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Suzi Analogue Goes Global.

September 12, 2012

Suzi Analogue’s music combines old-school style soul crooning with hip-hop and electronica, creating a mesmerizing, futuristic sound. She signed a record deal with a Dutch label when she was 19. Since then, she’s collaborated with the likes of Stalley, Quelle Chris and La Melodia. She recently teamed up with LA beat maker Tokimonsta to form Analogue Monsta. They released an EP, Boom, in August.

The Virginia native bounces across the country and around the world but calls Philly home. Our Teresa McCullough talked to Suzi about her “Raw & B” sound. Images also by Teresa McCullough.

What shaped you as an artist?

I grew up at the same time as Timbaland and Missy were getting popular, so it really inspired me as a kid to appreciate good, out-of-the-box music. By middle school, The Neptunes were coming out, so I was listening to that music. But even before then, the radio was playing a lot of R&B songs that The Neptunes were already producing and writing for. I was just following who was making what and producing what and why things sounded the way they did. Now that I’m 24 and I’m listening to new things, I have a really good frame of reference for the different regional music that’s been coming out, especially the East Coast.

At what point did you realize shit was getting real?

I guess when I got asked to send a demo over to Amsterdam for Dopeness Galore Records. That was in 2006. I was actually a freshman at Temple and I was just putting my songs up on Myspace. I got serious about my music after that and what my possibilities could be. They started working on music with me and every step after then has just been an eye-opening experience to where things could go, where things could lead. They flew me out to do a session with an artist, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and we put out a record, NNXT. That really inspired me. With every step, everything that comes out, you know each flight makes it all more real.

You signed a record label in Amsterdam at the age of 19. What was that like and how did you balance school and your singing career?

With the things that I’m into, I always felt multitasking would be a big part of my career. You know, I was taking 18 credits. Then I was trying to get out of class to go fly somewhere or record somewhere. And it was really surreal. At the time, my friends didn’t understand. Maybe they still don’t. But it was definitely a crazy experience to be doing that at a young age. I was actively having musical experiences, meeting musicians and just vibing with them, playing them my stuff and them playing me their stuff. In school, it did get tough. As a senior, I was really over it. There were just so many different things I could do, so I was just over school. I was probably burnt out too ‘cause I was taking so many credits. I had to make sure I graduated on time because I knew if I stayed in school past my time, then I would be unhappy on the music side. So I made sure I was sticking to school, you know?

How would you compare Philly/NYC/LA fans to Europeans, and how they accept you as an artist?

For my music, the people who love it are anybody who listens to a lot of music – music from the past to modern day. I’ve added both elements, so it doesn’t matter what country you’re from or what age you are, really. If you listen to a lot of different music, you will have a good grasp of musical references. In every city, each scene changes based on the venue.

Where does your inspiration come from? Who are some people that inspire you?

My inspiration comes from my experiences, you know? Where I grew up, where I’ve gone, the past, the future, the unchartered territories. I’m just an explorer. That’s my nature. There’s a lot of conversations in my music. My musical style is influenced by jazz, hip-hop, everything, even classical. I listen to the emotions they provide – everyone from Billie Holiday to Moodymann to RZA, Pharrell, Betty Davis and, you know, my friends.

How would you characterize your music style?

Just raw, really raw. It’s progressive and its imaginative. It’s not within the confines of genres. Just raw. Nothing that’s too manicured, although I do like a good manicure. I call it “Raw & B” sometimes.

I see you’re really big into nail design. When did that start?

I mean, because I use my hands to create, and they are seen in performances, and I’m always meeting new people and shaking hands, I want my nails to express my style. It’s just the last piece of putting myself together. I studied in Tokyo and met a lot of Japanese nail artists while I was there. I wanted to share that fun with everyone when I came back to Philly, so I started Nail Tite (a nail art service). It’s just a fun thing to do. It’s a great service. I love talking to people and having appointments. It’s the time when I can really have good talks with people. Even if it’s just a manicure, people want to express themselves. And I’m in the business of expression.

What are some of your alter ego names and how did you get into them?

Every alter ego is based off of something that’s happened, or a reaction, something I haven’t tapped into fully. It’s something that doesn’t explain me to the fullest but something that’s a part of me. You know, like “Barbie Digital.” And none of this has really been released. But I have a few different characters that will be released in the future. I don’t ever want to feel limited, so sometimes you have to create a whole new artist just to understand and follow something new.

If you could chose anyone to collaborate with, who would you pick?

The RZA because he just inspires me so much. Missy Elliot cause she inspires me so much. Those are the two that I always dreamed of collaborating with. Their work helped me understand myself more as an artist.

What are your thoughts on the youth in Philly?

I really hope the kids in Philly get opportunities to explore their interests and create positive situations for themselves. Philly is the home of street style as we know it, you know, since Urban Outfitters headquarters is here. Those designers come from the city and are taking cues from the city kids, college kids and the real people who are actually wearing the clothes. It all works together, so it’s important the youth are positively guided.

What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in three to five years?

I’m working now to be able to work steadily with some kind of creative company that will just let me do the things that I do, and that will hopefully fuse into what they do. I want to work with different companies as an outlet to focus my art, which I’m doing right now with Scion with the Analogue Monsta project. They have given us the opportunity to really focus on the project and what we’re doing with that. On a bigger level, I would love to be a creative director of some company that is in need of a focused creative revival. Through my own projects – Nail Tite and – I focus a lot on developing strong visual and text content, and the whole package and the presentation of the project. That gets people get excited. As long as people get excited, you can manage your vision.

I want to keep playing shows, for sure, and visit places I haven’t visited yet. And interact with my listeners. I don’t want too much. I just want to keep doing it.

What kind of advice would you give young artists trying to make it?

They have to go out and find experiences. They have to be able to synthesize their own experiences. They can’t just try to be what’s hot. They have to have real-life intrigue. If you are an artist and you’re not sharing your experiences, then you’re doing a disservice as an artist. If you can offer a whole other style and a whole other world, it will work. But first, you have to be okay with yourself and tap into it. Be okay with yourself, and then go. If you don’t understand yourself, you are most likely not going to stick around. So in short, figure it out!

  1. Frank Reynolds permalink
    September 12, 2012 11:16 am

    Haha. The home of street style because Urban Outfitters is here? That’s like saying San Francisco is the home of housewares because Williams Sonoma is based there. Lame.

  2. Geo permalink*
    September 12, 2012 2:23 pm

    Dear Frank Reynolds,

    First of all, love your show. It’s Always Sunny is pure gold.

    Second, do you know anything about Urban Outfitters? The company was born in West Philly. They have shops around the world now, and they remain based in Philadelphia. They bring in talented designers and others from around the world to work here, in Philadelphia. Those designers are inspired by what they see all around them … here, in Philly.

    It might be a stretch to say that Philly is the home of street style because of Urban, but there is truth in there.

    Oh, and you know what is lame? Leaving anonymous comments.

    – George

  3. Anonymous permalink
    September 12, 2012 2:59 pm

    This entire interview is so inspiring! I learned so much about my own city. Did not know urban started here in west Philly where I live! So awesome. I love suzi! Analogue Monsta is so godlike it’s not even funny. And Frank Reynolds from it’s always Sunny? Awesome I always wanted to be an extra on the show.

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