Few musicians can brag that their first concert occurred on a yacht. In fact, even fewer could brag that their first performance opened for soulful songstress Chrisette Michele. New Jersey singer and rapper Stori has those bragging rights, but she’s probably not going to be too boastful. Humility incarnate, she sat down with us after her first concert to discuss her journey, movies, feminism and her upcoming mixtape, among other things. Her story truly is interesting, pun intended.
RESPECT: How do you feel after that performance? Do you feel like you were received well?
Stori: I felt great. It went by dumb quick. But I felt great about it and it did feel like after I finished it was well-received.
What about after you started?
When I started, I was just kind of in my own world and I didn’t really notice much, but once the set started to progress I was like, “Okay, they’re feeling it, they’re feeling it.” But in the beginning I was just in another world.
So I read that you’re a movie buff –
– I am!
And you have a mixtape coming up. What movie would your mixtape be the soundtrack to?
Damn! That is like the illest question of all time. Probably like Tank Girl or Set it Off. It’s just really like female empowerment. The mixtape is called Bad Ass Dame. It’s just a bunch of female empowerment. I call some women bitches, but it’s because they deserve and if you’re a bitch, you know you’re a bitch and you’re not gonna take offense. That’s just how it is. But if you’re a lady, you could be a bitch too, (laughs)…I don’t know. That’s just the illest question anyone has ever asked. Good job, Steve. Respect to RESPECT. Magazine…
So I guess it would be any movie about chicks being dope and badass, taking names, not really giving a fuck.
So would you consider yourself a feminist?
I might teeter-totter, but I’m definitely not a feminist.
Definitely not. I’m not like the picketer or the “hey you can’t do that because women can’t do everything” type. I’m not that girl. But I do want to see women in power. I do want to see women succeed. And I do want to see women stand up for themselves and do things that might be for “guys only.” We can do that shit too! I was on a stage rocking sneakers. ‘Cause I want to! It’s about being yourself and doing what you want to do.
I think that makes you a feminist.
Does it? A little, bit, right?
No, I think all the way. Feminists that are really catty and who are always saying who is and who isn’t a feminist are getting away from the heart of it. The heart of it is just making things equal for everybody, especially women. *
So what would I be? Like a modern 2000’s feminist with a bad mouth? A disrespectful feminist? (laughs)
So traditionally, rappers who weren’t black, male and “from the streets” have typically been received with a little hostility. I don’t know about where you grew up, but as a rapper who is white and female, how do you respond to that hostility? If you haven’t felt it yet, how do you plan to respond to it?
Well you know what, I’m sure it’s out there, but I haven’t really felt that specific hostility yet. But I think it’s just extra hard because obviously I’m white. And obviously I’m a girl, so it’s like a double thing, you know? I’ve just gotta go extra hard. But I think the music really speaks for itself. I’m not robbing people. I’m not speaking about how you need to hide your kids and hide your wives because I’m about to take everything up in here. (laughs). The stories are in the music. Just because I ain’t been to jail or I don’t have balls, people can connect to the music. So as long as people can find something to connect to, they can hate you if they want to, but they’re still going to talk about it. I just don’t pay attention to that.
What aspects of your music do you want people to pay attention to the most?
The raw emotion of it and the content. Pun intended, my name is Stori, so each song is an individual story, so regardless of what anybody’s been through, I feel like if there’s just half a verse or a few bars that they can connect to, I think I’ve done my job.
So you’re here to open for a fellow Motown artist. And the Motown of today is clearly not the Motown of the 1960’s, but it still has that aura. When you think of that Motown aura, what do you think you’re contributing to that legacy?
Well now it sounds like I’m tooting my own horn…but now they’re calling it the New Motown. And Motown itself is just such an iconic name and an iconic place. I just want to bring that raw talent and showmanship that you knew it for. With acts like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, it was really about the feeling of it and not a whole bunch of smoke and mirrors. So I just feel like getting back to feel good music is where I’m trying to take it.
So your song Bloodclot has this dancehall, ragga vibe to it?
Word? Does it? Alright, let me explain to you what happened with that. So back when I was a little kid, he did “What the Bloodclot” and basically I was just freestyling and redid that. And we just threw it out and it got a crazy buzz overnight. We really didn’t expect it to do that. But we weren’t really going for any dancehall type feel. We were just trying to pay homage. Plus, I love throwbacks. I love that whole feel.
I see. Speaking of throwbacks, your song “Just Another Day” comes from a Queen Latifah song. Alongside Method Man and Queen Latifah, what other artists would you say you’re influenced by?
Of course: singing and rapping.
Yeah!But then again I also just have a really eclectic sense of taste. Growing up I loved Mariah Carey. I loved Whitney. I loved Prince. I loved the Beatles! It’s a hodgepodge – Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z. It’s all that along with the movies. It’s a whole bunch of shit.
So some of your older songs were hard to find on the internet? Why are those things hard to find? What is the difference between the Stori on “Jealousy” and the Stori on “Bloodclot?”
There is no difference, really. They’re all just kind of autobiographical. On “Jealousy” I talk about a group of chicks in high school that weren’t really feeling me. And I’m like you know what, I roll with dope bitches and you’re going to be screaming from the checkout line in a few years. And “Bloodclot” was like going for an old school feeling, back when shit was wild and crazy. “Jealousy” and things like “Rude Boy” and those older songs, we took all that off because none of that is going on the mixtape, and we’re about to put the mixtape out. We’re also working on an album, so we just wanted to create a little mystery and keep y’all waiting a little bit.
But do you think you’ve developed since those older songs?
Yeah, I’ve been writing my whole life and I think there’s always a progression and a learning process. Since “Jealousy” and “Stori Time,” I think the main thing is that I’ve gotten more confident. But I don’t think that too much has changed.
But confidence is a big thing though –
Yeah, but I don’t think it’s a noticeable thing, from that time to this time. But those were good times too. (laughs)
So there’s not that many people who have been able to successfully sing and rap. I don’t mean that in terms of records sales, but in terms of maintaining the persona of a singer and a rapper without becoming schizophrenic or heavily leaning towards one. What do you do to make those two different skills and personas complement each other? Does it take effort?
I just stay kind of schizophrenic. I think that’s the only way to keep both worlds alive. People ask me all the time, “Which do you really like better?” I’ve been singing my whole life so I feel like its more natural, but I love them both equally. I’m split down the middle. So I couldn’t choose one. I just like living on the border of both worlds. I don’t find it difficult to go between them.
Do you feel that one or the other has certain benefits? If you wanted to be aggressive, wouldn’t you definitely choose rap? Or if you wanted to be more melodic, would you definitely choose singing? What are the pros and cons of each in your mind?
I think there are more pros than cons because if you hear a track that you don’t see any melody for, you could throw a 16 on and by the time you’re done writing your 16, you might have heard something and can now throw some melody in there. But I think that a con in hip-hop is that people are always looking for who you’re beefing with. I’m not even about that shit. I just want to put out good music. So whether it’s with singing or rapping, it’s just got to feel good.
I guess that goes back to your earlier comments on Motown. You just want to make feel good music.
You were featured on Funkmaster Flex’x mixtape. Was that a milestone for you?
Hell yeah! Especially being from New Jersey. Hot 97 ran my life growing up (laughs). I was always listening to Flex so when we got the word that he was going to throw it on his mixtape, I was like oh shit, that’s kind of dope! From that I actually had someone recognize me in Atlanta. I introduced myself as Stori and they were like, “You’re Stori?!” and I stopped and was like, “Do you seriously know who I am?” It was a funny moment, but it was a new experience. This is a crazy ass journey that I’m on right now, man.
What are some other big moments in your journey so far?
Well this (opening for Chrisette Michele) is definitely one of them! Just last week I did the summer lookbook campaign with Karmaloop so that was another big thing. The mixtape finally has a date and it’s coming out. We’ve got the video for “Pocketbook” coming soon. It’s really a lot of stuff happening and I just want to sit back and watch because it’s going so fast. I’m so excited for everything because every little thing just feels like a big moment, especially tonight.
My last question is: what’s your favorite movie?
I go through phases with movies, but for right now, I’m going to go with Vanilla Sky. It’s official. I love those cerebral, crazy movies. It changes, but for now I’m going to go with Vanilla Sky.
*Editor’s note: This is not to imply that all criticisms by feminists are unwarranted or that feminists are the only activists who deal with divisive internal conflicts.
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