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Crouching “Tortoise,” Hidden Magic: The Jazzyfatnastees Chat

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- interview: jianda johnson

On the day the Jazzyfatnastees’ second release is out (“The Tortoise and the Hare”), we call Tracy Moore, one half of the one-two power punch that is the Jazzyfatnastees . She is stranded in Memphis, Tennessee.

“Home of Elvis Presley, ‘The King!’ Tracy enthuses. Apparently, it’s hot out, and there’s been a mix-up about her hotel. Okay…she’s not stranded , really. As we got to talking, she sauntered over to the pool to recline. All nice, natural and cool, just like her music.

JJ: So, you’re touring on the Sprite Liquid Tour with Talib Kweli. How’s that coming along?

Jazzyfatnastees:It’s going well. It’s been nice, and pleasant. I can’t complain. It’s cool, because we had to take a hiatus (Mercedes Martinez, “the other sis,” recently had a baby), so I had free time. Gave me something great to do.

JJ: Excellent. So, what inspired the title of your album?

JFN: Well, you think of that old folk tale. The tortoise is sure and steady and consistent on his path, and the hare is quick to get to the finish line. All he cares about is being the winner. And it just parallels the path we’ve taken with the industry. Staying steady to what our truth is, as opposed to trying to race ahead, like the music industry usually does.

JJ: Jazzyfatnastees used to be a bigger crew, and then there were two—you and Mercedes. How did the Jazzyfatnastees come to be to begin with?

JFN: We really felt like the only people who could write what we wanted to say, was us . And when the “Jazzies” first formed. we were that kind of group. We agreed to be together, and immediately understood that each voice needed to be heard equally–and we didn’t feel like another writer could do that.

JJ: The Jazzies had mentioned in the press there were some challenges with record labels—people trying to stick you in a genre box….trying to make you like En Vogue….

JFN: The four of us, when we formed we wanted to write our music. We knew what we wanted to do. And upon doing that, we immediately stared getting people wondering how we were actually going to pull it off. Our song structures were atypical. We were all lead singers with four-part harmony. How are we going to make it work, everybody wondered? We were fighting to be heard, and for each one of our individual voices to be heard. So, by the time the whole Tommy Boy thing ended and we searched for a new home (we found that in the Roots, their management), we had been together for like, three or four years. So, we learned a lot of things on our own. No one was taking us seriously because we were girls. We were younger, but still…when I joined, I was 22. We were young, but we weren’t that young!

JJ: Tell us how you feel about “neo soul.” How do you feel about the promo machine? The construct vs. our reality…the “business” part of the music business?

JFN: What they call “neo soul,” we were doing that in ‘92 or ’93, and at the time, people thought we were out of our minds! We just didn’t care that nobody liked it. So, it’s funny, because we fought so hard for so long to be heard. So much of music then was so contrived. I definitely feel like if that’s where your heart is and what your music is about, more power to you. I don’t have a problem with that. I just don’t see why we have to one-up each other. Why we can’t all just be a collective, and work towards expanding the minds of our children who, at this point, don’t have a clue what real music is about.

Also, it doesn’t matter who’s making’ it—the Roots, Jazzies, Maxwell, Talib Kweli, Common…as long as it’s comin,’ it doesn’t matter where it’s coming from. As far as black music and this particular movement, it’s always “one person on top.” There’s D’Angelo, then Maxwell knocks him out, then Erykah, then Jill knocks her out…

About Jianda Monique

  • Eric Olsen

    Excellent – love your interviews!