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Fousheé on Unpacking Her Feminine Rage

Fousheé’s latest album softCORE is a stern dive into her journey of balance. Exploring the pretty and ugly, the good and bad, the happy and sad, we caught up with the New Jersey artist in Sydney to discuss the album, touring with Steve Lacy, and embracing her gritty side.

Fousheé is an artist that refuses to compromise the way she wishes to express herself. After her track ‘Deep End’ was sampled by rapper Sleepy Hallow, and made viral on TikTok, Fousheé became a notable contribution to many artists’ work. This year alone, she’s made waves collaborating on Steve Lacy’s Gemini Rights, and featured on albums for Ravyn Lenae, Saba, King Princess, and Vince Staples last year. Time and time again, Fousheé’s proven herself as an unbeatable force, her solo music also proving her authenticity as an artist. Her latest album, softCORE, honours this to an entirely different level. 

Evolving further as a person and an artist, Fousheé soon found the need to scream, rage, cry, and feel everything she was feeling without wanting to censor herself for the comfort of others. On this album, she travels further away from her alternative R&B and soul past, and takes on a more grungy and off-kilter route to define the chapter she’s living in. Drawing on punk, and hyperpop sounds to fully convey her process of emotions, she rotates between both rage and solitude. As the listener, you’re left strapped into the seat of a rollercoaster that spins and spirals before leaping into oblivion and back down to the surface again. It’s a definitive part of Fousheé’s identity and a necessary project that she hopes will find the people it’s meant for.

Whilst on tour with Steve Lacy in Australia, we were able to chat to the artist about the album in-depth, gushing over its peaks and valleys, discussing duality and what’s to come next now that the album is out.

I want to congratulate you on the release of softCORE, the album is crazy. How does it feel to have that project out and available for people to consume?
It’s really weird. It’s been in my notes app for a year, so I’m glad it’s out. It’s my most risque project. People didn’t expect this type of project from me. But I felt it was necessary. And I felt it shows my versatility as an artist and kinda expresses how I felt this past year. So it was a really necessary project for me.

What has the reception been like so far?
It kind of spans from people just expecting what they heard last project, and then I think some people were pleasantly surprised and embracing of this era. Then some people wanted to hear more of my Time Machine era. But for me, I’m really excited about the people who get it. It’s a weird project. Maybe not weird, but it’s a kind of a mash up of so many different things. It’s punk metal, there’s some cyber pop moments, there’s some folk moments. It kind of is a roller coaster of different emotions. But the overlying theme is just about finding balance. It consists of these feelings and textures, and myself, learning that they all make up this one thing – me. You need both ends of the spectrum to find that balance, to feel normal. And at times it gets really vulnerable and others pretty gritty and grungy.

I really resonate with the vulnerable state of rage that exists throughout the entire album, even in its softer elements. It feels representative of the different stages of emotional processing. Did you kind of go into this project, allowing yourself the freedom to be more expressive? Both with the sounds and storytelling?
Yeah, that’s exactly it. The first song I made for this project was i’m fine. I was on tour and I was pretty heavy in my emotions and wanting to break out of who I felt I was and become more about who I felt like I was becoming, but I hadn’t identified that yet. So I just screamed it out, until I felt right, and I felt like i’m fine perfectly expressed how I felt. I wanted to make a project around that. So after the tour, I got an Airbnb for a month in New York, which is one of my favourite places to write, and just wrote every day, committed to making a project, and that became what softCORE is.

Was it like an isolating type of situation where you just needed to be by yourself to work it out?
Yeah, it was during quarantine. I did feel the need to be introspective. But there were some collaborators on this project. A lot of the time I was in New York, I worked with BNYX, he came out for a few sessions, but it was mostly just sitting with myself and writing what came naturally, and having fun with it and making music that I wanted to make, but also getting things off my chest. One of the big things for me was gender came up a lot in the conversations that I was having with myself. I was angry at men in different circumstances, in relationships, in the industry. I felt like I had to play a certain role that I wanted to question and break out of to kind of empower myself. That’s a big theme in this project. You’ll hear me taking on different roles or just questioning gender.

Yeah definitely, you’re bound to be isolated, but then you have to also be on your own, understanding your emotions before anyone else can. I feel like that’s a big part of what makes this album great, how uncompromising it is. And I feel like you carry yourself in the same way, which is cool because I don’t think that people like to shine a spotlight on people like that, especially women.
Yeah I’ve definitely experienced that, even before this project was out, being encouraged to make a certain type of music or feeling expected to make a certain type of music in order to be successful. It’s like you said, like, especially black women, when we are angry, we fall into this like angry black woman stereotype and it’s not as embraced. But I don’t know, I couldn’t help how I felt so I still wanted to kind of step into that role even more and make it less of something with a negative connotation, and more freeing.

And do you feel like everything that you were feeling while writing this album you’ve fully unpacked and processed?
I think the old issues have been replaced with new ones. I do think that this project did help a lot with processing emotions, and now it’s like less from an angry place when I perform them. I do feel more powerful and free than before. There’s none of that anger anymore.

For sure. I feel like duality is a big thing on this album, the break in the middle of it with simulation separates the first part of the album which is a crazy journey, and then you bring everyone back to reality with ‘simulation’ before entering the next chapter of the album. What made you want to place that break in there?
Leading with songs like bored and i’m fine, it’s really intense. So I felt like you needed a sonic break. That was written in quarantine, which was such a big shift to the world and there was an emotional change I was going through. It felt right to have a break there before heading into the softer parts, which was a hard decision to make because it almost felt like I had to choose a side when I didn’t want to. So I had to make space for both to exist and make sense, so that’s why there’s that checkpoint there.

Were there any moments in the process where you felt like people weren’t going to resonate with it as they might have with your older music?
Yeah, the project started off with a different song, double standard which felt more inviting so I think intentionally after sitting with the project I felt less of a need to play it safe because I had a better understanding of who I was, embracing that gritty side even more. Starting off with “simmer down” , even if it did turn people away, because the project is so in your face and the messages are so in your face, you can’t hide it. It just is what it is. If you hate it then you probably don’t understand or relate which is fine. I want to find the people that understand it.

What was then the biggest lesson that you learned while making this album?
Probably just to stand up for my feelings and not compromise anything.

Steering away from the album a little bit, you’re here on tour with Steve Lacy. How has it been to bring both softCORE and Gemini Rights to a setting like Australia?
Wow. I was pleasantly surprised at how open-minded Australia is to my set. I mostly play softCORE, and so to go from that to Steve’s record is such a big contrast. It’s very different to what softCORE is, but there’s been equally as much energy given back, as we’ve put out.

I noticed that as soon as you came out and performed your first song, this was your first proper introduction as just Fousheé to the crowd. And it felt like they ate it up despite not knowing much about you as you. So it must have been nice to have that kind of reception.
It’s definitely a pleasant surprise. You gotta go with the culture of what punk is, which is not caring. So I have to go out there with that attitude whether or not people cheer. When they do it is reaffirming.

Towards the end of the show, Steve shared some really beautiful words about you and your contributions to Gemini Rights. How can you describe the relationship you guys share both as artists and as people?
It goes back to the question you asked about what I learned making this project. The part of me that I wanted to hide, I feel like I put that all out there with this project, I had to sit with that and embrace who I am. I think Steve supports that part of me and he himself lives that way. So he helped me find even more confidence on this journey of figuring out who I am as an artist or what I want to say. He’s so brave in any circumstance and whether you see him on like SNL or touring or whatever it is, he still behaves and acts the same way as he does when it’s just like he and I sitting in a room. He’s so confident in who he is. He is very supportive of my music and as a friend so I think that’s been the goal as far as us being on a journey together and he’s further ahead than I am so he can advise me on what to expect and how to navigate things.

Would this be the last of what we’ll get from you two together for now?
I feel like he’s somebody who I’m always gonna have a friendship with and always going to work with in whatever capacity. We have some sessions planned here, when we were making one of my older songs ‘candy grapes’ it was just a jam, it felt good making music together. That’s what made it so natural working on Gemini Rights and I think we’ll continue with that. Work relationship and friendship, we’ll always be making music.

One of my other favourite guest spots of yours this year was on ‘Mercury’ from Ravyn Lenae’s album HYPNOS, where I feel like you guys created the perfect breakup song. How did that come about?
We just met each other through the circuit of Steve and all of our mutual music friends. And she was working on that project, and that was the song she was working on when I walked into the studio. So she had that one in mind for us to make. And it started with I think production first and we were just brainstorming about topics. I remember it being a fun session, I have a picture of us dancing with mics. We were just like freestyling and dancing, having fun with it, stream of thought type of thing.

Now that softCORE is out, what are you hoping to do next?
I want to go on tour. There’s so many songs that I really identify with in a different way. Obviously, because during different times I kind of resonate with different songs. I feel like I want all of the songs to have a moment or chance for people to hear them so I plan on making more visuals for the songs that I haven’t made visuals for. I want to do a deluxe project, and just continue this conversation I’m having.

Follow Fousheé here for more, and stream the new album softCORE here.

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