Suzi Analogue Wants Black Women in Experimental Music to Never Compromise
The 2020 Black Lives Matter protests put renewed pressure on the music industry to question its long-troubled relationship with race. It’s a business that has relied on black talent on stage without investing in black executives behind the scenes. a space where black artists were nudged into specific genres and ways of creation; A place where women and LGBT people were marginalized even further.
None of this was new to Suzi Analogue. 33-year-old Miami-based producer and label owner Maya Shipman has spent most of her career going her own way – offering alternatives to others who want to avoid being boxed.
Analogue chatted from her multimedia studio, filled with widescreen monitors, cassette decks, and keyboards, at the Faena Forum, where she works as an artist-in-residence. It didn’t take long for Analogue to formulate the core of their mission: “Access to capital is a must for black music in the future, especially for creative and cultural organizers who happen to be women who happen to be queer,” she said in the first of two long video interviews. (It just happens to be both.) In this vast, sunlit space, Analogue creates electronic dance music that centers high-speed drums and obscure audio samples – an idiosyncratic sound that is both current and trend-setting.
“When I hear their music, it’s the first time I feel in Tokyo,” said producer Ringgo Ancheta, a well known figure in the underground beat scene known as Mndsgn. “It has the same glamor as raw glamor. It’s like Sun Ra was a woman who dropped a lot of acid and went to raves. “
Because it makes distinctive music in spaces historically reserved for white men, Analogue still flies below the mainstream radar despite a stacked résumé – a decades-long list of critically acclaimed mixtapes and collaborative albums. Not only does she release her own hard-to-describe work with Never Normal Records, the imprint she created in 2013, but it also provides a platform for other like-minded artists to do the same.
In the mainstream industry, “there isn’t much room to find your own creative direction,” said Analogue. “People will say, ‘Oh, we don’t know how to market this.’ This is a collective term for discrimination and racism in the music business. “
Analog interest in music began early and arose in several regions on the east coast. Her family moved from Baltimore to Quincy, Massachusetts as a toddler, and after their parents separated, she and her mother moved to Prince George, Virginia, 30 minutes south of Richmond. Your father is from the Bronx; She visited him there in the summer months and was exposed to the hip hop culture first hand. “When I was growing up, listening to music from everywhere was nothing,” she said.
In elementary school, she made friends with the military children who had moved to Prince George from countries like Japan or Germany, and they introduced her to their local music. As a second grader, she and several other girls shared a love of R&B trio TLC and “started a small music group and sang at our class meeting at the end of the year,” said Analogue. “I think we sang Boyz II Men. But it was me, I put it together. “
As a child she knew that she didn’t just want to be a singer or a producer: “I think I always felt like I was doing more, like, ‘I don’t just want to sing someone’s song, I will sing my own song. “During the day she sang R&B and opera; At night she listened to local rap on the FM radio.
Analog was a teenager when two other Virginia residents, Missy Elliott and Timbaland, started making waves. Other early influences were locals like Teddy Riley (who moved from Harlem to Virginia Beach) and Pharrell Williams; They all did advanced R&B and flourished commercially, despite living outside of the big cities known as funnels to the industry.
After high school, Analogue went to Temple University in Philadelphia; Lured by the community there, which had grown out of the website and message board Okayplayer, she wanted to connect with like-minded creators outside of the south. She started making beats after friends gave her music production software and later adopted a stage name that is a nod to RZA’s alter ego, Bobby Digital.
“They knew I made songs mostly for school and church,” said Analogue. “I would just do what I could with the download. I remember downloading speeches like Malcolm X speeches from Napster. And I would try to get a little jazz sample to do it. “
That was her first foray into the patchwork production style she is known for today. Analogue created a Myspace account and started sharing their music online, which caught the attention of Glenn Boothe (known as Knxwledge), then a Philly upstart who had become one of the most popular beatmakers in underground music. The two became quick friends. “We were just trying to find our own waves,” said Analog. “I secretly got my own apartment because as an only child I couldn’t make the dormitory. It was good because I could have the crib that people could get through and train in. “
Ancheta lived in southern New Jersey; He traveled to Philadelphia to make music with Knxwledge and Analogue in a collective called Klipmode after talking to her online. “Suzi’s music had these crazy chord progressions,” said Ancheta. “Everything had this strange mixture of organic textures; there was something going on and not there. “
Analogs Sound has always had a global flair and appealed to listeners overseas – its fancy time signatures and stacked drums are well suited for dance floors in West or East Africa – and in her early twenties she published works on international labels. But she never connected with industry at home.
“I never tried to get a big US deal when I started releasing tracks for many reasons, but a big one was that the music I was making was more valued outside of the country it was from “said Analogue. “Some were sniffing around, but I couldn’t mean it, waiting for them to get it.”
She started Never Normal Records out of necessity: “I would say that many of my musical male colleagues before me have received help with the release of music. When I saw that, I just kept building what I was working on. “As a result, their label is a safe place for musicians to defy industry ideas of what their work should be. Acts like multidisciplinary artist Khx05 and EDM producer No Eyes have a free hand to be themselves.
“It could be jungle, gabber, ghetto house, trap, anything. It’s all black music, black heritage, black culture and black traditions, ”said Analog. Despite these black roots in many types of dance music, Analogue said it had been discriminated against in the genre. “Electronic music is heavily whitewashed,” she said. “Anyone who doesn’t know is treated like an anomaly.”
The distortions go beyond colored lines. “We all go through this as women,” said experimental producer Jennifer Hernandez, who records as JWords and released her EP “Sín Sénal” on Analogues’ label last year. “In the beginning I was on these bills and all of these guys were a little uncomfortable,” she said.
While their label has upgraded their profile, Analogue knows their job is far from over. This year she is starting a project that brings producers from the African diaspora together with beatmakers in Africa to create new tracks. She also plans to release new music and visual art from other unconventional black creators while teaching music education workshops in Ghana as a cultural diplomat for the U.S. Department of State.
“Music was always about people,” she said. “It has always been an instrument of connection.” As a black woman, Analog added, she knows exactly what it feels like to “feel like there is no place for me. I want to show other artists that there will always be a place for you. “