Interview: Yo Majesty
photo credit: gretchen robinette
Towards the end of 2006, the infectious shout of ‘fuck that shit’ in Club Action and a banging party delivery tore it up across the net in dozens of re-versionings aimed at getting asses on the floor. Trust me, butch and queer positive as hell, Yo Majesty are one of the most explosive live acts you can expect to see. A riotous response to scene misogyny in the more sexually charged corners of modern hip hop, they are the female 2 Live Crew.
Bouncing around the stage semi naked, screaming about ‘kryptonite pussies’ that ‘make niggers want to cry’ and roaring about masturbation with a crunk fury that’s wholly life affirmative. With their first album soon due out on Domino, they lent vocals and orgasmic yelps to the track ?Sweatshop? by Gruff Rhys’ new project Neon Neon.
So yes, streams of religious ranting were the last thing I’d expected to get in an interview with Shunda K. Whatever, just get ready to bounce on that monkey boy.
Interview after the leap…
Club action was something of a crazed dancefloor smasher, it under went dozens of remixes – I remember being at a festival in Canada last summer and hearing something like five different versions of it over the course of a night – what’s your own fave version of it?
Honestly, my favorite version of it is the original version that was done by YMs producers HardFeelings UK. Also, lets not forget the fact that my artist Blaque Pop wrote the hook to the song when I was jus Ya Majesty in 1998 and me, him, and his cousin had a lil group. When I met Shon B (who is no longer wit the group) in 2000 I asked his permission to use the hook and we ran wit da shit!
I heard you saying in an interview that Club Action is like five years old or something, do you ever get sick of playing it out?
Hell yea, I get so sick of that shit..but its all about the people right? Naw on the real, its ah hott track and I’ll play it as much as I need to so everybody gets ah chance to hear it!!! Its ah powerful song.
I caught Neon Neon over at Dour, Gruff was saying before playing Sweatshop that it was a song about sweatshop conditions in 1820′s Detroit, can you tell us something about what that song is about and if there is much of a political purpose behind the Yo Majesty project? Break Bread seems pretty political too.
Well, as far as my contribution to the song through Yo Majesty I did a little research on sweat shops and thats how I came up with my lyrics, keeping it sexy and stimulating because thats where the music took me.Yo Majesty is political! Hell, the truth is political and that what YM and Shunda K is all about. Its a revolution goin down in the earth man and after a while everybody gona feel da shakening!
How’d you guys hook up with Neon Neon and would you have ever heard much of Gruff from his days in the Super Furry Animals? Can we expect some joint on stage action on the tour that will be passing through Dublin?
They contacted us or our producers (HFUK) contacted them. I really dont know how it all went down. I jus know we killed the track and hell yea, we will get down wit them on tour!!!
Actually, where’s the name Yo Majesty come from actually and can you give us a little bit of detail about how ye got together?
I created the name Ya Majesty back in 1998 as a solo aritst, where 2 years later (2002) I met Shon B and 1 year later (2003) we met Jwl.B Pretty much we were all introduced by a mutual friend and jus came under the Ya Majesty umbrella cause it fit who we all were: the best, fearing God, and willing to die for the cause! The name change came due to bullshit we went through with fake industry exes where we kinda got caught up in some legal ish and dropped the Ya. When we reunited in 2005, we picked up the Yo!
I understand from one or two interview online, that some of you want to head off and start doing some solo material – what can we expect from these projects and please, don’t tell me – are we only going to have Yo Majesty around for a little bit more?
Yo Majesty will last as long as life itself!!! Me personally, I am working on many side projects, one very special one, a mixtape. It gona be called ‘The Best Eva Written…Outcased!!!’ where I will be using all Outkast instrumentals coming from a prespective of being the outcast (black, gay, female) and how I overcame. On this project Im featuring one of my artist JERZY who is a prophet of the Lord as well. So, things are very serious when it comes to Shunda K as a solo aritst and so forth.
Im also starting my own weekly club night in NY where I will give artist an opportunity to come and do their thing jus as I was giving the same opportunity, all for the good of the people. For more info go to www.shundak.com.
Break Bread mentions something about how you used to do a lot of E, and have moved beyond that – now I’m not sure if you see some sort of connection between religious belief and the euphoria that people can derive from it, but do you compare religion to a more natural high but without drugs?
Im not religious first of all. I have a spiritual relationship with God. All religion has done for me is brought me a lot of heart ache and pain, defintely not any kind of joy or excitement!!!
That sense of uplifting faith is very much a parcel of the gospel bible tradition, something we don’t have much of here over in drab Catholic Ireland. So, do you owe much to that gospel tradition?
Instead of calling it ‘that gospel tradition’ I say the ‘Spirit of God’, ‘the Holy Spirit’, or ‘Holy ghost’. I mean when it comes to the annointing of God, nothing, not even Ecstacy can compare!!! I owe all I have to God. I thank Him for Jesus Christ and am coming into an understanding that I’ve never tapped into before. See, I realize that God loves me as I am andso with that knowledge I am able to do my part in this Earth. We all have a responsibility to it ya know???
I remember catching you guys doing a blast of a show over in Toronto, at some stage near the end one of you broke into a speech about God. For whatever ill informed reasons, religion is probably the last thing people might expect Yo Majesty members to be into, so where does God fit into your work?
I am not an entertainer but minister of the Truth of God. God is… Hes everywhere I am. I carry Him with me everywhere I go. I cant depend on ah damn bodyguard to protect me, but, oh give me Jesus, and Im good, Im safe, untouchable even!!!
I hope you don’t mind me asking you this, it’s not a challenge to your own religious views, I know plenty of people with expressed faith in Jesus and they share the exact same sort of ethical concerns and practises of solidarity as myself – but how do you feel about how the American right, homophobia, neo-conservative movement are harnessing faith in Jesus and religion to their own less than Christian purposes?
You said it, ‘to their own less than Chrisitan purposes’. See thats the thing, everybody has used and abused the truth of the Word to justify their own mess. That will all be ceased though andso thats why when you turn you’re television on every morning you’re finding out things about people that damn near takes your breath away; wha they doin in the dark coming into the light!!! Everything, and I mean everything, we do in the dark will come to the light. One of the song titles on the project Im working on is entitled “The Eyes of The Lord Are On The Sinful Kingdom”. Stay tuned for the truth…
There’s hints of Miami Bass and baltimore and a lot more in your music, often some of the lyrics in that sort of genre is very very misogynist, with the female always being on the receiving end of the male’s demands. ye guys seem to be a very strong female response that gets across the often hetro sexist nature of a lot of party music and hip hop. Is that a conscious thing and how do people react to it?
Sometimes niggas hate, but very seldom. Most of the time we get respect for who we are because no matter what we’re keeping it real and thats what so FEW are doing these days!!!
Okay, not that you have to of course, but if you were to place yerselfs in a tradition of protest music or hip hop, who would you see yourself sitting alongside – like what sort of stuff were you listening to that inspired Yo Majesty?
I listed to Snoop and Dre, Outkast, 8Ball & MJG. Twista. But, jus recently I’ve been getting into Public Enemy. All I gotta say is that when I come togehter wit them brothas, its gona be a wrap fa da whole wide world!!! U smell ah new world odor???
Ye’d hooked up with Tax Lo resident Chris O when you came through Toronto last year, who’s on tour with you at the moment? Chris O was seriously good, what other club DJ’s have you worked with and how do you go about sorting a hook up with the people you want to bring on tour with you?
At the moment we dont have a dj…shouts out to my dj, DJ Orion!!! Yall check em out on Shunda K top friends. On the other hand, Im rooting for our producers HFUK to tour with us and play da shit live while we kill it on the mic. Itll be our first time doin it like dat on dis level, but we all ready for dis shit!!!
Okay, so it’s the first time you guys have played Dublin – and shit, we do know how to party over here, can you give readers some idea of what to expect from a Yo Majesty show?
Yo Majesty support Neon Neon at Tripod on November 4th. Their debut album Futuristically Speaking? Never Be Afraid is available for pre-order on www.dominorecordco.com / www.myspace.com/yomajesty4life
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