The sheer volume and golden fluorescence of artist-producer Fousheé’s naturally curly hair creates somewhat of an aura of its own at first glance. It commands attention, in contrast to her subdued, euphorically magnetic demeanor. Fresh off the stage, perched just in front of the banks of the Mississippi River in New Orleans at the 10th-anniversary BUKU + Music Art Project Festival, Fousheé told HipHopDX she still isn’t used to the reaction from fans when she performs her entrancing 2020 alternative-hit “Deep End” — especially for “high energy,” sun-soaked festival crowds.
“I think that’s my most known song,” Fousheé notes. “So I see a lot of people sing along and get a little excited. It’s cool to come all the way out here and see that. I’m not used to it yet. I don’t think you ever get used to it. There’s always a grateful moment that happens when you sing and people get into it because that’s what you do it for.”
Fousheé’s music has taken on a life of its own, despite her ongoing efforts to become acclimated to the influence of her sensually wispy, falsetto-drenched sound.
After Sleepy Hallow’s anthemic freestyle, which samples the RCA signee’s “Deep End” vocals, exploded to the tune of over 49 million YouTube views and earned a platinum Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certification upon release in 2020, Fousheé was instantly cast into the internet spotlight. Almost overnight, she received a jolt of millions of TikTok videos repurposing her song, which in turn flooded multiple social media platforms with her unrelenting angelic vocals in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown.
It’s not as if Fousheé hasn’t already previously manifested her own organic buzz. Even still, she says TikTok played a significant role in launching her solo career, despite her years-long dedication to her craft.
“I think I came out at an interesting time, right,” Fousheé says in part. “Cause I’ve been doing music forever, but that was big, you know, the start really of my career. And to be a part of that and experience it in quarantine is such a different experience than having to be in person and see all of these people. I think it would’ve been really overwhelming. But I don’t think I would’ve gotten even here without the support of TikTok. So I’m super grateful.”
In the end, the combination of Sleepy Hallow’s freestyle and the “Deep End” TikTok saga helped the New Jersey-bred vocalist make history for the next generation of genre-bending female artists. The song skyrocketed into the Top 10 of alternative radio airplay and solidified Fousheé as the first Black woman to accomplish that feat since Tracy Chapman had done it in 1989.
Fast forward nearly 33 years later, Fousheé is coming to terms with the effect Tracy Chapman’s music had on her artistic journey, thanks in part to her beloved aunt who helped introduce the “Fast Car” singer in her childhood.
“My aunt is a big fan of her,” she explains, combing her curls behind her ears. “Like, when I was younger I remember her being like, ‘You remind me of Tracy Chapman,’ because I showed interest in the guitar and she was kinda like that person to put me onto her. And I didn’t understand why she said it, I was like, ‘What’s so different,’ but I guess now like looking back, I understand it — she’s like a folk singer. And like, a lot of her music is about storytelling and she really broke ground for Black artists who sing and play the guitar. It was really important for her to play that way. And I think when that happened, it was a reminder that it doesn’t happen.”
Wielding the confidence instilled in her by strong female role models such as Tracy Chapman, her aunt and mother of Caribbean descent, Fousheé says she leaned into the idea of appreciating multiple genres of music early on and explained how it helped her identify ways to combine her multidimensional affinity for creating music.
“I think I came from so many genres — R&B, reggae, soul, Hip Hop,” she says. “But the artists that I would identify myself as aren’t connected to one specific genre I like to vote around.”
More specifically, she says artists such as Frank Ocean, Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin were among the musical legacies she studied and became inspired by in her adulthood.
“Bob Marley was one my mom would play a lot, and for me, I looked up to Frank Ocean, a lot,” she says. “His writing style and just how he went against the grain when he came out and was able to like touch people on the mainstream level with his writing style, is very much like a stream of thought. And I took a lot of inspiration from rock and roll artists. There was a time where I studied a lot of Led Zeppelin and just now the artists that I listen to kinda expand on genres.”
Though it may seem difficult to wrap themes of Frank Ocean’s prose-facing lyricism with the iconic vibes of Bob Marley and the brash individualism of Led Zeppelin all into one project, Fousheé managed to do so with her 2021 crossover effort Time Machine. In a matter of nine short tracks, Fousheé meanders between trap-tinged folk songs like “My Slime,” neo-alternative rock records such as “Paper Plane” and Hip Hop tracks like “Clap For Him” featuring Lil Yachty, all while commanding each genre with her unique cashmere-textured vocals and alluring pen game.
Fousheé has also proven to be a formidable collaborator across multiple arenas, recently providing a dynamic guest verse for indie-pop singer King Princess’ “Little Brother” single and working with a wide gamut of artists from Lil Wayne to James Blake, who she joined for his nationwide Friends Who Break Your Heart Tour last year.
But according to the Time Machine vocalist’s standards, there are still boxes to be checked regarding her quest to conquer musical spaces typically foreign to R&B-facing artists.
“At the root of it, I’m always gonna be R&B and soul,” she says. “Like I tend to say my voice is my ancestor’s and it’s my culture, but now I like to just take up space anywhere and everywhere that I feel inspired to. And now I would say my new music is kinda like punk-alt. It’s different than all the other music that I’ve ever made before. I think we’ll be surprised by it. I actually performed one of them today from the new project. I’m like screaming and letting out a lot of steam. Which is different for me cause songs like ‘My Slime’ and ‘Deep End’ I’m like deep and I’m almost like whispering.”
Check out Hip Hop performance photos from the 2022 edition of BUKU featuring artists such as Baby Keem, Trippie Redd, Tyler, The Creator, Bas, Tierra Whack, and more below.
Photo Credits: Alive Coverage – @alivecoverage/Devon Jefferson @dropsmedia