THE LADY TIGRA: FIRST BLACK FIRST LADY
The Lady Tigra was once one half of the group L’Trimm (with Bunny D) and one half of the song “Cars With The Boom” but she has since moved to L.A. and released her Please Mr. Boombox on High Score. She has just released her new “First Black First Lady” and hopes to say “I told you so” on November 5. This interview by Chris Ziegler.
Is it true the first time you ever got drunk was in the city of Los Angeles?
The very first time. We came to shoot the video for ‘Cars With The Boom’ in L.A. and we stayed at the Sunset Marquee. And sometimes when we traveled, the promoter would have flowers or bottles of champagne in the room, and I was like, ‘Bunny, let’s celebrate! We’re in L.A. doing our video!’ And she was like, ‘I’m not sure, T.’ ‘Oh come on, let’s just have one glass of champagne.’ Cut to—shenanigans on the street. This is the middle of the afternoon, by the way. By sunset, I had promised to God to the very first time around the toilet bowl that I would never drink again. And I didn’t drink again for years. I got in a lot of trouble, too. Bunny called her mom because she thought I was dying, and her mom called my mom, and she called the road manager—her mom was like, ‘She’s too skinny! Feed her a burger!’ And it turned into this whole thing. My road manager had to feed me soup and tell me he was disappointed in me. I learned moderation that day.
Did you move to L.A. to work on the record or after the record was done?
I moved here because it was getting expensive to fly back and forth from the east coast. I just moved to Echo Park and now I finally feel like I live here. It’s a lot more like Miami Beach and New York—neighborhood-y. Artists and old ladies pushing laundry carts down the street and families—it’s a lot more diverse. And I love being in my car.
Have you been spotted singing along to the radio?
For sure—are you kidding? You don’t know the number of music videos that take place in that car. I had a singalong with some people at a bus stop—to Aretha Franklin.
What was the last thing that had to fall into place for you to make a new record? And what was it like to hear your old sound coming back with new groups?
Isn’t that funny? It’s not so different at all. I don’t have to think so far outside my own box. I just happened to get lucky that people wanted to hear it. Maybe eight years ago before an M.I.A. or a Peaches, people might not have been ready. I kind of paved the way for them to pave the way for me. Work always brought me back and forth to L.A.—I’ve been in L.A. half my life. A lot of times late at night, we’d end up at my friend’s studio, just making songs. After the club or whatever or an afternoon when nobody’s doing anything—we’d make up funny songs. But out of those songs came a few songs that resonated with our family and friends—we’d burn CDs and pass them around. After that, Berko put together his own label and asked me if I wanted to be the first artist, and an EP turned into an album. Some of the songs on there already existed from the silly sessions.
You said you left some political songs off the album. Was one ‘First Black First Lady’?
‘First Black First Lady’ is very recent. Only a couple months old. I’d been already very vocal about my feelings about the campaign, and I’d spoken to someone about doing an Obama song. We put it together really fast and threw it to the people!
Have the Obamas heard it?
I don’t doubt they will!
What’s at stake in this election?
It’s not even the election yet and it’s already so important. It’s opened so many conversations that haven’t been opened in a long time, including that of race. It’s making us examine ourselves, examine our values and our beliefs—we’re talking very candidly about your definition of gay marriage and if you’re for it or not. It’s the last of the old guard—the dinosaurs—and then our generation. Barack took her on a date to see Do The Right Thing—that speaks to all my friends who remember going to see the movie. Sort of a changing of the guard from the generation that brought us to the point today—where there’s a $700 billion bailout—to this generation that plays videogames and understands how to text.
What do you think of the candidates’ iPods?
Obama had the Fugees and McCain had ‘Dancing Queen.’ I can’t even hear Abba anymore without thinking of him dancing. I love Abba for it! I picture McCain walking around the house singing ‘Dancing Queen’ at the top of his lungs. It shows the generational difference—this is what’s hip to him.
Didn’t your mom just make an album, too?
Yeah! How did you find out about that? My mom really really surprises me. She’s a single mom—always went to work at the office, and though there was always music in the house I never got to see her creative side. Until five years ago I was talking to her on the phone and she was like, ‘I’m going to go record a song.’ ‘Really?’ She had a friend with some equipment—beat machines and stuff—and she wrote and composed two songs. She’s singing traditional Haitian-style love songs—in Creole and in French, but very traditional music. She had a photo shoot, prints the CDs, the whole nine—headlined at the Carribean Music Awards a few years ago. The conversations between us now are like, ‘So what’s going on with your album?’ Her album came out before mine did! My mom’s underground—she’s like indie.
When was the last time you visited Haiti?
When we were kids, we’d always go back—we had families there. But it’s deteriorated so much. It’s one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. And as a result of everyone starving and being illiterate, the violence escalates. It’s a really dangerous time. One of my aunts was kidnapped a couple years ago—she was alright, thank God, but there was a ransom we had to pay. Another aunt was shot in the hand and an uncle was shot in the foot—my uncle they tried to carjack so they could run someone over. It’s really chaos. Since the dictatorship fell, it’s been overthrow fever. It’s gonna take years—decades to get the economy back and to get people educated. I recently did a fundraiser for an orphanage—they make 600 meals a day and their food bill is seven thousand dollars a month, but that month they only raised $3,500, so they can only have meals every other day. It’s not even what we consider a meal. It’s gotten that desperate. I’m trying to bring awareness. They’re right in our backyard. The little kids make dirt cookies just to stave off the hunger—it’s like—ouch! Just go to the Red Cross—everything you need is there. Type in ‘Haiti.’ I’m hoping this campaign will bring awareness to Haiti—to all the parts of the world that need our aid. And not just military aid. We are a rich country—sending a check for $20 can feed a few kids.
What does your mother think about this election?
She’s really really excited. All of them are in the same state of shock. Like—‘Ah, not in my lifetime. Maybe my kid’s lifetime. I don’t know if we’re ready.’ My mom came over from Haiti during the civil rights movement. For her to see as many changes as she has in her lifetime—it’s exciting. I think Public Enemy needs to be around—we need to hear from them. They need to write an Obama song, or not even an Obama song but about the times we’re going through now. They had a good way of putting into words what we were dissatisfied about. I’d like to hear from them again.
Who was the oldest person at the Rock The Vote show you did?
Probably in his sixties. They were going nuts with ‘First Black First Lady.’ It’s the first time ever—including ‘Cars With A Boom’—that I’ve been asked to do an encore of the same song back-to-back. Twice! And I played in Chicago last week and people jumped on stage again and when they got off stage they asked for an encore—the whole crowd was chanting the song! The only two times I’ve performed it that crowd has asked me to encore it. Twice!
You’ve said before that you’re happy it’s no longer rare for women to be involved in hip-hop. What are you happy about that’s stayed the same since you first started?
I’m happy there women out there talking honestly and strongly what women are going through. A lot of people beat up Lil Kim for being dirty, but she’s a woman so she speaks what she knows. So go for it. If they can talk about their penises, we can talk about our poons.
Do you feel like it’s more open for writing now than when you were in L’Trimm?
It’s more open in that so much more has been covered—so many things have been talked about. Domestic violence—any topic you can think of—has been explored trough hip-hop. It’s a lot more open in that way. Back then, what we mostly responded to was your radio, your shoes, you know—throw your hands in the air and party! I guess I’m trying to bring that throw-your-hands-in-the-air party vibe back. After the last eight years, we need it.
A reason to throw our hands in the air besides desperation?
That’s right—I wish I would have said that. I’ll use that in the next interview.
What was the best moment of the best moments in L’Trimm?
There were times—River Phoenix—we had no idea who he was—came backstage when we were playing a college town in Gainesville where he lived, and he loved De La Soul so he came backstage. ‘Do you guys wanna go back to this afterparty at a club?’ We got permissions and went to some club that was wack—we were like, ‘Clubs are BORING.’ So we went back his house for a jam session. He had a band called Aleka’s Attic. He had a soundproof garage and we hung out there with De La Soul. And it was the very first time I’d ever seen vegan dogs in my life. River and I got into a very heated debate about it. I was like, ‘They’re CARNIVORES!’ ‘Well, we’re not running around with axes trying to hunt down deer!’ Two giant Great Danes, and they were vegan.
What’s the next song you want to write?
I’ll definitely write about the day I voted for change.
On November 5th?
Yes. And be like, ‘I told you! I told you!’ And there will still be a lot of bass. Until I’m 85 there will be bass in everything I do.
Until your bones get too brittle?
Yes. Well, I’ll eat my calcium so the bass doesn’t shatter my bones. But definitely songs that are heavy on the bottom. Bass ‘til your teeth fall out! And your hairline recedes and you get a gut!
Lady Tigra @ Spaceland
THE LADY TIGRA’S PLEASE MR, BOOMBOX IS OUT NOW ON HIGH SCORE. VISIT THE LADY TIGRA AT THELADYTIGRA.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/THELADYTIGRA.