In a Warholian twist of fate—wherein iconoclast interviews iconoclast—R&B songstresses and fellow Saint Heron artists, Solange and Cassie, sat down recently for an intimate tête-à-tête on the subjects of music, creative control, body image, and all things cannabis. Having already collaborated on Saint Heron’s aptly titled debut single, “Indo”—with Cassie on the mic and Solange behind production—vibes were easy to come by, and what emerges is a revelatory and captivating exchange between two female music originals that is, we dare say, mood-altering.
Solange: In some ways you first started off as an “indie” artist. Didn’t you create and record your first songs with Ryan Leslie completely independently of any label connection? Secondly, in connection to creating Cassie free of any expectations and purely for the fun and passion of making music, do you feel like your perspective has changed during your creative process? Are you a lot more “aware” or concerned with what may be perceived as a success?
Cassie: I actually recorded about half of [Cassie] independently. “Me & U” was one of about four demos that I had done with Ryan [Leslie] on my own. I did that in the fall of 2005 and was signed to Bad Boy through NextSelection by February of 2006, and my full album came out later that year. The project was kind of done and established before we signed. I think any growth, change, and learning will redefine how you look at things, especially in the process of creating records. I was very naïve in the beginning of everything and just stuck to what I liked, and I think the “not knowing what it would turn into” made it work out better. I would definitely say I’m more aware of what people want to hear, but there is a fine line between that, and just showing them what they want to hear. Success to me is respect. It was “Me & U”, “Just One Night”, “Miss Your Touch”, and “Kiss Me”. “Kiss Me” was actually the first song I ever recorded.
S: Well I can say, you have certainly built a cult-like fanbase for yourself, and the thing that I always applaud you for is your excellent taste in everything you do. I think sometimes people can be blindsided and distracted by the supposed “machine” people think artist have, but during all my time of knowing you, you have seemed very in control of the artistic decisions. Can you talk a bit about how you make these decisions? For instance, sound-wise, style-wise, imaging, videos, artwork, and photos: where do you stand in these decisions?
C: Thank you! It took time, but once you find your voice and opinion, “the machine” and the public let you live. Currently, everything from artwork, to mixing, to promo, I need to be involved in… It’s important for me to define my brand. I definitely went through a long period where everyone else insisted, or made decisions for me, because they “knew more.” My goal was to learn faster, so I could remove myself from that. You are the only one that can tell your story, you know?
S: I freaking loved the curation and artwork on [The Cassie Trilogy]! Oh my gosh. I was sooooo taken aback. When I went to the Trilogy site first, I couldn’t believe how many songs had gotten leaked and second, how well put together it was. From the order, to the vibe of each one: I loved it!
C: Yeah! It feels good to not only know that my fans like my music, but their taste in art and sound is really dope. I think it’s really important to highlight when artists really find their fan base. Social media has been so imperative for me to really connect [with] and discover the people who really connect with my music. It took a long time for that. Twitter was a pivotal tool for me to say, “Hey, I’m digging this artist, or this film, etc.”, and to see people being responsive to that who were likeminded.
S: What was your “aha” moment? I know [being] early on MySpace was a big one for you. How important has it been to continue that spirit of connection through social media?
C: I totally agree with you. Social media has been such a stepping stone. Even creating my T-shirts I did with Diamond Supply, it was a connection through a picture I took on Twitter of their socks! I feel proud to have started on MySpace, and now we’re at Instagram, in even more real time! I love that I have a direct connection to my fans. With [the Saint Heron track] “Indo”, it really was about making a vibe. Everything flowed so naturally and the session did not feel like work at all.
S: Obviously “Indo” tells of a love affair with our “green friend”. And now that you’ve moved to Cali and have more access, I’d like to know your top five names for “Indo”!
C: [Laughs] Hmmm… “Blue Dream”, “Trifecta”, “Dream Star”, “High Octane OG”, and… “Lambs Breath”—OMG this is funny— [laughs] I need to step it UP! Boring ass “Purple”, “Indo”, “Haze”, “Tea”, “Verde.” “Lambs Breath”, though?!? [Laughs] They said it was Bob Marley’s favorite strain [laughs] I was sold.
S: Also your body is fucking ridiculous and you obviously have always taken ownership of it! Do you consider yourself as a feminist in that way? Being unapologetic for celebrating your sexuality?
C: I feel like I’m like anyone else when it comes to insecurities about my body, but when the time (and the look) is right, I like to celebrate it! I just feel like I want women to feel and be empowered with what God gave them. Confidence in yourself shines through ten times over anything. It’s the doubt that gets us.
S: I saw you posted Vanity 6, Sheila E, and Apollonia on your Instagram! Are these artists inspirational to you in any way?
C: I did have a little “I-love-Prince’s-taste-in-women” kind-of-day, and after I posted them, I realized that those are the women I have been inspired by 100%. Absolutely. Beautiful, sexy, and strong.
S: Also you’ve collaborated with a lot of hip hop artists. Why is the hip hop/R&B collaboration important to your artistry? And who are a few of your favorite hip hop/R&B artist collaborations of all time?
C: I love hip hop and R&B. I grew up on both. My older brother was a huuuuge Wu-Tang fan, therefore making me one. I remember us driving from Connecticut to the Long Island Wu Wear store just to get T-shirts. The culture of hip hop has just always been important for us and that has never changed. We grew up with our mother blasting Parliament, Stevie [Wonder], Carole King, Earth, Wind & Fire, Gil Scott Heron etc., in the house, so there was a level of music that we were raised listening to that paved what we continued listening to as we got older.
S: Lastly you went to Burning Man and Joshua Tree this summer. I’d love for you to share your experiences and if any of them will seep into your artistry?
C: This year has been such a crazy learning experience for me. Burning Man and Joshua Tree played a big part. I think life moves so fast sometimes, you never take time to just enjoy it, as corny as that sounds. Burning Man was a positive experience. I didn’t meet one bad heart there and it taught me sooooo much. I shot my video for “Numb” at Joshua Tree earlier this year, but it was so dark and we were back home by the time the sun came up. When my girls and I drove in and through the park during the day, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Nature, and being out in these places with no agenda, resonated with me. I think both experiences will play into wherever I go creatively.
Listen to Cassie’s Saint Heron featured track, “Indo,” written and produced by Solange.