Goapele: Time For Change

From the moment we heard Goapele in the intimate barbershop scene from the movie Honey, it was obvious that the Bay Area songstress was destined for great things. Whether it’s blessing a track from one of her Hieroglyphics crew affiliates, or soothing our soul with her refreshing voice, Goapele is a welcomed force in music. […]

From the moment we heard Goapele in the intimate barbershop scene from the movie Honey, it was obvious that the Bay Area songstress was destined for great things. Whether it’s blessing a track from one of her Hieroglyphics crew affiliates, or soothing our soul with her refreshing voice, Goapele is a welcomed force in music.

Goapele (pronounced gwa-pa-lay) introduced us to her unique sound on her 2002 LP Even Closer, which was originally released independently, but later picked up by Columbia Records. Her ability to seamlessly weave multiple melodies into a single note has kept her afloat in a competitive industry. It’s safe to say that out of all of the pre-formed molds of R&B female singers, Goapele successfully fits into none of them.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives caught up with Goapele fresh off the Lyfe Tour [with Lyfe Jennings and Vivian Greene] and within a week of the release of her second LP, Change It All. With the excitement of her new album, Goapele elaborated on her journey to this point – from independent to major label, the state of music, and her mix of musicianship with activism.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How does it feel to be within a week of the release of your second LP?

Goapele: Exciting! I’ve been working on the album for the past year and a half, and that’s kind of where all my focus has gone. I’m just excited that it’s finally done and people will finally hear it. I just hope they like it, but I guess I’ll get their responses soon!

AHHA: After hearing Change it All, it’s evident that there’s a lot of evolution on this record.

Goapele: Yeah, I felt that way, and I just hope that people are open. I want to keep growing as an artist and keep on challenging myself. I like so many different kinds of music, so I feel that this album really reflects that.

AHHA: Which song do you hold closest to you and why?

Goapele: On this album there are so many different moods. I wrote all of the songs, so I think lyrically they are all close to me. When I first finished the album it was “First Love”. I recorded it with Jeff Bhasker and some other folks from my band – Mike Aaberg and Errol Cooney are on it. Just lyrically it’s a song that is close to me. There’s not a lot of love songs that I write that don’t have those conflicting [or] contrasting feelings, and that’s just from a point of being thankful and totally giving into love. It was nice to let go and write a song from that place.

AHHA: How did you go about working with Sa-Ra on this record?

Goapele: They did a “Catch 22” remix for me a while back, and we were listening to a few other things they did. I just liked their vibe. The songs that I did with them are three extremely different songs. “Fly Away” was a really fun kind of me letting go and just writing to the music- not trying to get too deep with it. “Good Love” was real vibey, and then “Battle of the Heart”, which is like a funkadelic jazz song. It was just fun for me to get to experiment and put myself out there.

AHHA: There was no presence of Hieroglyphics this time around. Why is that?

Goapele: Not this time, but I’m still really cool with them. A lot of the producers on Change it All are consistent with the last project, but as far as the artists, I just really want to change it up each time. I worked with another emcee that’s up and coming named Clyde Carson. I definitely wanted to still do work with emcees in the Bay Area but just switch it up a little bit.

AHHA: How would you describe your journey from Even Closer to Change it All?

Goapele: Well towards the end of Even Closer, our label Sky Blaze did a deal with Sony and re-released it. On this album, we started together. It was more of a partnership; we built a studio in the Bay Area, Skylight Studios, and I got to go in there consistently – almost every day. I recorded whatever I wanted and recorded whatever I felt. That was really important for me this time. On the first album there really were a lot less resources. Just to get studio time was challenging.

I’m really proud of what we made, but I definitely appreciated the freedom I had with this album, where we could go back in there and keep adding layers, switching things up, and when I was inspired get in there. There was also more of an integration of live music and the tracks together because the musicians I’ve been working with got to really participate on this album. We could still add the program drums, but with a lot of live elements and layers over it.

AHHA: How do you feel that the re-release of Even Closer has benefited your career?

Goapele: I feel that the whole process was really gradual, and I didn’t feel that much of a change. But, I’m still glad that we teamed it together. We didn’t sell that many more albums, but it made touring easier and just a lot of the things that go into getting out there for people to find out who you are.

AHHA: Can you speak about your organization Change It All?

Goapele: ChangeItAll.org is an online community and network that highlights people that are already making changes in their communities and in the world. The idea was that the album is called Change It All, and really we have the opportunity to get more than just music out there. People can find snippets of the album as well on the website, but also we can feature organizers and businesses doing things in a different way. I’ve been interviewing other artists also on their ideas for change. So many times in the news, there’s a focus on negative things, but there are so many people working towards positive change that we don’t see everyday. We just wanted to highlight some folks that are doing it and are successful at it.

AHHA: What’s your opinion of misogyny in rap lyrics? Do you feel it’s getting better or worse?

Goapele: I don’t know if it’s getting better or worse because I could use so many examples from when I was a kid that were crazy! There was always that crazy X-rated stuff that we’d try to listen to like, ‘Is that what they’re really saying?’ I think the difference now is that Hip-Hop is so popular and influenced the entire world that it’s just affecting more people’s lives. You can just see it in, not just American culture, but all over the world. So I’m not really sure if the subject matter has changed, except that a lot of people are making more money now.

When you rap about your reality and your reality changes, your music changes and people get something different out of it. I think there is good rap and bad rap like any other music. I just like it when people are really telling their stories and not just saying what they think people want to hear.

AHHA: What male artist do you feel has the greatest understanding of the female perspective and why?

Goapele: Oh my goodness. I would say it would have to be a female artist. [laughs] I don’t even know what the female perspective is in this industry except for the fact that we’re under-represented. That was one thing that made me really want to be a songwriter, because I would listen to some of the things they were singing and I was like, ‘I don’t feel like that, and none of my friends feel like that. Who’s writing these songs and why are they singing them?!’ I just wanted to say something that was true for me, and when we start speaking the truth, so many more people can relate.

AHHA: When AllHipHop.com Alternatives interviewed Dwele, we asked him a particular question, and since he is featured on your track “You”, we will ask you the same: If you could go back in time to any decade and come out, which would it be?

Goapele: Aw man… the ‘60s! well, the ‘60s and the ‘70s, but with the ‘60s there was still that edgy music going on and the way that it was recorded was a different quality. You could sing about anything and it was respected, because it wasn’t really about the imaging then. Plus, live music was so big then, coming out after the Civil Rights Movement.

AHHA: Speaking of live music, how’s the tour been, and when is your next tour?

Goapele: It was great going out there to places I’ve never been. I can’t wait to get back out there with other artists. I don’t know when the next tour is, but I’m thinking towards the beginning of 2006 or the early Spring.

AHHA: If you weren’t here, where would you be?

Goapele: Probably teaching little kids!