March 30, 2009
Jail, money, music and ex-bandmates: Yo! Majesty’s Jwl B talks to Lesbilicious
After a few weeks of sifting through media coverage on Florida’s lesbian Christian hiphop band Yo! Majesty I was a little terrified of interviewing ‘Jwl. B’, writes Gem Andrews. The singer is renowned for storming out of interviews mid-way, deliberately antagonising weedy journalists and bitching like there’s no tomorrow about her band mates.
And fresh out of a Florida prison on her first UK date of the Yo! Majesty tour, Jwl B certainly was a mighty force to be reckoned with: beautiful, terrifying, and outrageously outspoken, but also every bit the entertaining, talented performer she is on stage.
Interview by Gem Andrews and Kate Sweeney. Words by Gem Andrew.
So how’d you find the tour so far? Isn’t this your first time in the UK?
Yeah, and I like it!
Well it’s nice to finally meet you, after all of your recent media attention, I feel like I know you already!
Oh yeah like what? You heard all crazy stuff? ‘Oh Jewel she’s so frantic’ yeah but I ain’t bipolar! I’m just a bitch!
I want what I want, and like any woman that works hard, we wanna get paid and we want what we want, any woman. So, I don’t consider that bipolar, if I do twenty shows and you say you gonna pay a third of the money, and then you don’t pay me a dollar, I am going home broke, I’m going home with my lights off, I’m gonna act like a maniac.
Absolutely, women who are clear about what they want are often confused with being crazy, especially in the popular music industry. But you’re a black, lesbian, Christian band. It’s clear that you’ve all worked really hard to get where you are, what would you say you’ve struggled against the most to get where you are now?
I’m fighting against being black! Ok? Being a black woman! And a black gay woman. Let me do a good fucking show and let me go on and play something for a good-ass show.
I’m fighting for all the women that’s gay in general. There’s no equal opportunity in the music industry. Especially in hiphop. These dudes think that I gotta suck their dick to make it. And I don’t have to! I don’t have to put on no heels and no fucking skirt! I’ve been myself to make it, so I’ll wear these motherfuckin jeans that I’ve been wearing for almost thirteen years!
Not the same pair?
Yeah! (laughs) I’ll be myself! You know what I’m talking about. I don’t have to be nobody else. Music saved my life, and I go a responsibility to my fans now.
Yeah, that’s what really prevails, the live gigs, the music itself.
I was born to do this! Before I kissed any woman or was with any woman I was singing gospel. At the age of three years old I was singing, I felt it helped me to be who I am today.
So how did Yo! Majesty get started?
When we came in the studio I was Yo! Majesty, I think for three years. So we were already doing our thing.
But people weren’t really feeling us, the industry said that we gotta change our clothes. They took us aside and they were all, ‘oh these lesbian lyrics, you gotta change some of these words, you gotta put on this dress here, put on a little lipstick, dance all on top of cars like all Shakira style with your ass hanging out.’
How is the creative talent split in the band?
Well I come up with just the hooks, so I told the two other girls, Shunda and Shon B I said look, I’m gonna come up with the hooks on his music and y’all write y’all stuff, I’m gonna write my stuff, it’s how it’s gonna work.
So I kinda made the creativity for all of us, that’s how we got on [music producer] David Alexander’s music and that’s how we came over here. So we played some shows, got on this Myspace shit, did a show from LA, then did a show from SXSW in Austin and it was a wrap.
What’s it like when you go home?
Well when we go to our home town Tampa, Florida people there don’t hardly know us. And at first, it really got on me, I didn’t get it because I’m like, look how far we’ve come!
But now it’s good because everybody treats me as Wendy Jewel Baynham not Jwl B of Yo! Majesty. They’re not all into this drama, they hear about these fights between me and Shunda K and they don’t care about all that, because they’ve known us from when we were kids.
You’re gonna have loads of dykes here tonight, do you like the attention?
Oh really? (laughs) Well I’m not really into dykes. I’m really into feminine woman. (It seems that ‘dykes’ appears to apply only to ‘butch’ women in the USA but we just let that go) Those are my thing baby! I’m really into dominant femmes, make up, dress, very feminine. Or whatever, but dominant. I like the tussle and the fire, I like that… because I always win.
How did it make you feel that your best friend / bandmate had taken your jail incident and seemingly used it to accelerate her own solo career?
Barcelona in 2008 was when everything changed. Shunda came up to me saying how we’re killing this shit and making money, how this is what we worked for. She wanted to proposition me. So I’m like hell yeah, if it’s gonna make me more money.
She said she should be the manager of Yo! Majesty, seeing as she was taking care of the business aspects, I say well the only thing you taken care of is talking to these people on the internet, she want to be Yo! Majesty’s manager, yet I work just as hard as she does!
I wrote the majority of these songs! She couldn’t be a manager, she’s not qualified! She wanted 70% instead of 50% and I get the rest. I wasn’t digging that so she’s told people I was serving time right now! If that’s true, why am I here?
Did you feel as though the relationship between you and Shunda K was unfixable after that last jail incident?
I said I ain’t gonna be putting up with that bullshit. I ‘m sick and tired of her fucking two-faced ass, I’m tired of her saying she’s better than me cos she wants 70% and I’m saying no.
So she shut me out of Yo! Majesty collaborations, in which I lost three grand! She’s got all of that. Then she started telling these people that I’m not mentally capable, when she is the only reason I didn’t get on any of those collaborations.
I couldn’t even get into my own website, I never knew nothing was going on! My manager just got all that information from Myspace. And he read every email, which took him two weeks. He told me that Shunda K has been stealing so much money from me. He said that she has been telling people that I am mentally unstable.
So why’s Shunda getting paid more than me? It’s all because I didn’t agree to that extra 20%. I wanna get paid too, and all this mentally ill stuff is bullshit. I don’t lose no sleep over that shit now.
Do you miss her?
No, she was never my friend. And she’s always had a motive. This ain’t the first time Shunda K has left the group.
Shunda K always leaves the group when she cant have her way and if you don’t believe me with that you can ask Shon B. She’s left four times, the last time she left it was because of a man, but she’s always leaving because of a man and she’s supposed to be so fucking gay!
But before that, yeah I started missing Shunda. Then she started changing, I think the hype got to her head. She forgot where she came from.
Didn’t you and Shunda K ever hook up?
Shunda K wanted to be my lover but she’s not my type! We needed to be friends man! So we could keep business moving so there wouldn’t be no drama, and she didn’t want that.
You’ve had a lot of tragedy in your family over the past few years, would you say that your music has pulled you through?
Firstly, my uncle was a pimp. He had two or three life sentences for having so many hookers. Half of my aunties were hookers. The rest were drug dealers, my aunty sold me so many keys of drugs, so I always had money. But now I try to be a role model, and not just to gay women, but to my family. There’s gotta be something better for me. I would not be alive if it was not for this music.
I was feeling really low when I got outta jail. Drea died, my cousin who brought us up, and something just changed. It was just a pain in my heart, ‘cos I still haven’t gotten over the death of my mom, my uncle, my aunty and now my cousin. Music just saved my life.
Who’s your greatest musical influence?
I love Billie Holiday, but my number one has to be Erika Badu, if I could work with anyone it’d be her. And that’s it, and you got it all down, and I love everybody. Lovers, friends, family and haters.
People pay for tickets for my shit man, spending their hard earned money and when all’s said and done, nobody’s got time for that drama bullshit. People wanna see a goddamn Yo! Majesty show!
So what’s your message to all the young lesbians out there?
If I could tell all of the young lesbians, I’d say you’ve got women that will use and abuse you too. Where I’m from, they fucking use you, they wanna be with you to fuck you over and take your money, and lie to you.
I’m telling all these young women who are gay, love yourself!
Lady Ha Ha – Episode 2 – Jen chats to Zoe (A Ladyface Production)
Jen still naively optimistic about her show at Edinburgh, shows the first signs of doubt. Reluctantly Zoe advises Jen as to how best to approach this marathon Festival.
July 10, 2012