Thursday, February 12, 2004
Music: Go with the flow
Floetry lets success take it for a ride
By Mike Prevatt
When introducing "Sunshine" on its new live album, Floacism "Live," Floetry's Natalie Stewart pointedly reminds the crowd that she and "songstress" partner Marsha Ambrosius wrote every song on its breakthrough 2002 album, Floetic. On one hand, Stewart seems defensive, perhaps in response to accusations of lopsided talent within the duo, or cynicism among pop listeners expecting a Matrix-like songwriting team to be penning its songs. On the other, it's an assertive recognition of artistic transcendence and self-confidence, mercifully stopping short of the usual credibility-pining braggadocio found in most hip hop.
"It wasn't actually said just to blow our trumpets, as it were," says self-described "floacist" Stewart. "It's more being said so that people understand it's our truth. We stand responsible for the things that we say. There's some people are so used to the way that music is now they are supposed to assume someone else wrote them. Marsha and I don't know any other way. We're poets, and you don't really hear of poets being known for something that someone else wrote.
"So when I spoke about that on the live album/DVD, it's more for the empowerment of self, to let people know that, `Y'know, this is a real situation, and I can see you've connected it, and haven't connected to something that's make believe. And it's as real as what you think it is--more so than what I think.'"
Floetry is an empowered nu-soul/hip-hop act that takes its artistry very seriously, but it is also a firm believer in letting its fans receive its music and reinterpreting it as their reality, something to empower them--so much so, the duo feels its cult following and critical praise have taken it on a journey with no obvious destination. "Whichever way it goes is where it's supposed to go," says Stewart.
While Floetic is the result of the duo's creativity at work in the studio, the recently released Floacism captures the exchange of energy between the performers and their audience. It feels extremely intimate, thanks to Stewart and Ambrosius' conversational interludes and articulate performance, the latter sometimes shouted or sung back from the crowd. It's reminiscent of Lauryn Hill's assured idealism and Erykah Badu's stirring conviction, with the enlightened spirit of the spoken word scene that distinguishes them from other alternative urban icons like Jill Scott, Maxwell and India.Arie.
"I think we may be onto something new," says Stewart. "I remember my brother saying to me, `Why are you calling your band the name of the music?' Because there's nothing else to call it. Maybe we have come across something different, maybe this is `floetry'. One has to choose their battles, and I'm learning so much just being out here. Being here, but not being from here, has kind of given us a place where one has to sit down and figure things out for one's self."
While music is Floetry's creative lifeblood--both grew up in London with a purely integrated cultural experience--it makes no secret of being part of a movement fueled by interaction with its fans, themselves a diverse group of music lovers who respond to the duo's universal messages in different ways.
"I have [an Internet] message board I go to every day--the most active message board, I'm sure--and I get to hear what people have to say and what [the music] does for them," says Stewart. "It's not color-coded, it's different countries, different time zones and, if anything, I'm feeling that, y'know? I'm not into fighting for being separate or being mixed. I'm kind of making the music and, whoever hears it hopefully just hears whatever they need to hear."