This article first appeared July 22nd, 2019 in ZO Magazine by Kendra Beltran
“I am personally not a fan of social media or reality TV so my sound has only taken shape organically through my very own reality and social experiences.”
Thumbing through my memories, I think the first time I ever heard anything under the neo-soul umbrella was in middle school when India.Arie appeared before me on Vh1. She was one of the artists back in the day to make the genre known. Alongside her in that were the likes of Jill Scott and Cherokee. We shared a back and forth with the Brooklyn-native, now LA resident and talked about everything from her new album, Just a Brooklyn Girl (out July 27th) to empowering people to be comfortable in their own skin, and more.
Kendra: It’s been 20-some years since the neo-soul wave of the late ’90s came in and took over the mainstream. As someone on the forefront, what growth have you seen within the genre since then?
Cherokee: There have been a dozen new artists that have come and gone since the Neo-soul wave. Not due to lack of great music but due to the fact that the music industry has completely changed. The struggle for indie artists to break through Is very real and almost impossible if you are not a social media junkie. I feel like “Hip Hop” has become a beast in the belly and has taken the forefront. Even R&B couldn’t seem to keep its head afloat in recent years but surely it is about to make a serious come back in a Neo-Soul type of vibe with artists like HER, Sza and Ella Mai to name a few. However, I believe that Me, Badu, Jill Scott, India Arie, Bilal, D’Angelo, Anthony Hamilton, Ledisi and many more will still continue to redefine what soul music is all about. We never left the building. I was just in my cubicle chilling out.
Kendra: On top of that, how have you personally and musically grown in that time and how do you feel that growth has allowed your sound to take shape in a world of social media, reality stars as President, and so forth and so on?
Cherokee: I feel like my growth has come with being a mother. In teaching my children to be confident, honest and comfortable in their skin…I have found true conformability within myself to just be who I am. That being…unpredictable, sometimes shy, sometimes bold expressive being. I have grown into a woman with no regrets. All of my experiences in my life are written into song. My sound continues to reflect on my childhood. I grew up listening to a melting pot of wonderful artists such as Prince, Michael Jackson, Dr. Buzzard, and the Savanna Band, The Beatles, Phoebe Snow, James Taylor, James Brown, and Stevie Wonder. Those are all my #1 influences.
Kendra: We’re going to hear how for ourselves when you drop Just a Brooklyn Girl at the end of July. While a Brooklyn girl through and through, you do spend a lot of time out in LA. Will we hear any west coast influences on the album?
Cherokee: No matter where I reside, I am forever a Brooklyn girl, so I don’t believe you will feel any West coast influences on my album. However, I absolutely love the West coast and the artists that have come out of there like Tupac, Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre and so on. Maybe one day, the greats will bless a track of mine with a few bars and then and only then will I have some West coast vibes.
Kendra: What was easy to hear were your feminist touches throughout, especially on “Goddess” in which you sing, “Feeling it. Touching myself.” Solo female pleasure isn’t something that’s always put in the limelight. Why do you think we’re still afraid to talk freely as a society about that but men, men can have hour-long stand up specials about theirs?
Cherokee: Women have been taught as little girls, a handful of bullshit rules and restrictions. Self-pleasure is a topic made out to be forbidden. Few parents make their children feel comfortable and confident about what is a natural expression of self-pleasure. If you are not comfortable with touching yourself as a woman then how can you possibly expect to teach your partner what turns you on. “WE” are afraid to talk freely as a society because basically that fear is originally taught through religion. Religious teachings smother you with shame but we should all know by now that even priests should be taught that masturbating is okay instead of raping children. But that’s a whole other subject. For a person to believe that self-gratification is a sin…Something is seriously wrong. The Yoni is beautiful and powerful. It delivers life!
I don’t need anyone to grab me by the pussy. I got this. Wherever, whenever I want.
Kendra: Part of feminism is the ability to stand side by side with men, be seen as equals rather than opposing forces. Which is how I imagined it was like working with your husband, Neal H. Pogue, on this record; equal voices coming together. With that, it’s also hard to work on a project with a loved one. Do you turn off the marriage side of your brains when you’re in the studio together and just go in there as musical partners?
Cherokee: I absolutely turn off the marriage side of my brain when working with my husband in the studio. Sometimes it is the most difficult experience for him because I can be a bit demanding, bossy, and impatient. My focus is the vibe and his focus is the pitch and staying in the pocket and everything else. He is a perfectionist and this is why he is so great at what he does. I am most comfortable with only Neal producing my vocals. We work together really well and compliant with each other’s creativity. The rest is unpredictable and rewarding to say to least.
Kendra: There is this article going around that said something like humans will be over and done by like 2050. It came to mind when I was listening to “Time” because it’s all about making the most of the time you have. So if this article has even an ounce of truth to it – what do you hope to accomplish with your time?
Cherokee: If that is so, within those 30 years I hope to touch the world with my music and to help others through philanthropy. Also to watch my children and hopefully grandchildren grow up to be respectful human beings that help others as I wish to do.
Kendra: As we roll deeper into the summer of 2019, what are your plans? Touring?
Cherokee: I plan on hitting the stage as much as possible. Now that I finally have my project completed and have a band in place there is no telling where I will pop up. I am ready to perform, travel and get my feet wet once as long as I’m able.