Fousheé Made History in Alternative Music, and She Doesn’t Plan on Stopping There
Fousheé’s music career, like many in the era of social media, hit its stride with a viral song on TikTok. But the song wasn’t entirely hers at first. “Deep End (Freestyle)” from Brooklyn rapper Sleepy Hallow was practically inescapable on the app last year, and the part that most creators used in their videos was Fousheé’s hook. “I been trying not to go off the deep end / I don’t think you wanna give me a reason,” she sings with a soft, grainy tone on a loop.
The artist first recorded the vocals for a sample pack on Splice, the royalty-free music database, for musicians to use for free without having to credit the original. She didn’t even know that her voice was echoing through the Internet until her friend sent her a YouTube video of the track.
“I knew what I signed up for, I knew that I was making a sample pack,” Fousheé tells BAZAAR.com on the phone from Burbank, California. “I just didn’t know where it would go, and I never imagined for it to be used in that way.”
With so many TikTokers singing along to her vocals, and with persistent encouragement from her mom and sister, Fousheé decided to reveal her identity. “I felt just to protect my artistry, I would want it to be credited in that situation, where the vocals are being passed around so much. Had it been used in a more discreet way, it would probably end up being a different story.” She posted her own TikTok revealing herself as the singer on “Deep End,” and the post earned more than six million views. “I didn’t know so many people would care. I kind of was just gonna let it ride,” she recalls.
Last July, Fousheé released her own full version of the song, a haunting display of her musical range: Brooklyn drill drums, an alternative vibe, singer-songwriter elements, guitar parts, and her own rap verses. “I wanted it to be so many things that it made it so much harder to write, but I’m glad that I pushed myself. It opened me up to a new world sonically,” she says.
Her rendition of “Deep End” became a fitting introduction to Fousheé as an artist, showing off her genre-bending repertoire, melding influences from alt-rock to soul. And the world is responding. She became the first Black woman to top the alternative charts in 32 years, following Tracy Chapman. She landed a collaboration with Lil Wayne. And this month, she released a project, Time Machine, featuring nine new songs for the fans to devour. But what excites her the most is the rollout of her conceptual music videos, which she’s now directing herself. “The visuals are some of my favorites that I’ve done,” she says. The latest we’ve seen is “My Slime,” a dark, cheeky take on the “partner-in-crime” concept, featuring her and a lover on a deranged date, robbing a bank together.
It’s no secret that Fousheé’s star is quickly rising. Here, she talks to BAZAAR about her thrilling journey up.
You wrote the project, Time Machine, for more than a year. Was it mostly during quarantine? Was being in isolation helpful for writing, or was it a challenge?
Being in isolation was a challenge. When I write—I like to write all my songs—it’s easier to write about experiences when you’re experiencing things, especially new things. Of course, being in isolation was an experience, too, and I tried to channel that, but it gets redundant. So you just end up reflecting on that.
I think that’s why it ended up being a metaphor for time travel, because I’m time traveling through memories. I go back a lot. I think because of the lack of real-time experiencing, I go back a lot. I thought about the future a lot, just dug in the mental crates. It was a hard time to write. I think it was a healing time for a lot of people. You’re kind of sitting with yourself and developing yourself. It’s hard to write through that, because you’re figuring things out.
Your “My Slime” video is really cheeky, but it also has a dark humor about it. How did the concept come about?
It was based on the lyrics. I wanted to take a more literal approach to “partners in crime.” I wanted it to feel cute but dangerous as well. It was all on that balance. I like things that live in a space where you don’t know how to categorize it. I’m skipping around in this little skirt, but I’m also carrying this gun and robbing a bank. I wanted it to be like a modern love story. It has so many different layers or pieces of my life, my lifestyle—of course, I don’t rob banks.
It was a really fun one, because I got to direct it. And instead of bringing on a director, I brought an executive producer [Daniel Yaro], who [has worked] with Travis Scott. He’s just a visionary and is very good at putting the pieces together. I really loved how he helped me bring this story to life. And X [Xiaolong Liu], the DP, I’m such a fan of his work; his eye is so good. The whole team together was a dream team. I definitely feel like my vision was properly portrayed.
You shared recently that you had written “Deep End” at the time of the protests in Minnesota. It was obviously a very emotional time. What was going through your mind? What made you start writing the song?
It was after George Floyd’s murder. It was a heavy time, because we couldn’t run from it. Everyone was home, everyone was experiencing it, and it was heartbreaking, and I felt a responsibility to talk about it through the song. I ended up writing it a few times, because the first version was just a very sad song. I decided to rewrite it, because I didn’t want to make people sad. I wanted people to feel uplifted. And I wanted to get people to dance.
So I just took a completely different approach to it, but I still wanted to speak about it. So there’s still remnants of what the original was, just a different emotion behind it. That song is not only about George Floyd or how I was feeling about that, but also about my perspective in the music industry as a Black woman, specifically that scenario of my sample going viral, what that process was, and trying to focus on feeling empowered as opposed to victimized.
Your music reflects so many different sonic influences. Where did you pick them up?
Just from different times in my life. My mom was raised in Jamaica and immigrated here, and her playlist was a lot of Bob Marley, a lot of Celine Dion surprisingly, a lot of Toni Braxton. I would listen to the radio growing up, so I was listening to hip-hop, R&B, pop. And then, once I started performing, the music that I was studying was more like alternative and rock, and blues and jazz, and more instrumental. I just love all those things and developed it. It kind of ended up morphing into my musical DNA. All these things are a part of my story. It’s definitely a blend of things that we’ve heard before, just in a new way.
I love how you can see that blend in your project. You have a Depeche Mode cover, and then you have an interpolation of Carole King, which, I love that song.
Me too. She’s one of the best songwriters ever.
Who is your dream collaborator?
That always changes. I want to work with so many people. I would love to work with Billie Eilish, SZA. Maybe me and Carole King should link.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue music?
I always wanted to do it. I wrote my first song when I was around five. I knew I was going to be creative. I was always drawing or making something or singing, I would just have a special connection when it came to singing and performing. There’s no blueprint for people who want to be artists. We just kind of have to jump into it and make our own plan and hope things go well. So that’s what I did. I didn’t know how I would get there. I just knew I felt really good to perform and to write. That’s all I devoted most of my time to.
What’s one album that you couldn’t stop listening to?
More recently, Blonde. I spend a lot of time listening to Frank Ocean. When I find a song I like, I’ll listen to it a million times.
What’s been the biggest high from your career so far?
Honestly, just seeing the reaction from “Deep End.” I think it just opened a lot of doors for me. Seeing the reaction to that was pretty cool. One moment that was really special was finding out that it was top 10 on alt radio for the first time in 32 years since Tracy Chapman. That was a special moment, because I know the impact of Tracy and how much that album meant to the world, but I think it was, like, my villain origin story, so to speak, but not really. But my alt alter ego was embraced at that moment. I was always scared; I didn’t know how that would be accepted, whether people would like or listen to my music if they didn’t have that pop or hip-hop drum, or if it didn’t have that pop tempo. Then you realize people still love that and the doors are wide open for someone to step in and do that.
I feel a sort of responsibility now, knowing that a Black woman hasn’t taken up that space in 32 years, at least not on alt radio. I plan on making a lot more than just that, but that was definitely a big moment.
A historic moment, really.
It was just crazy. It’s sad that it’s been so long.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
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