Knoxville PrideFest Artist Spotlight: God Des and She
They just wrapped up their first European tour, they released an album earlier this year and now they're headed to Knoxville PrideFest. We're talking about God Des and She who will whip the crowd into a frenzy June 22 when they take over World's Fair South Lawn.
God Des and She continue to bring their socially conscious brand of hip-hop on their latest album, United States of God Des and She. On "God, I Know You Love Me" God Des and She examine the religious hypocrisy in society. On "Don't Look Back," God Des and She bring a Jessie J "Price Tag" melody to a hopeful message of strength when facing loss.
But that doesn't mean God Des and She can't bring the house down with party tunes either. "Ew She Said That" will get hands in the air and butts to drop it low should they perform it at Knoxville PrideFest. And hopefully God Des and She will bestow their reggae influenced "Amazing Grace" on the audience.
O&AN caught up with God Des from God Des and She to talk about Pride, their recent tour and why it took so long between albums.
Can you explain the name God Des and She?
When I came up with the name God Des, I wanted to portray the irony in naming myself something hyper-feminine as most other female rappers do. I searched for a Greek goddess name of some sort but nothing hit me. Then a good friend of mine said "I got it, how bout God Des, a combination of a goddess and you got this." I loved it and it stuck… hard. And well She came about after years of thinking about what would could possibly go with God Des. Copious amounts of tequila in a bar in the East Village bred the name SHE.
Y’all sign your updates Be Out, Be Visible—which you are. You just wrapped up your first European tour. What was that like?
It was incredible to say the least. We had huge turnouts and people who are not fluent in English screaming 'Lick It' as loud as they can was something we will never forget. We also played a lot of political and activist based gigs which were refreshing and inspirational. France is in serious turmoil right now because gay marriage just passed and there is an extremely violent climate for LGBTQ folks; seeing their strength was humbling.
I feel like European audiences are different from American—is that true?
I mean audiences that are engaged in your concert and love what you stand for our awesome worldwide. But in general, Europe is more politically progressive and our crowds were much more diverse than in America.
I caught a performance in 2012 at MSR in Atlanta and y'all performed an Adele cover—who are y’all listening to now?
We are digging Imagine Dragons, Tegan and Sarah, K'nann and Kendrick Lamar is always bumpin' in our tour van.
Congratulations on the new album. Had it really been 4 years between albums? How have things changed for God Des and She?
This is album was pretty much completely DIY. Our fans were really involved in helping us create it. We raised all the money on Kickstarter for it and recorded it completely in our home studio using almost all God Des beats. We didn't care about making anything other than what we felt was important, fun and inspiring. It doesn't fit into any box and we are really proud of it.
Surely over the years, you've been approached by major labels? Why do you stay indie?
We have had a few encounters with major labels but no one ever accepted us for who we are and we have never been willing to compromise that. We never wanted to dumb down our lyrics, change our gender expression, and sing about meaningless crap. So, he were are 10 years later plugging away and singing for the people.
The album opens with the “United States of God Des and She” a track calling for those who believe in equality to stand up—do you consider yourselves political?
Yes, very. We are one of the new openly queer hip-hop bands that have been successful. We address homophobia, racism, classism, sexism and all kinds of things in our music. If you don't like it, BYE!
I’m such a ballad boy, so I dig “Don’t Look Back”—especially the drum roll. What is the inspiration behind that track?
My dad died from Cancer a couple years ago so I wrote the song about my experience of coping with that. SHE lost her mom about 10 years ago and was able to create her incredible singing part drawing from that pain.
I love the album cover for the United States of God Des and She? I look at this Old America / New America juxtaposition, what was the idea behind the cover?
We wanted to be soldiers for equality and point out the hypocrisy of American politics. We are soldiers for peace and use our words and music as weapons.
People may be surprised by the reggae take on “Amazing Grace,” but I think it’s brilliant. What inspired y’all to use that chorus?
SHE just started humming it and we thought it beautifully pointed out some serious contradictions.
You’ve performed in Tennessee before. Any favorite memory?
Gosh, we have had an awesome time every time we have come! Pride in Knoxville last year and Pride in Nashville a few years ago was super fun. And, you guys definitely have the most unique and complicated names. Every time we sign our merch we have to have y'all spell your names cause we have never heard them before. So you guys definitely win for unique names in Tennessee!
Is there a difference in a God-Des & She Pride performance and a performance in another venue?
I think the vibe is different for sure because A) not everyone is totally drunk yet B) the energy is big and free C) People want to feel inspired that day. So yeah, I would say in general the vibe is a bit different.
You were quoted recently in an op-ed on The Advocate website from Eric Himan. Can you talk a little about the struggle for GLBT artists to play prides?
We are fortunate in that we are one of the new openly queer acts that do get hired for a lot of prides. But so many prides never hire LGBTQ artists and keep hiring 80's stars that are not part of our community. We should honor and celebrate the gay pride piece and hire musicians that are part of our community.