Photos by Elliott Ashby
“We’re gonna go in tonight!” When Floetry took the stage at B.B. King in New York City last month, Natalie “The Floacist” Stewart announced Floetry’s intention for the evening as she and Marsha “The Songstress” Ambrosius were met with nearly a decade’s worth of pent-up applause and cheers. Natalie went on to express that the night would be a “family reunion” of sorts as the duo ran through joint classics and individual songs, each also taking turns to command the stage solo for a bit.
The sentiment of a family vibe was mutual throughout the room, as well — when Natalie told everyone to “sing as if in you’re in your shower or car with the windows rolled up” during “Hey You,” the audience was happy to oblige and join in. When Marsha confided that she was a little “ratchet” (and should be pronounced “ratch-AY” because she’s British and sophisticated), her kindred in the room laughed as she continued, “I’m always the one who wants to turn up… and the first to go to sleep. But I’m about it in the moment!”
And the moments have been plentiful for the pair since they first joined forces in 1997. While their solo careers gave us multiple hits (including collaborations with Robert Glasper, Just Blaze, Alicia Keys, Dr. Dre, Raheem DeVaughn and Musiq Soulchild, among others), the response to their reunion proved it was clearly a time of celebration for fans (one of whom we noticed sang along to nearly the entire set at the show we attended). With two studio LPs — Floetic (2002) and Flo’Ology (2005) in addition to the live album Floacism (2003) and 1.5 million albums sold, Floetry established a legacy as one of soul music’s most beloved acts. Seeing the curtain rise once again on their collaborative efforts while honoring their solo work was a perfect combination on stage.
From Natalie’s poetry and uplifting mantras to Marsha’s lead on the classic cover of Michael Jackson‘s “Butterflies,” they made everyone forget about their 2007 split, lulling us with “Say Yes” and “Getting Late,” and hyping the crowd with “Floetic” before their encore of classic funk and hip-hop hits that included Rob Base’s “It Takes Two,” the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” theme song and Cameo’s “Candy.” Before leaving the stage, they took another moment to thank fans for supporting them for so long and for joining them on was truly a special occasion.
After the set, we took a minute with Marsha and Natalie backstage to talk about the reunion and their relationship with fans.
OKP: Tell us how it feels to be back on stage performing together and getting that energy from the crowd — who was obviously really excited to have you all back together.
Marsha: Man, I mean…for her and myself, that’s the easiest thing to do. Above and beyond us being Floetry, we’re friends 21+ years. With our eyes closed, we can go right back. Time is relative. The crowd that sang all the songs that people connected to… this is new energy. This was reassurance that the crowd will come to see what we do, what we’ve always done. It sounds cliché — well, it’s not like you weren’t in the crowd and didn’t feel it yourself. [laughs] I can say it all day, but for me, I can close my eyes and it’s like we are in 2002. We are in 2005. We are in 2000. Like, literally, it [the time spent away] doesn’t matter. It hasn’t skipped the energy. We’re friends and family alike.
Natalie: I meant what I said. It was a family reunion, a gathering of people. They were the people that lifted us up. They gave us this experience that we have. It was quite deep. It’s a wink and a nod like “it’s the Floetry experience.” We know we’re going to go in. We know it’s going to open us up. We know we’re going to have a great time together. It’s a blessing. I remember our first time [at B.B. King] was a Grammys afterparty. It was The Roots Grammy after party. We snuck that door open. Common was here because he just won best producer for Erykah Badu’s “Love of My Life” and Erkyah was saying to him, “that’s what happens when you work with me, baby. You win a Grammy!” Everyone was in here. We had the time of our lives. We met Prince here, too. It’s a reminiscent place. All of that said, it was a blessing [to be back]. It was lovely.
OKP: It’s really clear from the response the audience gives you throughout the set that you touch people with your words and music. What does it do for you as artists to experience it and to know that?
Marsha: It’s a driving cause. I think the intention behind our art is to touch first. It’s not about it being correct or being right or wrong. It’s an emotion. It’s a feeling. If I’m having one of my ratchet moments, it’s an absolute honest moment. Nat speaking life into people that would otherwise not hear a word you’ll say. Being able to change minds through the music is somewhat overwhelming. Not intentional, but there’s intent there. It just happens.
Natalie: Marsha was trying to get me to take a musical career seriously when we were like 15, 16 at school. I was in a girl’s group. She was trying to convince me to go solo. I was just singing because I was in an art class, but that’s what you do in a performing art school. I saw an interview with Maya Angelou, rest her soul, and the interviewer said “you’ve touched so many people’s lives…how does that feel?” and she replied “oh, that’s why I’m here. That’s my purpose.” There’s a lot of Floetic songs that are pieces–are journals–as much as they are poetry or songwriting. They are very personal moments or ideas and thoughts that have come out of personal experiences. It’s not so much about being intentional. It’s not about gassing yourself up. It’s about being in a submissive place with your own craft. And then it’s very gratifying to get back. No one is going to come up to you and say exactly what you meant when you wrote it, but it is a beautiful exchange.
Catch the remaining dates of the Floetry tour and stay tuned to OKP for what the duo does next.
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