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Talking To Patriarchy-Smashing Musician Anna Wise

Music

“I can’t eliminate sexist double standards, but I can control how I let them affect me”

Psychoanalytic literature calls it the Madonna-whore complex, but the colloquial, more relatable translation is that every woman’s inevitable choice is being seen as either a bitch or a slut. “I know what kind you are,” sings Anna Wise in the chorus of her new single. “If I say, ‘No,’ I’m a bitch / Say, ‘Yes,’ I’m a slut.”

The song, aptly titled “BitchSlut,” is an empowering yet irreverent anthem, which chips away at the sexist double standard of female sexuality simply by calling it out. (Or, as Wise puts it, “I can't eliminate sexist double standards, but I can control how I let them affect me.”)

The endearingly amateur iPhone cinematography of Wise’s video betrays her established place in the music industry. Wise isn’t just some clever YouTuber, she’s a Kendrick Lamar collaborator and Grammy winner, now on her way to building out a solo career through an upcoming tour and EP. After listening to “BitchSlut” on loop, we caught up with Wise to talk about the inspiration behind her catchy act of deconstruction and see how she plans to use her musically inclined feminism next.

What was your inspiration for "BitchSlut" song? What kind of experiences fueled the lyrics?
I remember when I was 11 years old, walking home from school, and a car full of older men came up real slow behind me and one of them shouted, "I wanna put my tongue in your pussy you little slut!" I had just learned one of my favorite gestures, the middle finger, and I stuck it up real high and stiff at those jerks, even though my face was hot with embarrassment. Another guy shouted, "Fucking bitch!" and they drove away. I was stunned. I cried. I didn't tell anyone. That was the birth of “BitchSlut.” I want to send “BitchSlut” back in time to my 11-year-old self. I want 11-year-old Anna to pop that CD in her little Walkman and drown out the world. 

How do you think a song like "BitchSlut" works to break down sexist double standards?
Well, I know that music is really powerful, like magic. I hope a woman could hear “BitchSlut” and join me in poking fun at two of the most common insults she and I will be called for the rest of our sexually desirable lives. I can't eliminate sexist double standards, but I can control how I let them affect me. Do what you want! 

How do you think the paradox you sing about in "BitchSlut" affects women in the music industry specifically?
Women are taught to be sexually desirable. We're taught that we should harness and use this sexual "power," and as soon as we do, people are appalled and we are chastised. This is pretty evident in the music industry. If you aren't sexy, you won't sell records, but if you're too sexy, you're a whore. You can fuck your way up to the top or not, everyone will think you did, anyway. I'm kidding… kind of… but really… There are so many more roles that women can play in society other than Madonna and whore. But that is more or less the dichotomy we are presented. 

The stories that have been breaking lately, they are not rare. They are actually the norm. But hey, I'm an observer. I saw these things and experienced these things, and it inspired me to send this message. I haven't taken any gender studies courses but I know that this is an undercurrent in society. As progressive as we think we've become, women are still treated and perceived as objects. Everyone, in every profession, is affected by this. It hurts women and it hurts men.

Is there anything up-and-coming artists can do to avoid being pigeonholed as their image develops?
My philosophy has always been to do what comes naturally, to not overthink things. I think if the music is consistently good, the image can chill. Have fun with it, don't let it drive you crazy. Be patient with yourself.

You've had a pretty extensive career behind the scenes so far, even winning a Grammy for your work with Kendrick Lamar. How did that collaboration come together?
Kendrick found my band Sonnymoon on YouTube. There's a song of our's he likes called "Nursery Boys." He asked around for my phone number and started texting me. I was on a road trip at the time. We rerouted straight to Kendrick. My bandmate Dane and I stayed in Carson [in California] at the house for a while, recording every day, all day. It was really really fun. 

How did working with Kendrick affect your solo work?

I'm really inspired by Kendrick. I think the work he's doing is really empowering. Working with him changed me in ways I can barely begin to understand. There's an exchange of energy that happens when you work creatively with someone. It affects everyone involved. 

What other experience has built your solo career? Tell me a little bit about your background prior to Kendrick and "BitchSlut."
Well, I started in a band called Sonnymoon, which is myself and Dane Orr cowriting and coproducing everything together. We put out our first record for free in 2010. We toured a lot for that project and just had fun with it. It was really more of an art project than anything else. We were trying out lots of ideas. We made all our own videos and artwork. When I started to work on my solo project, I knew I wanted to make it more simple musically and less vague lyrically, because Sonnymoon is so amorphous. I've been working on this material for a while now. My philosophy about opportunity has always been to stay open, be ready, and enjoy the ride. I'm a big believer in fate. If I focus too much on my career, instead of the art, then I start to feel unfulfilled. 

Do you have any releases planned for the coming months? What's next for you (and does the plan include more awesome lady empowerment anthems)?
Yeah! I'm releasing more and more pieces of the puzzle. My whole record was written with women in mind. I want girls to get ready to my songs. I want you to sing along while you moisturize. So, yes, there are more empowering anthems. There are some sexy songs, too. And some ballads. And some sexy ballads. In May, I'm going on tour with this band I really like called Givers. I'm excited to perform live. I'm happiest when I'm singing.

 

Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.

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Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

"In the midst of chaos there's opportunity"

Following the travesty that was Fyre Festival, Ja Rule wants to take another stab at creating a music festival. Good luck getting that off the ground.

On Thursday, the rapper spoke to TMZ, where he revealed that he was planning to relaunch Icon, an app used to book entertainers, which is similar to Billy McFarland's Fyre app. He told the outlet that he wanted to create a festival similar to Fyre to support it.

"[Fyre Festival] is heartbreaking to me. It was something that I really, really wanted to be special and amazing, and it just didn't turn out that way, but in the midst of chaos there's opportunity, so I'm working on a lot of new things," he says. He then gets into the fact that he wants to form a music festival. "[Fyre] is the most iconic festival that never was... I have plans to create the iconic music festival, but you didn't hear it from me."

Ja Rule actually doesn't seem to think he is at all responsible for what came from Fyre Fest, claiming in a Twitter post that he was "hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hood winked, led astray." Even if that's his feeling, he should realize that anyone involved with Fyre shouldn't ever try their hand at music festivals again.

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