What are you up to right now?
Nothing, except my husband [Declaime] just got deported!
If you don't mind me asking, what for?
It's just governmental bullshit. They just want to control people. I'm quite upset, you know. It's unfortunate the way that Canada do their thing. If you had a situation where it became complicated with the police and even after you pay your dues, they penalize you for something that you did more than 25 years ago. That's what happened with Dudley. The shit was stupid because he's a father. What about the good things people do? Why don't we have a record of that? He's an exemplary father and community organizer. It's just a reminder that hey, just when you think you might be free to walk wherever you want to, they treat you like a child under their government. The children ain't free and we ain't free so it's a very serious thing to me and Dudley. I'm gonna warn you, I'm going to be a bit rawer during this interview.
That's more than understandable. Are you still continuing your tour?
Yeah, we're gonna do the best we can. These two dates [Montreal and Toronto] are with DJ Rhones and I and when we get back to New York, everything's gonna be back to the way it's supposed to be.
Seeds marks the first time that you've worked as a vocalist on an outside producer's instrumentation. How did Madlib end up producing the entire album and do you think he added an extra dimension to your sound?
I think so. You know, this is something that we ain't done before. Dudley came to me with the idea and at first I didn't know how it would work. But I was open to it because Dudley be coming up with great ideas, so it brought out a very visceral, rootsy side of me. When I hear certain instrumentation in a certain way, it brings out something different. So it was really wonderful to sing in more of a roots style. Not [typical] R&B but rhythm and blues. This album has a lot of rhythm and blues and I think it's more smoky and visceral. I really like it. I like the sound quality of it. It's not a pristine recording, it's really something that's from the heart. I feel like it's recorded in a blues style.
Speaking of the blues is the track "The Birth of Petey Wheatstraw" a tribute to that musical style?
"Petey Wheatstraw" is an inside joke that me and Dudley had because when I was in labour, I was actually on the bedroom floor because the pillows were too soft. [laughs] That's when Dudley started saying "Petey Wheatstraw." It was a really visceral birth. It was raw. At the time it was very black because when you're in labour there's a time when you can figure out if you're going to go all the way to the spiritual loving side or all the way to the evil, I'm going crazy at everybody in the room side. I went to the spiritual loving side and I was praying for everyone in the room. It was really deep. I didn't really feel pain. I saw ancestors and stuff. It was a very tribal birth. The other thing that it's about is in America, where I come from, there's this axiom that says the black male is an endangered species. In a lot of ways it's very true, I mean, they are in danger but I wouldn't say they're endangered. The lyrics "original man divine" and "born everyday alive and well" are negating that axiom because I feel like when we adopt certain axioms they become our reality and I'm really not getting with black men being extinct. I love my husband and I love my son and I'm not getting with the police brutality that's left unaddressed when a cop is threatened by a young black male, he can just shoot him and go back to work the next day, so there's certain axioms that I just can't adopt and the best way that I can fight them is with my music. I like to have a past, present, future kind of thing to the music. So original man is the first man, the first people. What were his motivations? One of his first motivations was to protect and love she who brought him into the world. So that's what it's about. Giving our love back to the black male because he needs our love right now. I make it a point for people to know that I'm not on that feminist tip. I see male and females as a counterpoint and it's only in honouring each other for who and what we are that we're gonna get to where we're supposed to be. I guess my alternate form of feminism is to honour the man and honour the woman. "Original man divine" is really praising the archetype of the human and the first human being was a black male. I ain't doing nothing new, there's songs that are 20,000 years old that praise the original man and the first woman. My song structure ain't nothing new. It's an African song structure, I'm just going with a more tribal version of it. You go to any Baptist church you'll find that same song structure where they sing the hook 17 times and just go off. So basically, it's not a pop record but these are things that are important to me. It's spiritual and technological in a tribal kind of way. I want the brothers to hear that music and gain inspiration and contemplate what the thoughts and motivations of the original man were. To contemplate on the clarity of mind that that person had before all this ego shit went down. I hope that people can be down for the journey because there are a lot of layers. I come from a traditional place, I really respect the resources of traditional African culture. It's inspired my art and that's why I like to have a lot of layers not to confuse nobody, just kill more confusion with one stone.
I looked at your twitter page and I read that the title track was a diss against a company named Monsanto. Could you tell me a little about that?
Yeah, somebody had to do a diss record against Monsanto. Monsanto is a food cartel network who are the main people behind this green revolution propaganda. Everybody's on this "think green" bullshit when we really need to think about the earth. On the real tip, years ago they created something [nick-named] "terminator seeds" but before the "terminator seed" they created gene-modifications that would actually have a plant be solely dependent on their patented brand of fertilizer and patented herbicide without water. Doesn't that sound like a certain agenda? Some people might call it idol worship but I feel like water is an immortal entity that we live with and depend upon all the time. It's one of the gods of our time. If you need it and you nurse on water like it's your mama's breast, it has spiritual presence. Someone at this company wants to be equal to god. They want a plant to depend on their herbicide like god and if they can't afford that herbicide the plant will die as if it had no water. With the "terminator seeds" if I buy an apple and enjoy that apple so much that if I would like to grow and give back to that apple's family tree, I plant the seeds in the ground and they won't grow because they're a one orchard crop seed. They terminate the gene that allows the seed to re-create itself. You've got nations all over the world trying to re-create themselves and coming up in the hardest time they've ever had because their food doesn't re-create itself and you are what you fucking eat. We're dealing with a really deep time right now.
What was your mindset during the making of the album?
The album is about my allegiance to the movement of nature. So, like the natural movement of nature is birth, growth, decay and death. I just try and bring all those things together although in my version, when I come to decay I'm really talking about things that need to die in order for more growth to happen. Like how a branch will fall off of a tree back into the earth and gives new life. All of the songs have an element of growth in them. My main focus is to grow. I don't be outside doing nothing else. When I'm outside in my backyard, I stare at a tree and focus on how I can grow just like that tree.
You're quite prolific. What motivates you to maintain your output?
Oh, Dudley does. It's not what motivates me it's who. He does. I've gotten into many a slump when I look at this world. I think "Oh fuck music, I need a megaphone." I look at this world and I question what is music doing? He reminds me of the things that I so hold near and dear to my heart. He's definitely the driving force behind this. I wouldn't even have done [my 2006 debut Olesi:Fragments Of The Earth] had he just not driven me to keep on living. I would have killed myself before I made my first album. That's real talk. The other thing that drives me is my children and I think about the children that might be interested in our music and might want to sample our music in the future. I want some people to sample my shit sometime. There's a bunch of people on this planet and I want to help serve their representation in the arts. People who have put their lives on the line to improve the quality of life on this planet.
How would you describe your sound?
I just call it natural. I wouldn't say that it's smooth or it's raw. Just natural. I don't know, it's black. It's African. Naturally black. [laughs]
Being that you're so prolific, I was wondering if you could tell me about what's up next?
There's so much. We've got Riff Raff coming out. He's a wonderful MC and we're gonna be putting out a seven-inch from him. There's a Charles Stokely record out that's quite amazing that I produced. I just finished another jazz album as "Jyoti" so I'm excited about that. It's a wealth of music. I'm working on another full-length record that's going to be done next year. I'm gonna start to talk about the dreams I have at night so it's going to be kind of other-worldly. We're always making music. The oppressive nations, the governments they're working 24 hours a day and we're out to do the same to help usher in some balance in our society. That's what we're about. That's the reason why we have our own label [SomeOthaShip Connect] because we speak on what we want to speak on and we don't have to be puppets of some production team or manufacture people on who we think they should be. We don't do that shit. We're not raising artists. We're dealing with artists who have their own minds, their own way of looking at the world and ain't afraid of communicating. That's what SomeOthaShip Connect is about.