Release Date: Feb 24, 2015
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Rap, R&B, Alternative Rap, Left-Field Hip-Hop, Alternative R&B
Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White switch it up a bit for EarthEE, their second proper album for Sub Pop. While AwE NaturalE involved only one guest appearance, the duo here get input from fellow Seattle native Erik Blood, who co-produces everything with them and adds some instrumentation. Additionally, a handful of musicians contribute sparingly, and Shabazz Palaces' Ishmael Butler and new labelmate Porter Ray float through in a supplemental vocal capacity.
On their sophomore release for Sub Pop Records, THEESatisfaction double down on their aesthetic and vision and do what record executives dread: make a focused album that eschews any trends, making Sub Pop the perfect home for their project. Expanding on the sound palette of their fantastic debut AwE NaturalE, the Seattle-Brooklyn duo goes into even more spaced-out territory, crafting 13 smooth and complex tracks that all blend together seamlessly. EarthEE includes a cast of recurring characters, such as Shabazz Palaces' Ishmael Butler and longtime collaborator Erik Blood, with the addition of some new voices, including Meshell Ndegeocello — whose contributions couldn't be more pitch-perfect — and Sub Pop newcomer Porter Ray on the standout title track.
THEESatisfaction, the musical project from Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons, has been spiritually and sonically connected to fellow Northwest rap innovators Shabazz Palaces for a long while now. Though the two released some mixtapes on their own, it was their appearances on Shabazz Palaces’ Black Up that first got them wider recognition, and THEESatisfaction’s debut, AwE NaturalE made it clear that attention was well warranted. This was never a story, though, about one group owing the other.
THEESatisfaction have released plenty of music in the three years since their well-received debut, ‘awE naturalE’, including a mixtape titled ‘THEESatifisfaction Loves Erykah Badu.’ You can hear Badu’s influence across ‘EarthEE’, which flows as freely as its predecessor, but is more sonically detailed and rich. Vocally, the Seattle-based duo bite harder: “Researching rhymes dictionary, a thesaurus/If it was in your heart you wouldn’t have to work hard”, raps Stasia Irons on ‘Blandland’ – a swipe at phonies. Elsewhere they tackle identity (‘Post Black, Anyway’), self-awareness (‘Universal Perspective’) and sex (‘Nature’s Candy’).
The Seattle duo of Stasia ‘Stas‘ Irons and Catherine ‘Cat‘ Harris-White, together THEESatisfaction, seemed to strike upon a fresh approach to contemporary black music on their debut album AwE NaturalE. Not quite hip hop, but also not quite R&B, its purposefully brief, sketchy songs created a sense of radicalism and disorientation. It was compelling in its own right – giving the duo an original identity away from their association with Shabazz Palaces (who again feature on this follow-up).
THEESatisfaction's Sub Pop debut awE naturalE featured few hooks and choruses, focusing instead on instrumental grooves and the atmospheric flows of Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons. The album produced a hit in "QueenS", however, and launched the duo into a career post-Black Up, where they first gained recognition singing with Shabazz Palaces. Their follow-up, EarthEE, once again eschews easy hooks, creating an atmosphere both otherworldly and familiar through its production and stream-of-consciousness verses.
With EarthEE, THEESatisfaction, the R&B-and-more duo of Stasia “Stas” Irons and Catherine “Cat” Harris-White, almost make it easy on us but remain hard to place due to their genre-bending ways. At 44 minutes, the album is 50 percent longer than THEESatisfaction’s 2012 debut, awE naturalE, running the same duration as their friends Shabazz Palaces’ excellent space-rap odyssey Lese Majesty (minus the seven-suite structure). Sure enough, the first two singles, the partly chanted “Recognition” and then the more straightforward hip-hop of the title track, emerged as relatively full-bodied compared to the more fleeting moments of awE naturalE.
It has always struck me as odd that there aren’t more albums about climate change. Arguably being the most crucial social justice issue of our age, you’d think it’d be enough to galvanise sections of the punk community, for instance. Yet it remains strangely absent. It’s a breath of fresh air, then, to see it emerge from the hip-hop scene thanks to THEESatisfaction’s second album EarthEE – at once a lamentation of what we’ve lost, and a hopeful reflection on the capacity for change.
If the narrative of TheeSatisfaction’s career thus far has been consistently intertwined with its Sub Pop labelmates and frequent collaborators Shabazz Palaces, then Earthee is the duo breaking free of that narrative and crafting one for itself. Earthee is in many ways a natural follow-up to 2012’s Awe Naturale, in that it takes the sounds of the group’s debut record—the spacey riffs on jazz, soul, and hip-hop—and expands on them. It’s an album that’s more melodically complex, more challenging, and more impenetrable, yet never unlistenable.
THEESatisfaction exist outside of time. They channel the power of ancient Egyptian queens, summon the grace and style of 60s jazz icons, and speak with the prophetic voice of visitors from a future we can't even imagine. And yet EarthEE THEESatisfaction's triumphant follow up to 2012's awE naturalE, feels deeply infused with this exact moment. Black America and its allies around the world roil with righteous anger.
Theesatisfaction EarthEE (Sub Pop) THEEsatisfaction cultivates a garden of heady, laid-back grooves, but sophomore LP EarthEE is anything but easy listening. The Seattle duo of singer Catherine Harris-White (Cat) and rapper Stasia Irons (Stas) belong in the long lineage of Afro-futurists like Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Octavia Butler, and Erykah Badu. EarthEE sounds like an alternate universe where Digable Planets never broke up and continued to evolve, particularly when Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces (formerly Butterfly of DP) is involved.
If you’re normally averse to any band whose name features both capital and lower case letters like jumbled text speak, THEESatisfaction may well be an act to make you think otherwise. Their criminally underrated 2012 debut album awE naturalE was enough to introduce their alternative and futuristic R’n’B style to the world via Sub Pop Records. But now, having stewed on their unique grassroots sound for a few years, they return with second offering EarthEE.