did the BET Walk of Fame with Smokey Robinson, there’s a woman that is singing the lyrics that a man wrote. Why that song? I think that’s because I was singing it in a show, right Marsha?

Marsha: Yeah.

Natalie: Somehow it crept in after the show, after “Hello” right?

Marsha: Yeah.

Natalie: After “Hello”, the topics just linked up. Somebody said we should do a version for the record, and I did. Marsha accompanied me with some wonderful ‘ooohhhs’. I love Bob Marley. My family is from Jamaica. It’s just nice because the only people I’d like to collaborate with have all passed. It’s really nice to be able to do that cover. Personally that was a beautiful moment to me.

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