Photo Credit: Peter Graham
Album delays are nothing new in the music industry, but Goapele’s situation is unique. The one year delay of her fourth studio album, Milk & Honey, is not due to label or ever her own dissatisfaction. Instead, Goapele cannot seem to stop recording music! The talented Oakland songstress has been on a creative high, and did not want to begin selecting songs until every lyric and vocal was out of her system. Now going into 2011, Goapele can count Kanye West, Bedrock, Drumma Boy, Bobby Ozuna, and Malay amongst the producers contributing to Milk & Honey. After a year plus of work, Goapele is just a few months away from sharing the fruits of her labor with the world.
Ismael AbduSalaam: When the “Milk & Honey” video dropped last year, everyone was expecting the album right behind it. What’s been the reason for the long delay?
Goapele: Um, I just wasn’t done yet, basically [laughs]. This album has been one that I really go to take my time with. So when we first put out the “Milk & Honey” song, I just kept recording and recording. It turned into a longer process so it could really feel right.
Ismael: Were you going in with a set directive, or was this an organic project?
Goapele: It came organically, and that’s the way it always ends up with me. I tried to come into it like “we’re going to do 10 songs and it’s going to have this type of vibe.” But I’m a very eclectic person, so now it’s turned into a much longer album, and trying to put the different pieces of myself in there. There’s a sensual vibe to it, and there’s also introspective song of what I’ve been through the past few years. And also some fun stuff; I feel much more open now. The tracks will be a little more synthy and hard-hitting, but I think it will be fun.
Ismael: Regarding that synthy sound, I heard the song you did with Drumma Boy (“Right Here”). It’s a song that can definitely fit into today’s radio market. With that said, were and are you worried about how your core fans will respond to such a drastically different sound?
Goapele: Yeah, I met Drumma Boy a few months back, and I thought it would be fun to work with him. Funnily enough, the songs he played for me at first were more in my vein, that straight R&B and Soul. And then he played the “Right Here” instrumental, which is like super hard-hitting and any rapper can get on. It was something I just really felt. And with my music I like the contrast, where I can go from hard-hitting to just laid back. I think I can bring that balance to music with my style.
When I record, I’m always a little worried about if people are going to feel it, because I am putting it out for people to enjoy. If not, I could just leave it to myself [laughs]. But, I can’t let it get in the way of my creativity when it gets down to it. But hopefully people will follow me.
Ismael: You mentioned to me before that becoming a mother made you a more daring artist. How is that so?
Goapele: I’ve been pushed so hard by having to step up and become a mother. I’ve always loved children. I used to work with children before I did music, and thought that I’d maybe follow that as a career path. I always felt it would come back into my life, and I was just waiting for the space to do it. At the second album, I was like “I can have a family along with the music.”
Being pregnant and going through childbirth alone is like surrendering a different control, because you’re creating another life and you have to make space for that. That’s reflected overall in my life, so of course that’s going to be in my music. Vocally, I’m more vulnerable. I’m also braver having gone through it. I feel more whole now.
Photo Credit: Madelynn Kenloy
Ismael: We know there was a lot of initial anger regarding the Oscar Grant verdict. You spoke about it in detail in a online article. Now that some time has passed, what has been the mindset of the community?
Goapele: [Pauses] Now that time has passed I don’t really even hear about it anymore. That’s kind of how things go. That’s the challenge, right? There are major things we need to change in the system. In Oakland, the way policing is done needs to change period. I’m sure it’s the same in LA, New York, and even here in Atlanta. There’s a major violence problem in Oakland, period. There’s also a economic problem. Then police brutality just adds on to it.
It’s an issue that needs a lot of attention. I think when people were upset, that could have been a time to really gather. Some people did, but it’s really hard to keep the focus going and progress to actual change. We’re all so caught up trying to live our lives and pay our bills; it gets hard to dedicate yourself to things outside of your life and family.
It’s a work in progress, trying to get through that lack of focus. I hope it’s something that we keep pushing towards.
Ismael: Now looking at the bigger political landscape, how have your feelings and thoughts changed, if any, since President Obama’s election and current administration’s work?
Goapele: Before he ran I felt pretty hopeless about this country. When he started running, I started to feel inspired. When I voted for him, I felt pride. For the first time regarding government, I felt it was a part of me up there. I had worked with a South African artist, Pantsula, and did a song called “Victory” about it. I felt like “you stand for us,” and people all over the world sensed that change was happening.
I don’t know how good it could have become, but there definitely has been a deflating feeling inside me over time. I hope he continues on because Obama is definitely better than the alternative. We have such a long way to go to feel more empowerment and equality. It’s more of an economic thing than racial.
Ismael: Last question. I’m sure you remember a lot of people online were shocked and a little saddened when you cut your locks. But even without them, that hasn’t stopped you from being stylish. How’d you come up with the new crown look?
Goapele: [Smiles] Well, I’ve always liked to have fun with my hair. Even now and then I miss [shakes head around] having long locks to do different styles with. But I like being versatile and feeling like I can change. I felt like it was time to let them go at that point. Instead of starting right back up, I was like “I can do braids and different styles.” I’ve been working with this woman Anana Scott that used to do my hair when I was a kid using dramatic styles like thread wrapping. I linked back up with her, and it’s been fun being able to be creative and different.
Goapele’s Milk & Honey is being targeted for a Spring 2011 release. For exclusive information, tour dates and downloads, visit her official site http://goapele.com/