What do DJ Quikâ€™s 2000 release, Balance & Options, and the female hip-hop duo known as Nola Darling have in common? Exactly like the record reads: balance and options. Nola Darling represents the balance and provides the option of choice for hip-hopâ€™s faithful. But it isnâ€™t just about that for Jaq and Alex, better known as Nola Darling amongst the music scene. Never ones to be confined by borders, the Nola Darling duo have traveled the world in search of good music, journeying to South Africa, London, Amsterdam and Italy. Talk about inspiration.
Despite being fairly new to game, the duo continue to push boundaries and cross borders, figuratively and literally. In an age of masculine driven music, Nola Darling bring the sophistication, grit, intelligence, and swagger to spit with the best of them. Still, thereâ€™s more to this book of rhymes: creating dialogue, steering away from complacency, and developing classes and workshops designed to cultivate female emcees. Scratch Jack, Nola Darling are the Jills of all trades.
“I think we really appeal to a certain type of woman that doesnâ€™t really feel like she fits in either category of extreme, itâ€™s for everyday folk.”
Format: You guys have a track called â€œWho is Nola Darling.â€ Who is Nola Darling?
Alex: Nola Darling is an idea. Itâ€™s a strength, and an energy and a force, and a facet of us all.
Jaq: Itâ€™s like two forces collide, Alex and I together. Weâ€™re really taking it to the next level, pushing the boundaries, bridging the gap between your typical ethnic female rapper, which we are not, and the over-sexualized norm, which we are also not.
Alex: The name itself draws from the lead character of Spike Leeâ€™s Sheâ€™s Gotta Have It. We just drew inspiration from this character, her commitment to always choosing freedom. And itâ€™s not that weâ€™re promoting promiscuity or anything like that.
Jaq: We definitely donâ€™t appeal to everybody. I think we really appeal to a certain type of woman that doesnâ€™t really feel like she fits in either category of extreme, itâ€™s for everyday folk.
Alex: But she is extremely cognizant of her ability to choose.
Format: On your MySpace page it reads, â€œWe chant for peace and toast for kicks, rhyme for days and sing like we spit.â€ Can you elaborate on that?
Jaq: Both of us were raised by very pan-African parents, so awareness and politics are very significant to us. I donâ€™t want to say weâ€™re changing the world or anything like that. Perseverance and growth is an important thing, so I feel we definitely are about creating dialogue.
Alex: Along with that, in creating the dialogue, just opening up channels for Americans to connect with our brothers and sisters all over the world, throughout pan-Africa if you will. In our experience, our travels, people everywhere have preferred American hip-hop and American songs, but so rarely do we have the opportunity to hear other types of hip hop from different countries. Here, itâ€™s not terribly accessible to us, and so therefore, as Americans, we tend to feel that a lot of us here have limited ears because of what is provided for us, for those of us who choose to go beyond and seek those other things.
Format: Nola Darling is based out of New York City. How does that factor into your style?
Alex: We both have historical pride for this city, and even though our formative years were spent in cities elsewhere, there was a reason that we met up back in New York and planted the seed here in this city.
Jaq: In New York thereâ€™s a place for everybody. Here we were in art school at Tisch and there we were really allowed to be our full selves and grow in a way that only New York, being one of the big cosmopolitan cities, will let you really be yourself and really grow.
Format: Are there any female emcees that you specifically look to for inspiration?
Jaq: MC Lyte, all day everyday. I feel like the majority of women I like arenâ€™t even emcees, you know what I mean, like just based of off attitude and swagger alone.
Alex: We listened to different types of music growing up; we didnâ€™t just listen to hip-hop.
Format: With hip-hop being what it is today, where does Nola Darling fit into the equation?
Alex: Weâ€™re just sick and tired of hearing the songs that say weâ€™re sick of the state of hip-hop. Weâ€™re just trying to contribute something new, some kind of fresh idea that we enjoy, that feels right to us, that says something, that has an impact on our listeners, that coincides with the responsibility of artists â€“ recording artists that spread their messages to the world â€“ and we just have to make a contribution to if we were going to hate on the game.
Jaq: One thing that is always a point of discussion between us, and between our friends, is balance. There needs to be a balance in hip-hop. Itâ€™s one thing to hate on hip-hop, which we are all guilty of at some point, but I really donâ€™t have a problem with all the finger snapping, heavy swagger records and the drug rap â€“ like if there was just a healthy balance between that and people talking about everyday stuff in the media, which is something that we donâ€™t have. There is clearly a considerable gap between the underground beat and the mainstream. And for us, itâ€™s about embodying that balance between subculture and mainstream.
Alex: And as listeners we want to be able to have the choice, now itâ€™s just very limiting with music.
Format: Do you consider yourselves the last of dying breed with there being so few female emcees in the game today?
Alex: Definitely not. We definitely recognize the need for more female emcees. Itâ€™s not something that our culture necessarily encourages. In such a way, itâ€™s kind of a male focus in hip-hop and we just completely disagree. Weâ€™re actually in the process of helping to combat that with a project that cultivates the female emcee through classes and workshops, which are part of a social action plan that weâ€™re putting together through Nou La Productions. Itâ€™s specifically catered to the artistic, emotional, intellectual, and academic needs of women in urban communities. So, definitely not a lack of, but [there are] incredible female emcees to come.
Jaq: Weâ€™re definitely not the end of a dying breed. This is just the beginning. Weâ€™re newbies in the game, and we embrace that. With artistry, you put yourself in a place where you shouldnâ€™t be â€“ you canâ€™t be complacent. Hopefully, through our example, other young women will have the bravery to know that they can pick up the mic and not be afraid of it.
Format: A lot of critics, bloggers, and even fans have proclaimed hip-hop as dead. Do you believe people are asserting such a claim, or claims, because, in part, of the lack of female emcees in the game currently?
Jaq: We actually made a movie a couple years ago called WORD?! I Didn’t Know (________) Could Get Down Like That! With that, that was something that we tackled in our travels abroad â€“ Africa and around Europe â€“ just asking international hip-hop fans and listeners if they think hip-hop is dead and, honestly, perhaps it is, I donâ€™t know. I think sometimes that itâ€™s transitioning beyond being an American thing and this world market is something that is really really going to open up. And Iâ€™m looking forward to that. I hope that international artists get more of there due kudos.
Format: What kind of messages do you try to portray throughout your music?
Alex: That really just depends on what we feel about the song. We donâ€™t have a set agenda. Some of the things we have talked about have included everything from not wanting to do a nine to five, the daily grind, everyday life, everyday struggles as artists living in this community â€“ a changing community â€“ also just about as artists, black artists in the city, and about relationships.
Jaq: Weâ€™re young and just want to have fun too at the end of the day. As long as we having a good time in our music, thatâ€™s what itâ€™s really about. In addition to speaking on things that we see; weâ€™re observers in the game too.
Format: What do you want Nola Darlingâ€™s contribution to be to music?
Alex: I think more than anything we want our music to resonate in some way with people. Whether that be in a really positive way or negative way, we just want them to have a feeling about it, and to move you in a way that causes dialogue, and that creates thought, and discussion and opinion, and keeps energy flowing. We donâ€™t want our music to be stagnate at the end of the day.
More Info: http://www.myspace.com/whoisnoladarling