God-Des and She are big-voiced women who don’t ask for permission or approval. They simply speak their truth, each in their own language.
For God-Des, it’s aggressive raps that bite and scratch with politically charged ferocity. Her caustic flow is tempered by She’s gospel-drawn, soul-drenched vocals. The combination is fire and ice. The lesbian rap duo has been storming through the U.S., gaining national attention after performing their provocative hit, “Lick It,” on the season finale of Showtime series, “The L Word.” The song held the No. 1 spot on MTV’s Logo countdown for 15 weeks.
In this interview, one half of the duo, She, talks candidly about their new album, the legalization of gay marriage, and the audience for queer women in the context of hip-hop’s anti-gay, anti-female, tradition.
IJ: This month you’re releasing your fifth album, “The United States of God-Des and She,” where were you at mentally while making this one?
S: We just addressed every topic that was important at the time. We started to write this record two years ago. We had the fear that (Barack) Obama would be pushed out and the tea party (was) spreading lies about gays, minorities, poor folks, we just were compelled to write about it. Plus God-Des had just lost her dad and was going through so much, music kinda saved her.
IJ: Talk about the instrumentation. There’s a wide range of sounds and styles coming out, reggae, rock, gospel, etc.
S: This record was the first time God-Des did a lot of the production. Making beats was her escape and her salvation from all the stuff she and the world were going through. We are both very eclectic in our tastes and like a wide variety of music so I think that shines through on the production as well as the finished songs.
IJ: Before you got together with God-Des, you played in a rock band. There’s a seamless fusion between your rock aesthetic and God-Des’ hip-hop style. Is that blending of styles something you have to work at or does it manifest on its own?
S: I think we just have natural music chemistry. You can’t fake that, it just is what is. We make sure that we keep each other in check, pushing each other to be at our very best. I don’t know how many hooks I reworked on this record or lines I asked her to change or tweak. Sometimes you can’t see outside of yourself and you need someone you trust to push you even when you might not see it.
IJ: The lyrical content is multidimensional, spanning from politics to personal, universal and intimate, is that intentional?
S: I think we just really wrote from our hearts and guts for this record. For example the song “I Want It Back,” which is about God-Des losing her pops. It wasn’t meant for the record. It was just a catharsis for her. Now hopefully it can be that for many others.
IJ: Talk about the cover art (which features the women in military garb, in front of an American flag) the military overtones, what’s the message?
S: Look, we love America. Our voices are weapons and we are trying to lead the fight for equality. We just want our country to address the issues that affect us and the people we love. We are not mocking America. We want freedom and liberty, which this country is founded on, to be available for every single citizen. So really we are representing the America we would like to see.
IJ: Likewise, is there an overall message you’re trying to communicate on this record?
S: Free to live and be happy. Fighting for our rights. We just want everyone, gay, straight, black, white, brown, different faiths, different people, to just be. If you are not hurting anyone, live and let live. The world would be a happier more productive place. The old greedy white dudes gotta die off sometime.
IJ: Do you feel like you’re painting targets on your foreheads with all of the anti-gay sentiment that’s out there right now? Conversely, do you find that you are repping for the underrepresented?
S: We don’t feel like a target at all. More like a lightning rod for change. Haters gonna hate. We will never cave or give up working towards our goal of making our fans be empowered and validated.
IJ: In your experience, do you believe equal rights for the LGBT community is gaining momentum, especially considering the legalization of same sex marriage in nine states?
S: It’s only a matter of time before gay marriage is a federal law. I feel it. If we can help in anyway all the better.
IJ: What is the audience like for queer women in hip-hop, especially considering hip-hop’s tradition of being anti-gay and anti-woman?
S: Because we always are genuine and speak our truth, it’s real hard to hate on us. Honestly we get more respect because we respect ourselves and we frankly demand it.