God-des & She
How two midwestern riot grrls with a rhyme and a dream became a national hip-hop sensation
Imagine, if you will, that you are trying to "make it" in the world of hip-hop, a notoriously difficult subculture replete with its own boundaries and barriers—and that's if you fit in to their stereotypes.
Now imagine that you're trying to "make it" into this notoriously misogynist and unabashedly homophobic microcosm of bling bling, big booty, “bitches and hoes,” and Cristal, all chillin' in a hot tub over a crunk beat...and you are white, female, midwestern, and gay.
What may seem like a daunting task to most of us was a breeze for the woman they call God-des and her right-hand soul (and R&B) sister, She. This dynamic duo didn't break the rules. In their world, there were no rules to break. The boundaries and prejudices that exist in the hip-hop world—blatantly or silently, written or implied—were non-existent to God-des and She. Most people trying to foray into the hip-hop world try to conform to the stereotypes – for God-des and She, by bucking the standard, they created their own. In other words, while most aspiring rappers try to set the bar, God-des and She are the bar. In so doing, any reservations or doubts that critics and audience members may have going into a God-des and She show are immediately dispelled the minute the first note is played and the first rhyme is heard.
"What sets us apart from the rest is the music," says God-des, whose rhymes are influenced by the likes of Run-DMC, Grandmaster Flash, and the rest of the cadre who influenced the early days of New York hip-hop ("with emphasis on SaltnPepa. You got that? SaltnPepa were just raw and awesome!"). "We're not all about the bling bling, the big booty, and the golden grilles all in the hot tub with Lil' Jon."
It's a cold, rainy evening in trendy Park Slope, Brooklyn, and God-des and I are sitting in Gorilla Coffee. We are waiting for She, who seems to be stuck amidst the flooding that such weather brings to New York City—my hometown, her adopted city, which helped mold her into a powerhouse.
As God-des sips water daintily, which is nothing if not an interesting visual, she continues. "It's not that I'm against sex, nor am I against celebrating womanhood and female sexuality. We sing a song called the 'Pussy Song,' you know?" She smiles knowingly. "It's just when women are objectified...that's what I don't do."
I ask her, “So what sort of response do you get from the fans, then, if they're coming in to hear a standard rap show, and they get your style instead?”
God-des answers, "Oh, it's been nothing but positive. I tell you, all you have to do is go to our MySpace site (myspace.com/goddess) and look at all the positivity that's come our way. I've had people come up to me after shows, shaking my hand and thanking me. People literally cry when they hear She's voice.” Almost on cue, She walks in. Soft-spoken and charming, she smiles sweetly and apologizes for being late, then exchanges non-verbal but deeply intense glances with her musical partner. Like many great pairs throughout the decades—Page and Plant, Jagger and Richards, Tyler and Perry, and even Ann and Nancy Wilson—God-des and She have a warm, unspoken connection between themselves, a connection that continuously comes in crests and waves, fueling their music with a raw passion and undeniable credibility. When you hear God-des and She, you are not hearing something borne out of the studio, or out of Britney Spears' latest tale of marital strife: these girls are the real deal, and it is evident from their first note to their last.
At this point, anyone who has watched Logo for more than 10 minutes has heard of God-des and She, and more to the point, has heard their truly incredible story. In 2004, God-des and She, born and bred in the Midwest, packed up a U-Haul and moved to the City that Never Sleeps. God-des has always been a rapper, but She got her start, "in a folk rock band. Believe it or not, it really honed my chops. I learned about my range, how to sing, what to sing about. It was a real learning experience. I loved it immensely."
Soon, they began working their way around the New York rap circuit, winning fans from borough to shining borough, playing the most famous and infamous stages across the country, and opening for the likes of MC Lyte. After that, high-profile industry gigs followed—but as with the rest of the industry, "they just didn't know what to do with us," sighed She. "But then again, what can you do with us? We're not going to look like Eve or be strippers overnight. We're not going to shake our booties in your face. We just want to play music."
They stayed true to themselves, and then they got the double-whammy breakthrough that most artists only dream about. A University of Southern California student produced a documentary called Hip Hop Homos, featuring God-des and She, and their killer songs. When the documentary was picked up by Logo, the duo was heard in homes—gay and straight—nationwide.
Then one day, as God-des was unsuspectingly tending bar, a patron came in and introduced herself. She mentioned that she was a fan of God-des's work, and that she knew someone at Showtime who was in charge of music for The L Word. She asked if God-des would mind if this patron passed along the necessary information. Next thing God-des and She know, they are prominently featured on Showtime’s critical darling. And by "featured," God-des is quick to mention, "We're talking serious face time. Not just a blip on the screen. I mean, serious time on the air." Not bad for a duo who, when you think about it, is just about 2 years old.
So, what's next? An opening slot for the B-52s at Asser Levy Park in Coney Island, a few more big gigs in the Midwest, "and then," concludes She, "we're putting the finishing touches on our album!" This album, produced by DJ Pain, is expected to drop sometime before the end of the year. For now, the uninitiated can download "Lick It," and "Love You Better," off of Apple iTunes and can hear the entire EP streaming on their MySpace page. One can only expect bigger and better things from God-des and She in the months to come.