“This is about being real. Straight up. We believe in what’s just, what’s right, what’s real...” – Shunda K of YO! MAJESTY
When YO! MAJESTY’s self promoted Yo EP surfaced in 2006, everyone who heard it couldn’t help raising an eyebrow along with a fist. With a quickness, the liberating chant of “fuck dat shit” – echoed in the standout track “Club Action” – spread throughout the world as listeners began to wonder, “Just who the hell are these girls and what the hell is their deal?” As the story got out and the group’s music and reputation spread, the curiosity only deepened. The two ladies straightening this amalgam of hip hop, hard rock, gospel, electronica and whatever the hell Parliament was, are Shunda K and Jwl. B, motivating listeners to confront their personal concept of reality from festival stages, Brooklyn loft parties and exclusive rooftop soirees “dripping with billionaires” where the newly initiated are left squirming on the floor. As the group’s outspoken Shunda K states in an impromptu interaction with a fan on YouTube, “Ain’t nobody doing it like YO! MAJESTY. There’s no competition.”
Much was made of YO! MAJESTY’s 2007 shows at the South by Southwest music conference where the swampy, humid air of their hometown of Tampa seemed to follow them, and where Jwl. B was moved to toplessness during most of her performances. Jwl. explained away this historic occurrence in the pages of the New York Times stating “...your boy 50 Cent does his show with his shirt off. Why can’t I? God made me who I am, and I’m comfortable in it. I want people to know you don’t have to look glamorous to be an inspiration.” “Fuck him,” Shunda K defiantly responded to a similar comment about 50 in URB Magazine. “This ain’t no fairytale shit.” AMEN.
In a genre that has veered sharply away from Afrika Bambaataa’s original message of peace, love and thought, YO! MAJESTY is an incomparable force that brings anyone with ears something to
breathe (and pant) a sigh of relief over. Hip hop has become overrun with lyrics that are anti-women, anti-gay, pro-bling and frankly, boring. It’s all about them, and none about you – YO! MAJESTY ain’t having it. Shunda and Jwl. both embody the best elements of Chuck and Flav as an overtly sexual Public Enemy that draws you in with flash and then sets about realigning your dome. The girls ain’t wearing no clocks, but you best believe they know what time it is.
Now, with the upcoming release of YO! MAJESTY’s much anticipated, never to be duplicated full-length, Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid (out on the 29th of September 2008), listeners will find themselves with just as many questions as answers. Shocking lyrics, deep spirituality, matter of fact sexuality (these girls dig on girls), and an overriding commitment to consciousness elevation are brought together on a record that cannot be ignored, and regardless of perception, will be received as an instant classic. Prince’s whole career has been built on cornerstones of God and sex, Marvin Gaye said both “What’s Going On” and “Let’s Get It On,” and like these legends, the women of YO! MAJESTY have lent their intensely unique perspective to this conflicting conversation. And you know you’re listening!
Signed to Domino Records in 2007, Shunda K and Jwl. B have spent the last year performing around the world and hooking up in the studio with the world’s freshest producers including Basement Jaxx, Sunship, Radio Clit, Dee Kline, Germany’s CLP, Switzerland’s Mercedes and with what has become the YO! MAJESTY home team, Hard Feelings UK. The resulting album is not a mere debut – it’s more of a debut philosophy, a debut mantra, a debut that takes hip hop back to the muthafucking people and rips, tears and destroys preconceived notions about all manner of topics, including those that have formed about Shunda K and Jwl. B themselves – two women that managed to fight through the bullshit to be here with you today when they are most needed.
On Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid, what you hear is what you get. Shunda K and Jwl. B are as open about who they are and how they live as any performer really can be. The album’s tracks reveal all of the frustration, fun, fright and frolic that pervade our lives, all while maintaining the utmost levels of integrity and character. Didja think you’d have a tough time relating to two black lesbians from the hood??? Hell nah.
On the album’s startling opener “Fucked Up,” Jwl. B summons demons deep commanding “I want some attention!!!” amidst a tale of destroying a partner’s bathroom and car. Shunda takes the mic on “Night Riders” advising “I got ya covered, even if you ain’t my colour, sister, brother,” over a barely controlled beat that will be the essential soundtrack to many a goose bump. Things get into hyper drive on “Blame It On The Change,” another of the album’s plethora of potential singles, where Shunda K makes it plain stating, ”All excuses were nailed to the cross anyway, pick yourself up, get on your way, life is what you make.”
This leads us into the album’s title track “Never Be Afraid,” as clear an indicator of YO! MAJESTY’s plans for humanity as there ever could be. YO! MAJESTY’s respect for its listeners runs past 10 – “Don’t stop, ‘til we touch your soul,” they sing on another of Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid’s standout tracks “Don’t Let Go.” Next up, Basement Jaxx busts through your area code as the needle is dropped on a massive club banger “Booty Clap” – don’t just stand there lookin’ like a fool – MOVE! “Bootylicious, very yummy, in my dictionary honey,” raps Jwl. B at the very moment that every little girl who was concerned about not being so little looks in the mirror and loves what she sees.
The tender and subtle side of YO! MAJESTY is revealed over the course of the next couple of tracks – the melodic “Buy Love” with its refrain “I will always make sure that you smile, because you know that I’m close,” and Shunda K’s call to the people “Get Down On The Floor” which is as at ease at a cool couple’s wedding reception as it is when the sun is coming up and shining through the windows of your favorite all-night hot spot.
“Hott” kicks up the dust again with another raw and sexual number from the YO! MAJESTY arsenal (“Have you ever had an orgasm when you’re pissed?”) “Leather Jacket” is the album’s best example of YO! MAJESTY’s sense of humuor. It’s a tune for all women that have had to deal at one time or another with a dude who really thinks he’s happening. Guess what? No, it’s not working. Jwl. B is telling you so, brotha man!
“Grindin’ and Shakin’” – ain’t nothin’ wrong with it! Do it, do it, do it! A stomping beat looking for a remix artist or 12, this one comes late in the game and adjusts your heart to just the right tempo. And ya don’t stop as we do the slide right in a trio of numbers designed for baby making. “Party Hardy” contains a key Jwl. B hook that should pay rent on its space in your mind. The now-classic “Club Action” follows – a tune which surmises that when your existence is touched by the forces that try to keep you down, “fuck dat shit.” “Take It Away” closes the record with a live mainstay that is a YO! MAJESTY theme song of sorts. The track captures the exact moment that any lady who just might fall in love or lust with Shunda K is going to when she spits,”…jook wit me, shook wit me, baby throw the line put da hook in me!”
The release of Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid is preceded by the Kryptonite Pussy EP , which some just call the “dirty” EP, and consists of five tracks not available on the debut album. This special item is not to be missed as it contains many essential YO! MAJESTY cuts including the fan favorite title track where YO! MAJESTY becomes a next level, female 2 Live Crew (“Your punani better make that money!”), the off-colour sex anthem “Hey There Girl,” the most blatant declaration of female on female sexual conquest ever put to tape (“I’m gon’ make that pussy pop!”), Shunda K’s political manifesto “Break Bread” (“Reparations break me off, but I’m still gon’ talk!), one of Jwl. B’s signature rave-ups, “Monkey” and “Hit It and Quit It,” where a fun beat underlies the harshest safe sex song ever – a track so real and raw, it was decided to relegate it to this EP to keep from potentially appalling the audience during the album listening experience. This is a statement that must be heard and understood as YO! MAJESTY aims to wear out dance floors and old modes of thought alike.
Ready to forget everything you thought you knew? It’s time. Now, stand up and never be afraid!
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