Singer-Songwriter Foushee Says Black Women Leaning Into Punk Is a Long time Coming: “The Girls Are Angry”
Singer-songwriter Foushee can summarize her career over the last couple of years with one word: “chaotic.” The musician, who was born and raised in New Jersey as Britanny Fousheé, went from being relatively unknown to releasing two projects, touring with James Blake and Steve Lacy, collaborating on tracks with most of the relevant “Lil rappers— Yachty, Uzi, and Wayne—and wrapped 2022 with a a handful of Grammy nominations for her contributions to Lacy’s Billboard-topping hit “Bad Habit.”
Fousheé’s haunting vocals blew up on TikTok back in 2020 after the rapper Sleepy Hallow sampled them for his single, “Deep End Freestyle.” Initially, no one knew who had contributed the vocals until Foushee revealed herself in a TikTok of her own. She then went on to release her own version of the song, which by September 2022 had amassed more than 234 million streams on Spotify. She signed with RCA, and released her debut project, Time Machine, last June.
Since popping on people’s radar, Foushee has widely been regarded as an up and coming hip-hop and R&B artist, but her latest project softCORE is anything but. Incorporating elements of metal, rock, and noise pop, softCORE is a rage album that zips back and forth between heavy punk influence to folkier sounds. At times Foushee can be screaming, rapping, or singing with the most heavenly vocals. Below, she talks to GQ about the concept behind the album, introducing her new sound on tour, and her Grammy nominations.
If you had to write an artist statement like they do for art exhibitions, what would yours say about softCORE?
A rebellious stance against men, gender norms, and a well-needed release for me.
This album sounds very different from your first. When you were in the process of creating and writing, when did you know that you were going to go the route that you did musically?
I would say after [the song] “i’m fine.” Before that, I was creating [tracks] that felt very similar to each other. I was mostly accessing a very vulnerable soft side of me. And one day on the first tour with James Blake during our Philly stop, I linked with [producer] Bnyx. I’m not sure where the idea came from. I just felt the need for something different. And I told him I wanted to make a song that was folk and metal. And he really just jumped on the opportunity and made a version of what “i’m fine” became. It just felt really good, the contrast and the meeting of worlds that I never really heard in one place. I fell in love with how it felt. I wanted to be louder, more present and make noise and make music that I felt wasn’t out there and say things that I haven’t expressed before. The project kind of goes back and forth between the varying textures in “i’m fine.” Both soft and grungy, but mostly grungy.
I can hear that a little bit, especially with a song like “Stupid Bitch,” where it’s very tough at the beginning. Then halfway through it becomes soft. You’ve mentioned that this album is a twist on gender norms. Can you explain what that means?
I mean a part of the inspiration for the topics of the songs was me being angry. And when I analyzed it, I was angry at a lot of men in my life, whether it be in relationships or in the industry. I would even say at times to combat it I took on the role and became the person that I was mad at. In certain lines I talked about having groupies. I’m just kind of pushing the boundaries on what was expected of women in the industry. I don’t think it’s applauded when we make very crazy or angry music, so I wanted to try my hand at it and express how I feel. But also it’s really how I felt, because I don’t feel that way anymore. It’s more freeing for me now.
What song do you think that you’re the most vulnerable on? Was there one that was tough to share on the album?
“i’m fine,” because it was the first time I released something like that. I think every time I release a song I’m a little nervous. I don’t think I overshare, so I haven’t released anything I would be embarrassed about. Maybe “Let You Back In” because after everything I said I’m resolving it. Everything is forgiven. But I wouldn’t say that that’s embarrassing because I think forgiveness was a good thing.
You’ve got some really fascinating visuals for a few of the songs. I really love how your skin seems like clay in the “supernova” video. Do you have a creative director or team? And if so, how do you all map out how you present yourself?
It’s really just me mood-boarding. I’m a very visual person. So I really look forward to being a part of the visual process and kind of jumping around with the people that I work with. With the “supernova” video, I’m not sure what the technology is called, but it’s something that he created that I thought was really different but simple. The colors really stood out to me. For me, it was very simple and straightforward, and beautiful. But I think it scared a lot of people.
There’s one particular scene where you open your mouth and then something comes out. I have definitely never seen visuals like that before. It stands out.
That was hair coming out, but it’s funny you say that. That was the director’s idea. I just thought it would add depth to it. But when you look up “hair coming out of your mouth” and the symbolism, it relates to shedding the old you. It did seem like [I was doing] that with this project, so it was fitting.
It feels like Black women in the music industry are having this moment where they’re adopting a little bit of the pop-rock sound. SZA played with the sound on her new album, and Willow Smith is out here collaborating with Travis Barker. What do you make of all the girls getting a little bit angry?
I know we’ve had to hold those feelings in for so long. And it’s not like we’re pivoting to rock. If you go back in time it’s something that was ours and was taken. I don’t think it’s new. I think those feelings are there and at times it’s gotten pushed down. I don’t see it as just pop-rock. For my project, I wanted to make it a little more grunge-y than that. I had inspiration from post-punk and metal and I wanted to go even harder with that texture. I almost feel like when it’s pop rock, it’s kind of more palatable, more watered down, and I didn’t want to do that. The girls are angry, and we don’t want to sugarcoat it anymore. It feels more comfortable to express ourselves that way.
Is this a sound that you want to continue with for your next project?
I wanted to encapsulate it with this project and move on. I feel like I got everything off my chest. For the album, I’ve always wanted it to be a little more central of all my [different] sounds. Looking back on Time Machine, I would consider that an EP. And I’ll consider the album to be that but more elevated and with more growth in every way. I want to bring more instruments and more detail. I’m really looking forward to figuring out what that’s going to sound like now that I was able to wander off.
How has it been introducing yourself to audiences on the Steve Lacy tour?
The experience in person has been like the same way people are experiencing listening to the project. A lot of people don’t expect it. They expect something different from me. I realize people don’t know me because it is his tour and this is the introduction to me. But it’s been a learning experience for me and a very exciting one. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I try to make it their cup of tea by the end of my set. People have to live in that world where I’m fully committing to this rockstar character. I’m still a sensitive person so sometimes the reactions are easier to handle than others, but I’m getting a lot better. My skin’s getting tougher.
You’re Grammy nominated and you’re on tour now. After this tour, what do you envision the next year looking like for you?
I’m gonna go straight into the album. I’m feeling really inspired right now. I feel like I’ve had a lot of time on this tour to daydream and explore different cities. This is the most I’ve ever traveled. I’m just seeing the growth in myself and my writing. I’ve learned all these new things musically. I think Steve has taught me a lot about how to be in this industry. I’m inspired by just being in the process of making his album and seeing how he works. I’m ready to write from this new place.
You mentioned a little bit earlier how people didn’t expect this sound because they didn’t really know a lot about you. What do you feel is important for people to know about you at this point in your career?
I’d be happy if people don’t know anything about me and they just know my music. I like being mysterious.
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