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On surviving, advancing and the psychology of hooks

Yo Majesty's "Club Action" 

On surviving, advancing and the psychology of hooks

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LaShunda Flowers is sitting in the Chicago office of Biz3, the music publicity company that's promoting the latest national tour of Yo Majesty, her Tampa-based hip-hop duo. Yo Majesty has released only an EP and a few singles and remixes, but, right now, the duo holds one of the most highly anticipated indie hip-hop records of the year in its hands. The group's 2006 EP put it atop a mountain of praise, built of adulation for both the group's bouncy party beats and the swift, social shit-talking they delivered over them.

Perhaps no song illustrates Yo Majesty's appeal in that binary manner better than "Club Action," which hits simultaneous strides of a memorable hook ("Fuck that shit!" they proclaim), a quirky synth-and-percussion beat (courtesy of English producer David Alexander), and lyrics about partying without artifice, about having fun by being yourself. "Club Action" calls for a party and, in its own underhanded way, for a change.

Flowers and her Yo Majesty partner, Shon.B, wrote the song in 2002, but Shon left Yo Majesty sometime last year. With singer Jwl. B, Shunda K has persevered, and she now seems confident that Yo Majesty—and the world—are ready for something different, for something big. Yo Majesty, as ambitious as they are alluring, may well be it.

"It's time-out for bullshit," she says. "Everybody needs to get their shit together." Well, then, let's restart the process with a party called "Club Action."

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: So I want to talk about "Club Action."

LASHUNDA FLOWERS: [Laughs.] Yeah, that's the song that really paved the way for Yo Majesty. That's not just a song. That's like a force, I say, that paved the way, period. That song made it happen.

Did you know the song was going to be like that?

What happened was back in 1998, it was actually Ya Majesty, y-a. I created the name. I was Ya Majesty by myself. It was a couple of guys in my hood. They were out, too, right? So we all got together, and it was the three of us all together—two guys and me. One of the guys is actually my artist right now. His name is Bla'que Pop. He's the one that actually wrote the hook to "Club Action" because we had a song. He wrote that hook, and then we created that song—me and him and his cousin. So nothing really happened with the little group we were trying to have, so I met Shon.B [a former meber of Yo Majesty] in 2000. When I met her, I'm like, "Look, I got this hook. I'm going to holla at my boy and see if we can use it, but it's hot." He gave us permission to use it. Well, we had already used it, and told him we did. He was cool with it. So we wrote it, and put it down. Actually, we had laid it down before it was on the beat it's on now.

And this is a beat from British producer David Alexander. How did that happen?

I met David Alexander like in '02, so we first wrote the song in 2000. I met David Alexander, the producer of the current track, like in 2002. I was in the studio just chillin' one day and rappin' and shit, and that's how we met. So I brought Shon in and I'm like, "We got this song, like let us put it down. He was like, "Let's put it down to this beat." We was like, "Hell naw, man, we don't like that beat," which is the beat you're hearing now. We didn't like it. But we put it down to that, and—seven years later—it's the force that paved the way for Yo Majesty, that put us on the whole world map, man.

What was the starting point for these verses, the concept?

Me, personally, when I was in high school, I didn't skip classes and stuff. I graduated with honors, so I was in this little paper, a publication they released called Who's Who Among American High School Students. That's why I opened the song like that: "Who? What? What? Me, that's who." I said, "Who's who among the one most wanted/ Yo Majesty, 'cuz so many niggas fronted/ Instead of running from the truth/ Man, just be you/ I'm gonna be me/ Call me ‘Juicy.'" Remember that song "Juicy?"

"Call me ‘Juicy'/ I got ya crazy/ Shun got ya crunk/ And everybody drunk/ It's your birthday month/ And you on the run/ It ain't no fun/ So bounce when you hear this song/ You've waited for so long/ For a nigga to feel how you feel/ This shit is real/ What you know 'bout them X pills? I'm rolling on and on and...." Then Shon came in with her verse.

What did you think when you first heard her rap?

Shon was on some real shit back then, but as time moved on, like, we blew up last year and she was getting a little beside herself. She wasn't writing how she used to, wasn't really putting her all into it. She was just skating through. I guess she felt she had made it. I realized that as soon as we got signed, that's when the work really began. You gotta fight everybody. Know what I'm saying? Ain't nobody living on your side, so you gotta look out for yourself. Through the trials and tribulations we've been going through, I've been learning for myself and I'm just doing what's necessary to survive and keep the movement alive and bring people what they need through Yo Majesty. And that's real love. Yeah.

The EP has been out a while now. What's the plan for the full-length debut on Domino Records?

The album will be dropping in August or September, so I'm assuming they'll be dropping a couple of singles hopefully within the next month or the month after. Aside from that, we're just going to keep touring and pushing it and reaching out to the people.

What's the difference on the LP?

This time around, it's not just all party tracks. "Hustle Mode," "The Monkey" and "Club Action" [all from the EP] are serious because the lyrics aren't really party lyrics. What I just spit to you was some real shit, wasn't it, once I broke it down? Those three songs are kind of like party songs, in the arena. But the album is like, oh my God, epic—from the struggle of being a woman to how you should carry yourself with character and integrity and how it's OK to be a little crazy sometimes but you still gotta have self-control. Really, this album is balance.

Why do you think you got the reputation as a party act when your songs are clearly social critiques, at least in part?

I guess the only reason why we got that reputation is because that's the music that you've heard. Y'all haven't even heard the depth. Y'all ain't even heard nothin' yet. Once the album drops, and they start hearing the diversity.... Like me, I have to see it and hear it to believe it, so I don't blame the people. They gotta write about what they know. They can't write about what they don't know.

Yeah, but they can listen to the lyrics, and write about those, right?

Right. So you asked does it offend me that we're labeled as a party group, and I'm telling you that's the reason why. Those are the only tracks people know, even though we're spitting some real shit.

To me, I think the psychology of listening to a song goes like this: The first thing that attracts you is maybe the harmonies of somebody's vocals plus the track or just the track alone, like if it was some R&B or hip-hop shit if you heard some singing on it. Sometimes the singing can blend in with the track. The second thing is the hooks. People start paying attention to what you're saying in the hooks, and they might hear some shit in the verse that backs up the whole song, and they're like, "Oh, shit." So they like the whole song once they listen to it more and more.

People know that song ["Club Action"] when we're performing lately. I've been seeing people reciting the lyrics and stuff. They're accustomed to that, but they probably ain't even thinking like that. That's why all these other tracks are going to make them go back and be like, "Lemme see what the hell they were saying here." [Laughs.] It's all going to work out for itself.

Yo Majesty plays Local 506 Monday, May 19, at 9 p.m., with Dutchess Headbanger and Rosetta Stoned. Tickets are $10.

  • On surviving, advancing and the psychology of hooks

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