Release Date: Mar 27, 2012
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Rap, R&B, Pop/Rock, Alternative Rap, Left-Field Hip-Hop, Alternative R&B
From 2008 through 2011, across roughly a dozen self-released EP-length CD-Rs and digital downloads, Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White developed a singular form of Afro-futurist rap-and-soul from far left of center. They referenced Anita Baker and Ronnie Laws, spread their whimsical-yet-purposeful wordplay to titles like "I Nigress" and Sandra Bollocks Black Baby, and held their own with the best of Sa-Ra and Georgia Anne Muldrow. Shortly after appearing on Shabazz Palaces' Black Up, they signed to their fellow Seattle dwellers' label Sub Pop and created this, a stellar refinement of their sound that has its way with the brain and body throughout 30 fluid and varied minutes.
THEESatisfactionawE naturalE[Sub Pop; 2012]By Weston Fleming; April 10, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetMP3: THEESatisfaction - "Enchantruss" MP3: THEESatisfaction - "QueenS" THEESatisfaction has a few simple requests, as outlined on “QueenS,” for those who want to engage their debut LP, awE naturalE. Among these: “Turn off your swag and check your bag,” “Move your groove thang,” but whatever you do, don’t funk with their groove. It is a simple and organic enough philosophy, but it mostly encapsulates what THEESatisfaction is all about: channeling positive, distinctly black, all-loving energy towards something new.
There are many things that set female MC/vocalist duo THEESatisfaction apart in the largely male/straight/materialistic world of contemporary hip-hop. They are partners both in music and in love, Afroed feministas whose lyrics explore issues of race, class and gender with a conviction and clarity that is altogether lacking in their more mainstream counterparts. While their unapologetic air of individualism, politicized lyrical content, and proclivity for DIY production techniques may garner comparisons to early millennial art school rappers such as Peaches and MIA, their jazz based arrangements and MC Stasia Irons’ smooth and laid back flow are more reminiscent of early Q-Tip or frequent collaborator Ishmael Butler’s work with Digable Planets.
As many hacky newspaper articles are sure to tell you, 2012 is the “Year of the Female MC.” Look, I don’t besmirch newspaper editors for trying to find a way to squeeze Azealia Banks into the stuffy confines of old gray ladies, but let’s be honest: Lauryn Hill was one of the top three or five MCs of the ‘90s, and women in rap have been just as marginalized in rock. That there are suddenly a bunch of interesting rappers with two X chromosomes does not a trend make. But at the same time, there’s certainly someone at a major label desk right now, tasked with trying to find the “next” Nicki Minaj.
Amid all the dense and amorphous elements found on Shabazz Palaces 2011 album Black Up, there was one you felt like you could reach out and touch. On a handful of tracks, a pair of forcible female vocalists cut through the seductive murk, anchoring the songs and lodging their voices in your brain. "Play it then, let my soul unwind," one sang on "Swerve...
The trippy, wobbling hip-hop produced by THEESatisfaction (aka Seattle’s Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White) is a breath of rare air, a genre offshoot akin only to label mate and collaborator Shabazz Palaces. When they guested on Ishmael Butler/Palaceer Lazaro’s masterpiece, Black Up, it was as if a pair of futuristic alien-angels had floated down to a Sun Ra jazz temple. While they haven’t repeated the near perfection of that LP, they’ve certainly captured its energy and made it their own on their Sub Pop debut, awE naturalE.
To listen to awE naturalE brings a few things to mind. Like the friends that keep you on track, that keep you rational, that keep your brain in gear, that keep your temper in check. “What are the ideals that hold you back? What kind of support do you lack? Why are we always on the prowl and ready to attack?” they sing, giving pause for thought. It recalls a YouTube video, viewed some time ago (pretty much always trust the recommendations of Stevie Chick), just two girls, raw and hopeful, a throwback to a time of hope.
Seattle – and it’s legendary grunge label Sub Pop – are on a good run, but not for what you’d expect. THEESatisfaction became Sub Pop’s second most significant hip-hop signing from its home city, after Shabazz Palaces’ hypnotising ‘Black Up’ became the label’s surprise trump card of 2011. Their female counterparts in THEESatisfaction, aka Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White, featured heavily in Shabazz’s set-up both live and on record, and are peddling their own brand of fantastical soul on their first effort, ‘awE naturalE’.
awE naturalE is an album without floors or ceilings. It neither begins nor ends. It doesn’t announce its existence with grand intentions or furrowed severity—it prefers to adroitly hover in the air. With 13 tracks in 30 minutes, constantly shifting through disparate vibes, weeded R&B, alien fast-rap chirps—Seattle’s newest bizzaro-rap partnership THEESatisfaction seem solely concerned with making music on their own terms.
It makes sense that Seattle duo THEESatisfaction would have links with Toronto's own 88 Days of Fortune collective of musicians and artists. Both cultivate queer-friendly black empowerment vibes through left-field hip-hop expressionism. In fact, the interplay between THEESatisfaction's Cat and Stas feels like a polished, ripened version of 88 Days' own sing-rap girl duo Bizzarh.
Prior to signing THEESatisfaction, Seattle’s venerable alt/indie imprint, Sup Pop Records, had just one rap act on its roster: Shabazz Palaces, whose left-of-leftfield Black Up featured THEESatisfaction’s Stas and Cat on two tracks. Given the groups’ intertwined history, not to mention their shared penchant for abstract, Afro-futurist jazz-rap, it would be easy to see awE naturalE as a Shabazz spin-off. But THEESatisfaction has invested as many years and as much sweat in Seattle’s rap scene: Their national tours have been at their own expense, and awE naturalE is itself the culmination of three years’ work.
As a hip-hop-flavoured act on venerable label Sub Pop, you're automatically going to create some type of buzz. Doubly so if you're actually any good and Seattle, WA's THEESatifaction fit that bill. "Starting out, we just basically made music for ourselves and we were happy with doing that," says Stasia Irons, one-half of the Afro-futurist rap duo. awE naturalE is wholly reflective of the group's relaxed vibe and sincere, jazz-/soul-driven flow.
"It's a feeling." A simple, abstract hook repeated ad infinitum by MC Ishmael Butler, aka Palaceer Lazaro, on 'Are you... Were you... Can you... (Felt)', from this writer's favourite album of 2011, Shabazz Palaces’ Black Up. Three little words that summed up the record's indescribable vibe better ….
THEESatisfaction Seattle has become a bastion of oddball hip-hop thanks to Shabazz Palaces and its sometime collaborator, THEESatisfaction: the duo of Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White. They rap, sing and produce their own tracks on “Awe Naturale” (Sub Pop), which follows material they have been releasing themselves since 2008. Their voices are bold and playful — rapping, sharing chants or harmonizing in overdubbed layers — with lyrics that offer shards of mission statements.
Comprising of Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White, THEESatisfaction is a Seattle based singing/rapping duo that’ve been making music for quite some time, having self-released a string of albums, EPs and singles since 2008. Perhaps most well known for featuring on Shabazz Palace’s 2011 debut full length ‘Black Up’, the duo’s first proper release ‘Awe Naturale’ shares a label with Shabazz on Sub Pop and he even puts in an appearance on ‘God’. ‘Awe Naturale’ swerves between chilled out jazz and old hip-hop beats with Irons and Harris-White’s also alternating between smooth-like-honey vocals and a smooth flow.
Bruised jazz, Boho hip hop and soulful poetics from singular Seattlites. Stevie Chick 2012 The power of words is something THEESatisfaction never take for granted. But more than that, they know this power is only increased, manifold, when the words are sung and rapped, in voices full of truth, vulnerability and beauty. It’s a power the duo – Stas and Cat, self-proclaimed "queens of the stoned-age" – discovered when they met in college in Seattle, where their greatest pleasure was to sing to each other: first other people’s songs then, later, these songs of their own.