Shared Universes

Photo by Amanda Lopez

BY Kyle MullinPublished Jul 5, 2017

"I was very intentional for the lyrics on this album," says Cat Harris-White, aka SassyBlack. "I ain't a ho… I like taking control," she sings on her sophomore LP New Black Swing, along with "I want to… Make you my king or queen."
There are confident yet subtle strains of feminism and queer culture throughout the work of the promising alt-R&B artist who first came to prominence as part of the now-defunct duo THEESatisfaction.
As laudable as her progressive stance is, it hasn't made things easy for her. "There are a lot of folks who say, 'I don't know where we're going to fit queer music in there,' or 'This doesn't fit in this realm or that.' And I say 'Why not? You just gotta change a couple of the pronouns around,'" Harris-White says, of some narrow-minded industry types that she frequently butts heads with.
It led her to make "the beats catchy and something you could live with" on New Black Swing, while also "wanting the lyrics to speak to people in a different way."
A prime example is "Satisfied," where a retro '90s New Jack instrumental is juxtaposed not only with its aforementioned "king or queen" refrain but also verses where Harris-White promises to "share my world view, and encourage you to have your own world too."
"I wanted these lyrics to be inspirational and romantic," she says. "A lot of relationships are so own-y, where you're both like 'You're mine.'" She adds that far too many hip-hop and R&B tracks have equally possessive connotations. "Everyone's singing now like 'You know you need it, you know you want it.' Just mad aggression."
It prompted Harris-White to "encourage healthy communicative relationships on 'Satisfied.' Not one person sharing and another following. I wanted that song to be about a sharing of universes."

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