United Front

Hip hop duo God Des and She talk equality with the release of their fourth album

It’s been two years since hip hop soul sisters God Des and She have released new music, but the wait is over. The band’s fourth album, United States of God Des and She, dropped nationwide on February 5 with a provocative video that captures the political controversies and exciting possibilities of our time.

God Des and She clicked right from their first musical endeavors together in the early 2000s. Originally from Madison, Wis., the girls spent several years working in New York City before transplanting themselves to their current base of Austin, Texas, the world-renown incubator for new music and emerging artists.

God Des’s quick-tongued lyricism and She’s soulful swoon embody its own genre on the spectrum of pop music. With a loyal fan base, 40,000 records sold and a legendary appearance on The L Word on their resume, God Des and She are reaching the apex of their game. They’ve even moved into the political arena by recording a video to support LPAC, the lesbian political action fund. Recently, the duo spoke with GO on the eve of their album’s drop and broke down the complex issues they explore on the United States of God Des and She.

GO: It sounds like United States of God Des and She deals the tough issues in our country today.

God Des: The title track begins the record. It starts with, “Welcome to the United States of God Des and She/where freedom and liberty are actually real,” and then we talk about what’s going on in the world. That sets the tone for the whole record.

Is that how you came up with the title of the album?

She: It was because we were looking for a [title that begins with] U. We didn’t even notice before, but for some reason, all of our records are in alphabetical order. So I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we just continued with that theme now that we know that’s what we’re doing?’ [laughs] So we started thinking of names that began with U, and the United States of God Des and She just kind of came from all the ideas. We want equality, we want people to be free, and we want people to be conscious and pay attention to what they’re doing. So many people are just regular folks who just don’t know [about these issues]. If we could just get them to pay attention and to engage in their communities just a little bit, that that right there could change a lot of stuff.

Tell us about your video and first single, “God, I know You Love Me.”

God Des: The video is about gay peoples’ internal struggle with religion and it stars a young girl. The story is told backwards so (spoiler alert!) she dies at the beginning. But in the story she goes to conversion therapy—

She: –She goes to parochial school and they make her go through gay conversion therapy. It’s a pretty intense video, especially for us, since we usually do really fun, colorful and upbeat videos. This is a big change for us, but we feel really strongly about making sure we told this story properly. It’s the truth as we see it. I’m really proud of it and I think people are really going to be affected by it. I’m a little nervous about the backlash we might get, but it was really important to do it.

Coming off strong and heavy right off the bat!

She: [Laughs] Pretty much! There are no apologies for it either. We just want change and we just want people to be free to be who they are and happy in their life.

What inspired you to start writing about heavier topics, considering you chose a song like that as your first single?

She: Traveling around and meeting different people and hearing their stories of their struggles, and the pain we see in people’s eyes. Luckily, the strength we are able to give them is through our music. We are really accessible artists, we’ve always talked about our experiences, and we’ve always been really open with our fans. We hear all their stories over the years and it just gets to the point where we almost don’t have a choice but to try and do whatever we can to get the word out about what we’ve seen and what we’ve learned. You can’t have that knowledge and not do anything about it. We have that platform and we have that voice to share our experiences and those of everyone we’ve met—and to make sure something is done.

What other political issues are really important to you?

God Des: Well, humanity and equality, the obvious! [Laughs] I feel it’s my moral obligation to do songs that are inspiring. I’m very aware that even if I didn’t want to be a role model, which I do, I understand that there are thousands of people looking up to us and watching us, so I always consider that when we’re doing music. I kind of feel like I’m an activist and my music is my way to convey that. We have a song on the CD that’s called “Wake Up” and it’s about how we’re so complacent and not doing things that really need to be done for the environment and for humanity. We also have a song called “Shut Up” that makes fun of misogyny and the same stuff that’s being played over and over. We have “Ew She Said That” in which we diss the Tea Party.

She: We have a song about domestic violence called “Mary”—

God Des: –We have a lot of deep stuff on the record. It’s a far cry from our last record, which was really happy and upbeat, with a lot of party songs. The sound of [the new one] isn’t somber, though; the sound of it is still a definitive G & S sound but the subject matter is definitely a bit heavier.

What songs are you really excited for people to hear at your shows?

God Des: I’m really excited about “God, I Know You Love Me.” You know, I’m not even religious, but I still have those doubts and those fears of trying to accept myself and thinking, “Am I really going to hell?” I felt like it was just so important to write that song, because I know that there are so many amazing people in the world and I’m not going to hell for being gay. I felt like that song was really important to write, and I can see when we perform it the effect it has on people. “I Want it Back” is a song about my dad having cancer, and we’ve had so many people come up to us with tears in their eyes, saying ‘I can relate.’

She: I really like “My Name” because it’s super sassy; it’s a really fun one. Another fun, upbeat love song is “Between the Sheets,” it’s a super-sweet throwback to the days when it wasn’t all ‘booty booty sex sex’—it’s sweeter, like a courtship. This record is rounded out to be fun and accessible; there’s a lot of political stuff and it goes by really fast but it really builds a flow.

What are your plans for the spring?

God Des: In February, we’re going to do a West Coast tour to promote the record, and then in March we are going through the South to Florida. In April we are going to Europe and are actually doing a European tour! Then summer will be music festivals and gay Pride events. We can’t wait.

United States of God Des and She is available from their website, god-desandshe.com.

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