Neo-Soul Duo Floetry: 'Flo'ology'

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The members of the "new soul" musical group Floetry, Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie Stewart talk about their latest album, Flo'ology.

(Soundbite of music)

FLOETRY: (Singing) ...that it feels so right ...(unintelligible) hearts are yearning to reconcile...

ED GORDON, host:

The combination of spoken word with easy-flowing hip-hop describes the London-based female R&B duo Floetry. Marsha Ambrosius does the singing, while Natalie Stewart gives us the word.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. NATALIE STEWART: A beautiful whisper, baby, I'm with ya, but now we're together.

GORDON: When Floetry released their first CD in 2002, it resonated with R&B listeners here in the United States. Since then, Natalie and Marsha haven't looked back. Tomorrow, they release their second studio album, "Flo'Ology." Natalie says they're putting this one out with a lot more confidence than the first time around.

Ms. STEWART: We're growing. We truly are artists. This truly is what we do. Marsha is a songstress. I am a floacist. Our gift is, you know, converting poetic verse into song, and, you know, the first time out, we weren't working on an album. We were just making songs. We didn't know what the process would be like. We hadn't experienced that. So this time around, it's a bit of know--I suppose it's a second child, you know, or you've done the first time. There's not as much fear involved. There's not as much, what do I do? How do I do this? How do I hold? Now it's--you know, we want to put out a new album. We want to do this journey over again. So a lot of the fear has been taken away actually. We love the fact that we've been blessed to do this again, and we're just really enjoying ourselves.

GORDON: You know, it's interesting, Marsha, is when we talk about huge smash, you guys have such a dedicated following, and when I say huge smash, I don't mean in sheer numbers and sales. Obviously, someone like Britney Spears and others are going to sell far more albums, but you have found such a dedicated following to your sound and such a connection with your fans, I think that in the long run, that may prove to be, you know, more satisfying and beneficial--maybe not to the pocketbook...

Ms. MARSHA AMBROSIUS (Floetry): Right.

GORDON: ...but to the artist's side of who you are.

Ms. AMBROSIUS: I think for ourselves, that's how we got started, really, was about as being on the stage and giving our live performance over to the people. I'm glad that it will be that way, you know. Sales, like Nat said, definitely weren't a part of our plan. We were just doing what we were doing, so thankfully, you know, the fans have come and hopefully more sales will come in the process, but, you know, that--we really just--you know, we enjoy the stage.

(Soundbite of music)

FLOETRY: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible) that I'm sincere, I want you to be here. And just spend a little time ...(unintelligible) share the same heart (unintelligible). I just wanted to lie right here with you. (Unintelligible). I'm so happy to be here together. Stay--let's just stay...

GORDON: Marsha, I know it must be easy for you now, because I read when you grew up, you used to lie and talk about...

Ms. AMBROSIUS: Right.

GORDON: ...all these famous people that you were hooked up with. You said--I read somewhere you said L.L. Cool J was your uncle, Bobby Brown...

Ms. AMBROSIUS: Actually...

GORDON: ...was your cousin.

Ms. AMBROSIUS: Actually, that was Nat. Nat lied and said that Bobby Brown was her cousin and L.L. Cool Jay being her uncle. But funnily enough, we get to meet these people now and connect on a different level where they pay us the same respect as...

GORDON: Yeah.

Ms. AMBROSIUS: ...we did them, so we were just trying to be fans and reflect on the times where we would lie and say, `Oh, back in the day, I said that you were my cousin,' and now it's, you know, `Wow, I really respect you and thank you for showing the same love.' Like I said, a lie that I told was that "Dr. J" was my uncle, so now Julius Erving III, being his son, is our manager, so our lies then became somewhat some truth.

GORDON: Yeah, the irony of it coming around. And talking about basketball, I hear both of you have a pretty mean game. Is that true?

Ms. AMBROSIUS: Well, not meaning to brag...

GORDON: One of you, huh?

Ms. STEWART: No, no, no.

Ms. AMBROSIUS: No, no.

Ms. STEWART: Marsha played for England, you know. Me being the poet that I am, I like street ball more myself. And funnily enough, I've been saying to Marsha, like, I don't know what's going on. There's contentment in my heart, but my competitive drive, my absolute love and joy of, you know, faking a guy or crossing him over or blocking his shot, it's gone. I don't know what's happened. Something's happened to me. Marsha and I...

GORDON: Please, please protect our ego. I can't tell you what that does to us if you do something like that.

Ms. STEWART: Marsha and I have been trying to figure out what it is.

Ms. AMBROSIUS: ...(Unintelligible) I can't let you do that. I have to block his shot and cross someone over...

GORDON: Oh.

Ms. AMBROSIUS: ...every now and again, just to remind him.

(Soundbite of "Supastar")

FLOETRY: (Singing) Because you're my Supastar.

COMMON: You're my Supastar.

FLOETRY: (Singing) You are...

COMMON: Supastar.

FLOETRY: (Singing) Yeah.

COMMON: Come on.

FLOETRY: (Singing) It's a pretty day. Let's go outside and...

GORDON: Going back to the project, you have a single, "Supastar," with...

Unidentified Guest: Yeah.

GORDON: ...Common.

Unidentified Guest: Yeah. GORDON: Talk to me about the collaboration there. I know you guys were big fans of his.

Ms. STEWART: We're very up front with what it is that we have to say. And on our first record, brothers weren't feeling as though we were talking to them, you know, like, `That can't be to me because you're just being too up front. You're just being too'--you know, and so with this record, the song "Supastar" talks about the recognition of potential, the potential that is in all of us, the light that is within all of us. Not at the finishing line, the beforehand, and we just really wanted for a male voice to give an example of how to receive, how to absorb this type of offering. So, you know, we asked our brother Common to come in and just help us out with giving an example of how that information can be received, so we put our minds to it and something beautiful came out in the end.

(Soundbite of "Supastar")

FLOETRY: (Singing) ...you are my Supastar, you're my Supastar.

COMMON: Supastar. My ...(unintelligible) you love them in a braver way. I (unintelligible) and dream of a love supreme. As a child, I was told that my love was ...(unintelligible) what it can bring to the lives of those that ain't afraid to give what ...(unintelligible) exposed ...(unintelligible) you color my reality with ...(unintelligible) love like a travesty. I'm proud to be your Supastar.

GORDON: And what of the idea that so many people have talked about the importance of word in the music that you do? Often, we've seen that fall by the wayside musically...

Unidentified Guest: Yeah.

GORDON: ...and the combination of the two of you--I mean, we get it in rap all the time, but musically, it isn't always the case. The combination of the two of you really puts the word to the fore of much of your music. That is important to you, I bet.

Ms. AMBROSIUS: Oh, most definitely. And the collaboration between Nat and myself is what makes Floetry that original. It's our individual opinions combined into one, and it was really about our voices connecting. And I think that's what makes Nat and myself Floetry. It becomes `Floetry' all by itself, just the voice.

Ms. STEWART: And that which is lent from everybody else is the fact that there are two different opinions on here, so this is--our record, our music, is never about telling everybody the way to live, the way to be...

Ms. AMBROSIUS: Right.

Ms. STEWART: ...saving the world. It's just two honest opinions that may clash. They--you know, they may mix, they may gel. Whatever it is that they do, they just tell their own story, and I think it trickles into people, into their own lives, then, you know, relating their own situation and actually bringing forth their own words based upon just hearing the testimony of these two sisters, you know.

GORDON: Two sisters who make some wonderful music together. So many people looking forward to the latest CD, and we thank the lovely ladies of Floetry, those with a very mean cross-over, fellas, so please be careful when you get out there. Ladies, thank you so much. Good talking to you.

Ms. STEWART: Thank you.

Ms. AMBROSIUS: Thank you. Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

FLOETRY: (Singing) ...a little bit closer. Just a little bit, little bit, little bit, little bit, can I get a little bit closer?

GORDON: That's the women of Floetry. Their new CD is called "Flo'Ology," and you can find it in stores tomorrow.

(Soundbite of music)

FLOETRY: (Singing) ...a little bit, little bit, little bit, little bit, can I get a little bit closer? Oh. I want to get, oh, yeah...

GORDON: Thanks for joining us. That's our program today. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

(Soundbite of music)

FLOETRY: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible) you can hear me talking to you, baby. (unintelligible).

GORDON: I'm Ed Gordon, and this is NEWS & NOTES.

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