Interview – Yo! Majesty
December 22, 2008 § Leave a comment
Published: The Vine, December 16, 2008.
Proudly religious and openly gay Floridian booty-rap duo Yo! Majesty have been plying their brash brand of Southern crunk, classic, 80s electro rap and all-girl bravado on the underground for best part of a decade now.
Known for their script-flipping take on the hip-hop’s gender politic, their volatile tits-out live shows have become legendary. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 2006’s Kryptonite Pussy EP that Shunda K and Jwl B – not to mention former cohort Shon B – came to the wider attention of hipster set.
But success hasn’t been kind. While last month saw the release of their long-awaited debut album Futuristically Speaking…Never Be Afraid, Yo! Majesty’s brief reign has been blighted by endless in fighting and conflict, with recent reports suggesting Shunda K and Jwl B were no longer on speaking terms.
On the eve of their first (and perhaps last) Australian tour, we chatted with an outspoken Shunda K about all things Yo! Majesty.
Hey Shunda, how are you?
What’s up Dan! How you doin’? Where you at man?
I’m down in Melbourne, it’s raining, you know, it’s okay. Where are you at?
I’m in Florida and it’s actually chilly outside, like 55 Fahrenheit, which to Floridians is like ‘Oh my god, I’m going to freeze to death’. Everyone’s got out their coats and shit. I just got off a UK tour and it’s very cold there you know, so I’m just walking around with shorts on and they think I’m crazy.
Didn’t you move to Brooklyn recently?
Yeah, well I went to New York for about a month. I started a weekly club night there at this spot called the OS Art House and the promoter kind of flaked out on me. It seemed like he had some mind relapse or some shit. I’ve been coming in contact with a lot of people who don’t seem to have too much mental stability, who’ve been fucking up what I’m trying to do and make me look bad, you know? Seems like this world’s full of them.
I just want to deal with leaders and people who know who they are, not people who are afraid and have got all these excuses why they can’t, you know?
Has it been a pretty unusual couple of years for you, having played around for so long, then to suddenly find yourself in this world of labels and PR and promoters and so on?
Yeah, but on another level, man. I mean, my background has been hip-hop, so it’s unusual for me to be coming through to the public through the indie world. Not this one genre but just indie, period, you know? In the world of record labels and shit, indie is considered to the lowest, right? So I’m starting at the bottom and working my way to the top, because the way I see it, I look forward to taking over the world like the Jheri curl, you know what I’m saying? I mean, this is what’s up!
I love the hood and, you know, I was saying this to someone the other day – no matter what’s happened, it seems like I’m always dealing with people from the hood. They’re not white-collar, you know? They’re people who work hard and when they spend money, they’re investing in something that’s valuable to them, so I appreciate them buying Yo! Majesty tickets and coming to the show.
So it’s unusual to see us come through that way, but it’s a blessing because I’m like okay, well, what if we got a million dollar record deal? Where would my head be at? Would it really be on the principles that I express and profess to live by, or would I just be fakin’ it to make it like every other motherfucker out there? So I got no complaints man. I just realised today that everything that I want to do, I’m going to have to do it myself first, so I can learn how to do it and then I can teach the people that I employ.
So you think of yourself as a leader?
Not trying to come at you with some ego or anything like that, but I’m just keeping it real man! I know that I’m a leader on this earth and I know that I have a responsibility. I’m coming through from being Shunda K of Yo! Majesty to just Shunda K, and Shunda K ain’t promoting smoking no weed or anything like that, because the main thing now is to handle my business! I got a president I need to be supporting through my music, you know what I’m saying? Because as a musician, you have the greatest form of media attention outside of being the president of the United States and I want to used that to do something productive. I’m changing man! Changing!
I’ve read a lot about the tensions between you and Jwl B. How are you guys at the moment?
I’ve got the same objective and when it comes to performing anytime, period, I’m going to put my name on the line. You’ve got to remember, Yo! Majesty belongs to me. I invented it. It was a name I had for myself before I even met Shon and Jwl, you know what I’m saying? I was Yo! Majesty by myself. So my main thing when it comes to dealing with people and being in front of people is to give them what they need. Just because Jwl might be enticing me onstage, y’all can’t see that because Shunda K keeps it moving professionally, you know. That don’t mean that I need to stop the show and whoop her ass and make everyone sceptical about shit.
I’m gonna just keep this shit moving professionally and grace the stage however I grace it because what’s for me is for me and ain’t nobody going to stop me. I’m destined for greatness, you know what I’m saying? So whatever’s going on with Jwl, I’ll be praying, because I was her friend, I was there for this chick – heart, mind, body, soul and toll – and all I got was her ass to kiss in return.
How do feel about still performing together then?
I feel free, as free as I can be, you know? I’m feeling solid, like concrete, that everything that belongs to me is mine and God’s. But I have a responsibility to the people and that’s why I was even blessed with the talent. God said that everything he made was good and very good, right? So then you have the so-called fall of Adam and Eve and all that kind of shit. Well what if the world was perfect? That would be some boring shit! Just through these imperfections we have all these personalities and creativity and shit we can watch on movies and real shit and all this stuff, just thought imperfection. Now that’s the good shit!
So what I can only do, in spite of everything I’ve been taught and everything I’ve been raised to believe, I just want to go forth and do what feels right and good to me. And what I believe is that if everybody went and did what they felt good and right for them, then we’d have a balance. We all are important as individuals and we all make up this world, and when shit ain’t on track, shit just ain’t on track. But if we all did what we believed was right for us and we all came to a place of personal balance, then maybe everything would be all right, you know.
A lot has been made of your sexuality in the press. How do you feel about that?
This is what I feel – I feel like when you call me you’ve already got a pre-written script and you’ve got your questions that you want to ask me. But man, more than that, I want to meet you as an individual and I want you to ask me what you want to ask me. Hell, they hired you for your talent, you know what I’m saying? They hired you for who you are. So ask me what they hell you want to ask me, because that’s what’s going to make this story man and make people buy this shit! You know what I’m saying?
It’s like this circle man. If it weren’t for me, your ass wouldn’t have no money because you wouldn’t have no talent to write about. I’m trying to reverse this shit! That’s where my head is at! I want all my money baby! And I’ll tell you how much I’m going to give you! You don’t tell me how much you’re going to give me when this is my shit (laughs)!
And you know, that’s what I told Domino Records. It was like ‘Look, if you’re not going to release me as Shunda K instead of Yo! Majesty, I’m just going to boycott your shit’. I’m going to get me some t-shirts that say ‘I am never wrong’, so y’all can read it because this is my vision. Y’all supposed to be the help mates and make it happen by bringing your resources to the table. You don’t try and take over my shit like you know where it is going to go. And when y’all sit there looking all shocked like you’re gonna have a heart-attack not knowing what the hell to do, and when I’m here trying to give you divine instruction from the Lord himself, you mean to tell me that you are never wrong and I just need to listen to you and just deal with the bullshit and take it for the pain (laughs)?!
I’m on some other shit man. Nobody’s going to make me feel bad for exercising the greatness I was born with.
People tend to talk about your music in social political terms. I get the feeling it’s more personal than that…
It’s totally personal man, but people see it as some revolution shit, when all we’re doing is being ourselves. Like, if you kept it real at least 50 per cent of the time, you’d be able to pinch a little bit of this too. But Yo! Majesty is telling you how it I.S. is. But yeah man, people were really onto it and inspired and shit. It was like, ‘I know some black bitches from the hood, they’re gay and despite what people say about them, they’re doing their thing – now I know I can!’
All of a sudden people are talking about us teaching people to rid themselves of hate and misogyny and all this other kind of shit. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know what this stuff was. For people to be writing that in articles about me, I had to be going to the dictionary when I was reading it. And you know, I’m inspired by that. You know, people are writing this kind of shit just from me doing what I do. Let me keep doing that, you know! That’s what’s up!
Yo! Majesty – Australian Tour
Phillip Island – Wednesday December 31
Pyramid Rock Festival
More info: http://www.thepyramidrockfestival.com
Sydney – Thursday January 1
Field Day Festival
More info: http://www.fuzzy.com.au
Melbourne – Saturday January 3
Street Party Presents
Yo Majesty + Special guests Gameboy/ Gamegirl + M.A.F.I.A + Grouse DJs
34 Franklin St, Melbourne
Tickets available through Moshtix: http://www.moshtix.com.au
Sydney – Sunday January 4
Days Like This Festival
More info: http://www.dayslikethis.com.au
Futuristically Speaking…Never Be Afraid out now via Domino/EMI