The Rumpus Interview With God-des & She

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“We really are grateful to be able to do this for our job, and we’re grateful we’ve been able to travel and meet all these weirdos.”

God-des & She are a hip-hop and soul duo originally from the Midwest who are shaking speakers as out and proud lesbian recording artists with an unmistakable and addictive sound. Featured on The L Word‘s Season 3 finale, the video for their single, “Lick It,” was banned from MTV, a sure sign that superstardom is on the horizon.

To be a female duo breaking boundaries and shattering stereotypes within the hypersexualized rap and r&b scene is enough, but the media has often focused on their sexuality just as much as their tremendous talents. With their most recent release, “Stand Up,” being available on iTunes and Best Buy, and with an epic tour under their belts, it’s safe to say that this duo isn’t going anywhere, and homophobes and haters had better get used to it. The Rumpus caught up with the girls the day after they arrived in Albuquerque to start recording their new album, and to prove that they aren’t car thieves.

(Note: God-des is the wordsmithing rapper of the two, while She croons and does more than simply hold her own on their tracks. The interview was mainly conducted with She, while God-des attended to some business just within earshot.)

The Rumpus: First of all, congratulations on getting back in the studio. I hear you’re recording with Dom Beatz and Brian Hardgroove?

She: Mainly just Brian now, in a really cool studio. Dom got an offer to move to LA at the very last minute. He’s working on some really cool new record so he had to just up an move to LA in, like, a week. We were like, “Oh no, what are we going to do?” But we traveled and found this really cool guy who used to engineer Jimi Hendrix’s old studio, he’s an older guy and he’s doing the project for us, but Brian is going to produce everything.

Rumpus: Jimi Hendrix, huh? Wow. And Brian has worked with Public Enemy, Wu-Tang, Aerosmith, some pretty huge artists. Is it intimidating when you meet these guys who’ve worked with pretty big names?

She: Not really. We met him a couple of months ago when we were here. We had lunch with him and we just really vibed. He was really nice and super easy to talk to, and we all got on really well. I never really get too freaked out, they’re just people like me. People are just people, we’re all just the same under everything, so I never really get star-struck. A few times I have, but…

Rumpus: With who?

She: Slick Rick was cool ’cause he’s one of the founders of hip-hop music, that was pretty crazy. We opened up for him, and it was like, wow. That was a while ago. We’ve opened up for MC Lite, we’ve opened up for all kinds of people. We’ve been really fortunate.

Rumpus: I guess this is a bit of a strange question since you just got to Albuquerque yesterday, but what’s the daily process like when you’re recording? Can you walk me through your day?

She: We’re going to do kind of like a regular workday, a 9-6 kind of thing, but, the truth is, we’ve always been self-produced. We’ve always done it ourselves, so this is the first time that it’s going to be a process like this. We’re excited, ’cause we really don’t know. Normally we’re at our house or at some other kid’s house, you know? So it’s really exciting to be working with somebody who really knows music and really can help us with arrangements and ideas, it’s really exciting. We’re so excited.

Rumpus: I’ve always wondered how you two write music as a duo. It seems that there’s a weird divide between solo artists and bands, solo artists obviously have all the control over what they do, and with bands it’s at least assumed that making music will be a collaborative experience, but with a duo it’s split kind of evenly. How do you guys balance the duality of the creative process?

She: I think that we’re really equal. As far as rapping goes, a lot of times it’s like the rapper’s the main focus and then the singer just hooks, or whatever, but our dynamic is so intense that it’s really become this very equal partnership of two dynamos on the stage. In writing, I think that we both have lifted each other up. I’m very melodic and I’m the singer, and she’s very rhythmic ’cause she’s a rapper, but she’s become way more melodic and I’ve become way more rhythmic. We just have taught each other so many things by osmosis pretty much. Not like intentionally, but it just kind of happened over a great period of years now, going on nine.

Rumpus:
Wow. You guys have been a duo for that long?

She: She’s been God-des for eleven years and I joined up with her a couple of years after she started. We were in Madison for three or four years just making music and doing shows and stuff. Then she was like, if we really want to be serious about this we have to move to New York, and we’ve been in New York for about five years now. I grew up in the Midwest, in Madison, Wisconsin, and she grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, so we’re Midwest girls that were transplanted to the New York craziness, but at this point we’re used to it. I think we’re ready for a little bit slower pace. Going to the next level, I’m ready to chill.

Rumpus: You guys have been touring a whole lot, for a long time. How do you guys stay sane on the road?

She: Well, we travel really well together. It’s always an adventure. You basically just have to learn to roll with whatever is happening, and become  very Zen, because what’s happening is what’s happening. And if it’s not what you want, and you fight against it, it’s just going to make it worse. So we just kind of try to roll with whatever’s going on and try to keep a positive attitude, and we fail, we fall short of that sometimes, but we do all right for the most part. We really are grateful to be able to do this for our job, and we’re grateful we’ve been able to travel and meet all these weirdos. No one else has our life. So it’s really exciting to be able to do this.

Rumpus: How have you been received overseas?

She: Man, Sweden was off the chain. We played Europride, which is pride with all the countries, and there were so many people, and we also played this club show that was 800 people and they were losing their minds for us. That was really cool and really fun. We’re going back to do Stockholm Pride this year, and hopefully do a little tour, but maybe just Stockholm Pride because it’s right in the middle of pride season in America, so we really have to figure it so we can be back. Because we are professional musicians, and we make our living at making music, so that’s main a factor in how we roll.

Rumpus: Do you find that at this level of success it’s difficult to manage the business side?

She: We’re just now kind of getting used to treating it as a business. We sell so much merchandise, there’s so many factors that go into it, and we’ve been doing it all on our own this whole time. Now we have a team, Allie Shaw, our manager, and Keven Davis, our lawyer who’s also Ludacris’ lawyer and Serena William’s lawyer, he’s really basically an angel who was sent to us. He’s been working for us for about four years, pretty much pro bono. We pay him what we can, and he’s just been there for us, he’s really helped us a lot. He’s saved us from making bad decisions and doing dumb things. It’s a process of trial and error, figuring out what really works and what doesn’t. Having it be your job, I thought it would ruin music for me. But it really hasn’t. It’s taught me that I really like being in control of my career and I like having it be something that I’m learning to do, and getting better and better at.

Rumpus: Do you guys eventually want to manage yourselves entirely again?

She: It depends. Maybe. I think that right now it would be too much, ’cause I’m hoping for a Grammy in 2010, and that level is just going to be a little harder to manage.

Rumpus: I have to commend you for keeping your private lives private. I’ve read interviews where you’ve explicitly stated that you’re not talking about personal stuff, which I really respect. I think that, because you’re labeled as lesbian recording artists, often a lot of very intimate questions are deemed appropriate to ask. I want to know how you handle drawing that line between sharing with your fans and keeping a level of discretion.

She: If they start to say that everything’s just about the queer stuff, or the gay stuff, we try to just kind of direct it more to the music and who we are as people, and that’s just a piece of what our music’s about. At this point, we’re writing music that’s for everyone and just trying to make it really fun and really uplifting. We’re trying to make people feel good and empowered regardless of what their sexual orientation or gender may be. It does get a little tiresome because certain publications really want to focus on that sometimes, but for the most part we try really hard to keep it chill. We try to not really focus on that, to talk about what records we’re doing, what places we’re playing, who we’ve played with, stuff like that. Yeah, it has been an issue. We were in Billboard Magazine and they basically just talked about the fact that we’re queer. And we were all excited to be in Billboard and it was like, “Oh.”

Rumpus: That sucks. I’m sorry.

She: (A car alarm goes off, loudly.) I’m sorry…oh my God! (laughs) She set off the alarm!

(There is commotion, the alarm continues. The phone is handed off.)

God-des: Sorry, she got a little overwhelmed. (Alarm is still going off) Are you there?

Rumpus: Yeah.

God-des: Sorry about that. (Alarm stops going off) It stopped. We’re in the car, the alarm was going off, that was pretty bad. So what were you guys talking about? Where did you leave off?

Rumpus: My last question was what music are you guys listening to right now?

God-des:
Oh man. We listen to a lot of older music, I’ll tell you that much. We listen to Neil Diamond. All the time. I don’t care, I’m proud of it. I really like that “Chasing Pavements” song by Adele, I actually kind of like that Kings of Leon song “Sex On Fire.”

As far as hip-hop, like, man, I haven’t been that impressed with a lot of stuff that’s come out. It’s not really that new anymore, but I really listened to Lupe Fiasco’s last record a lot. And I liked Kanye’s last record, not the one that’s out right now. I like the older records. And I love Public Enemy, big ups to Public Enemy. We really  have a very diverse musical taste, we listen to everything from classic rock to a few country singers, to so much hip-hop and R&B and 80s. We get a lot of influences from a lot of different sources of music.

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Check out the God-des & She homepage and MySpace to find out when they’re coming to your town.


Ainsley Drew is a native New Yorker, freelance writer, and euphemism enthusiast. Her work has been featured in The New York Press, McSweeney’s, The Morning News, and Curve Magazine, among other totally sweet publications. An avid fan of all sports, but especially the NBA, when she's not stalking 6'10" centers she eats way too much Japanese food, plays word games, and hits on anything that moves. Aiming high, she hopes to one day be a notorious literary celebrity with her name in tabloids. She also has eleven fingers, so she can type faster than you. You can find her jerkethic.com and ainsleydrew. Be her Internet friend. More from this author →