Tonight at the Beat Kitchen, Chicago emcee/activist/poet Jessica Disu (aka FM Supreme) is debuting her latest release The FM Supreme Project EP. Back in 2008, I had the pleasure of discovering her during an electric performance at Decibelle Festival. And to get you ready for the show this evening, we spoke with her about the EP’s fresh and ambitious mix of beats, rhymes and bold storytelling.
Since that first Decibelle Festival show and our first interview with her, Disu has continued to grow and develop as a live performer, poet and activist. If tonight show was anything like her performance at the Haiti Benefit at Reggie’s earlier this year where she performed her latest single and lead track “Crazy Mama” — then fans are
Her new FM Supreme Project EP showcases Disu’s skill of blending fun, intelligent and spiritual wordplay with a style that’s seriously fun and socially conscience. Over the course of the five tracks, she delivers her story in a way that’s both universal and personal.
The EP is a strong and promising step up from her last release The Beautiful Grind Mixtape. Because this time, with help from a team of producers, her rhymes are lifted higher and borrow deeper into the heart via a deftly soulful and gritty blend of Chicago-style juke, Dirty South crunk and emotive synths, playful punk rock samples and classic hip hop beats.
At the age of 22, Disu has certainly honed her ability to lead the listener through the Project’s short, but still powerful song cycle that’ll move your mind and body to higher ground as you nod your head to her inspired beats and rhymes.
Now, here’s what she had to say about performing for the Pope in her dream venue, why she taps into the emotions of her fans before her live show, how she transferred the live energy to record “Crazy Mama” and what she’s learned the most about the difference between US and European audiences.
In what ways have your live performances influenced the writing and producing of the FM Supreme Project EP?
My live performances set the bar for my studio recordings. I definitely had to move around to several studios during the recording process so that I could take it there. My spirit has to be comfortable for me to “emote-” have emotion in my recording. It took a couple of months for me to record at the same intensity as my performance. Performing is another world. The stage is the place where I feel most at home so it’s not concentrated, I just do my thing. Recording The FM Supreme Project, I def had to dig deep within myself to channel and record those same emotions I felt during the experiences I share as well as the writing. Everything I write about stems from real life situations. Its 100 % real. So in the studio, I had to remember that as well as the way people react to my live shows.
Over the last couple years, you’ve performed on many stages here in Chicago, the US and in Europe. What are some of the most important insights and lessons you’ve learn about connecting with a live audience in familiar and foreign cultures?
Performing in the US and Europe, I’ve learned that I should always be myself at all times. The people generally love Jessica for being FM Supreme at all times on stage and off and that is something that should never be changed or it may create a disconnection with me and my fans. My rawness is authentic and genuinely who I am and it shows in my performances.
I actually found my European audience more diverse than America. It was interesting to witness, interact and perform overseas. I was supported overwhelmingly and my music for first time I felt was appreciated. When I wrote The FM Supreme Project, I definitely had Europe and the rest of the world in mind. I don’t wanna be one dimensional and make music that only young girls and guys from Chicago can relate to. So in addition to continuing to keeping it real, drop the vulgarity from my lyrics- because it’s crass, I stopped using the N word because it’s a North American derogatory word and it’s just plain ignorant.
My mixtape, The Beautiful Grind, was received well over there and I was like ‘wow,’ I can only imagine how the Europeans would feel from a project I took more time to cultivate. I haven’t learned any new lessons though about connecting with live audiences, unless its cerebral. I’ve been performing since I was 12 years old. I learn as I go and grow and internalize it without even processing it.
I saw you perform the lead track Crazy Mama live at the Haiti benefit back in February at Reggies. It was a very physical and energetic performance that was a lot fun to watch. What challenges did you face transferring and communicating that same live energy into the mixtape recording?
It took 3 different recordings of Crazy Mama 2.0 to transfer the energy from performing that song into the live studio recording performance of it. Whew! It’s crazy yo. Once you set your precedent, you either have to live up to it time after time or go above and beyond it.
In the beginning stages of recording Crazy Mama 2.0, I couldn’t channel the fearlessness that I have when performing it. I had to call my brother in law, J-Dub who produced the original Crazy Mama from the Beautiful Grind Mixtape. I had to have him, two of my cousins and my producers Talent and Brendan be in the studio with me as I recorded this song.
I needed to be comfortable, vulnerable and take it back to where I and the song itself came from which was at my sisters apartment in Calumet City in 2008. It took a long time to figure out who would mix it to make it the best it could possibly be and that turned out to be my another one of my in house producers, Eric. So it all worked out!
What are your thoughts on the culture of the call-and-response at live hip hop concerts?
Call-and-response is cool. I mean I don’t feel either way about it. Sometimes it’s great in live shows but I don’t think it is absolutely necessary at all times.
As an artist, what “Little Things” do you look for during a show for real-time insight or inspiration?
The only things I look for at a concert or performance is the audience. I observe them for awhile before I perform and then I choose which songs I’m going actually perform. Usually the song or songs that the people in the room need to hear or could relate to. I am inspired by people and helping people be it through my words, teaching, mentoring etc.
If you could play one “dream” venue in the world where would it be and why?
If I could play one dream venue, it would be in Vatican City, at the Vatican with the Pope present. Why? Because I love God and Jesus Christ. This place is said to be a very Holy place as it is the capitol of Catholicism, which is a strong Christian religion.
I believe in many things and am open to many beliefs have briefly independently studied Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and recently acquired the Bhagavad Gita. I truly believe that my work is a manifestation from the Creator who works through me to send these messages specifically to young people and women. I wanna perform Crazy Mama from the stage or altar where the Pope speaks. I think that would be fun.
If you could take one element of your favorite concert you experienced as a fan, and use it to inspire your own live show, what concert and band would it be and why?
I haven’t been to many concerts but if I could take one element as a fan and use it to inspire my live show, it would be similar to Florence + The Machine’s performance at the VMA’s 2010. I loved the imagery and movements that were happening from the stage. I don’t even remember their performance specifically, however I remember the way it felt watching it. I was like ‘this is sooooooooooo cool. I wanna do that!’
What is something unique about your live performance that fans might not realize or be aware of?
What is unique about my live performance that fans not be aware of, I just let loose and let God and the Holy Spirit move through me. I don’t practice unless it’s what my dancers or rehearse. I pray before I perform and ask God to bless my performance and the show itself and to use me to communicate whatever it is that I’m supposed to and the crowd always goes ape shit. You gotta love it.
We thank Jessica for sharing her story and live show experiences. You can follow Jessica on Twitter (twitter.com/FMSupreme) and keep an eye out for her upcoming website www.FMSUPREME.com.
Listen to “Crazy Mama”[audio:http://christophercatania.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Crazy_Mama_Final-Mix-9-27-10-10_15-pm-MP3-VERSION.mp3|titles=Crazy Mama]
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Here’s tonight’s show info:
- Beat Kitchen
- Doors: 7:30p
- Showtime: 8:30P SHARP
- DJ ITCH 13 AKA ITCHIE FINGERS
- Special Guests: GemStones (FNF), BBU, Kevin Coval, Rachel McClusky, Janelle Kroll + The Chicago FootWorKINGZ
- Hosted by Drunken Monkeee + Neo Dot COM
- $6 TO GET IN THE FIRST HOUR 7:30-8:30P