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First Look Friday: Shanaz Dorsett - "Four Walls And A Garden" [Premiere] + Exclusive Q&A
First Look Friday: Shanaz Dorsett - "Four Walls And A Garden" [Premiere] + Exclusive Q&A

First Look Friday: Shanaz Dorsett - "Four Walls And A Garden" [Premiere] + Exclusive Q&A

First Look Friday: Shanaz Dorsett - "Four Walls And A Garden" [Premiere] + Exclusive Q&A

South London's Shanaz Dorsett is but the latest addition to the UK's burgeoning organic soul roster. While she's been a quiet one over the last few years, it appears the powerhouse vocalist is making her way to the grand stage and her fresh new frequencies are the guiding light, showing the way in an abyss of drugged and dragging PBR&B. Today we have the pleasure of premiering a bold clip from lilting Londoner with the video for "Four Walls And A Garden."

The track boasts some serious boom-bap flavors; a hard knock on the drums accompanied by touches of popping electric pianos driving the groove deeper and deeper into the pocket. All the while, Dorsett affectionately glides over on the wings of a soaring vox, airy and refined. It's our first taste of her upcoming 5-track EP Mother Tongue and it's got us wondering what else she's got in store for the heads.

.Luckily, we had the opportunity to catch up with the spry soul-smasher and rap with her about her forthcoming project, delving into her influences, creative processes, what's been in heavy rotation and what we can expect to hear rom her next. You can watch the vivacious visual for "Four Walls And A Garden" below, just be sure to scroll down and get acquainted with Dorsett in an intimate Q&A session. NYC fam can bear witness to the sonic schemes of Miss Dorsett live and direct on October 14th, as she'll be celebrating the release of Mother Tongue at Piano's. Hit the link for more info.

--->>>Join Shanaz Dorsett At Piano's For The Mother Tongue Album Release

So how old are ya?

A lady never tells! Let’s just say I’m about as old as "Straight Outta Compton," "Lyte as a Rock" and "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back."

And where are you from?

(deep breath) I was born in South East London and my Mum’s side are Turkish Cypriot, Dad’s family are from Montserrat in the Caribbean. I spent my teens in Houston, Texas. Now I’m back in London (with a little stint here in lovely Brooklyn!).

What are some of your musical influences?

I was raised by teenage parents so I grew up on all of the best stuff from the 90s - specifically Mary J Blige’s My Life album, Wu Tang and tons of the UK garage, house and jungle music that was the soundtrack to living in London at the time.

I think the ‘eureka’ moment that I started writing was somewhere in-between my Blackstar and Common "Respiration" phase, and my Amy Winehouse “Dust Off Your Fuck Me Pumps” phase. I was about 15, winning little medals and certificates for my stories and poems, but never realized that I could be as deep or blunt or even humorous in songs as I had previously done on paper. So lyricists like Talib, Amy, Kanye, Joni Mitchell, Lauryn Hill and Mike Skinner of The Streets did a lot in raising me to grow the balls (or ovaries!), to take my words from paper to melody.

I’m most inspired by the type of gossipy stories that families try to sweep under the rug. Coming from such a diverse bunch of cultures, you realize early on that drama is universal, and that aunties, mums and grandmas have better bars than any MC you’ll ever meet.

What are you listening to right now?

My Spotify boasts such sophisticated playlists as "Sleazy Dance in the Mirror Music," which is mostly mid-2000’s R&B that is considered cheesy at the moment, because the genre is going through a really ‘cool’ period right now.

I go pretty crazy for Frank Ocean and SZA and Banks, but I don’t want to call current stuff ‘alt’ R&B. I’m bored by these labels that pit us against each other into tribes of who’s ‘alternative’ versus who’s ‘mainstream’, when the fact of the matter is that the majority of us coming up right now are united in being Aaliyah fangirls/boys, who learned feminism from the Spice Girls, and raved to Dubstep in our College years. Usher’s Confessions album still sounds fresh to me, whereasThe Weeknd’s first mixtape feels nostalgic because of how much music has spawned from its sound in just a few years. So yeah, any day, any season, ask and I’ll be twerking somewhere to some good R&B!

I’m here in the States for a few months, so I cure my homesickness with loads of UK music --from the obvious picks like FKA Twigs and Disclosure, to a lot of the really experimental and daring bands that I graduated with at Goldsmiths University last year. I started the Popular Music degree there the class after James Blake, and suddenly I was in an environment where sharing tastes and creating new ones was commonplace. I almost want to keep all the good stuff to myself, but there are a few bands from London who continue to blow my mind --Benin City, These Ghosts and Holy Milk to name a couple. They all are connected in their ability to use electronics to add grit to music that is pretty emotive and personal.

What is your creative process like?

I never even thought about it until I studied music in my twenties. I guess, for me, it all starts with a one-liner or a catchphrase. The music I make is so much about taking a familiar or everyday story and retelling it in a snappy, cheeky way like I would if I was at a dinner party trying to entertain a table full of friends. So for instance, "Four Walls and a Garden" started with that first line "four walls and a garden, you finally made it." It summed up the heart of the song I wanted to write - a tune questioning the idea of home, our obsession with home owning and the family drama that seems to follow you no matter how tall your white picket fence is.

I start my work without any musical accompaniment and just write melodies and lyrics together by ear. I’m lucky to have had a dope producer called EOM who continually gifts me with beats since we met digitally in ’08. We'll usually match up songs with beats, and it's amazing how we've managed to forge such a musical connection having only worked together virtually. His beats hark to a lot of beautiful soul and jazz, but also have these jagged sounds that create what I'd described as 'peanut brittle music' -- it's sweet but it'll break your teeth! I think it goes really well with the angle from which I write.

Could you talk about the video a bit ?

I wanted the "Four Walls and a Garden" video to introduce the world to what I’m about - it’s colorful and full of nostalgic images from everyday life, but as it progresses, the images become darker and what seemed like a fun tale is actually quite bittersweet. There’s an air of poking fun of that ‘keeping up appearances’ mentality of trying so hard to look bougie that you give yourself away. Actually, my visual style is very much an appreciation of things that are ‘tacky’ and ’kitsch’ - doilies, clip-on earrings, fine china and wearing your Sunday best 7 days a week. You’ll find me drinking orange soda from a wineglass whilst speaking like the queen, no shame!

And what's up with that new project?

My upcoming project is a 5-track EP called Mother Tongue. It is produced in its entirety by EOM, and written by myself.

Adulthood so far, has been an odd fight between both the defeatism and the optimism that comes from having few real-life examples of what a successful relationship looks like. Where I'm from you swear that you'll do better than your parents did, then you grow up and repeat a lot of their mistakes. I'm really fascinated by family and class and gender and how these broader elements seem to shape something like love which is supposed to be organic. So I started writing about it.

All good movies have a prequel, and therapy is often all about reconciling the past in order to find emotional peace. I think the songs on Mother Tongue are like the backstories to the usual situations you’d find in an R&B song. I’m less concerned in writing ‘how I feel’ as I am in asking ‘how’d I get here?’ For instance, "Big People’s Business" is me questioning my womanhood and heartbreak in relation to my mother's and grandmothers’ struggles. "Daughter Karma" is a pretty harsh picture of where being a daddy’s girl and having daddy issues collide and "Four Walls and a Garden" opens the project and sets the scene --a house, with a garden and a flatscreen TV, that isn't a home. The funniest part is that I sing all these dark songs at mid to up-tempo to EOM’s amazingly head-knocking beats, which exemplifies my personality - telling a fucked up story with a smile on my face!