7 Out Musicians to Watch

YO MAJESTY

Billing themselves as "the only openly lesbian rap group," Shunda K., Jwl B. and Shon B. comprise the trio Yo Majesty, based in Tampa, Fla., which has been getting a lot of attention lately for their unique, bold sound as well as their live-show antics.

The East Bay Express likens the group’s shows to "parties at Studio 54 circa 1976 — ass-shaking is mandatory, nudity isn’t forbidden, and going temporarily insane from dancing and repeatedly yelling ‘Oh s—!" is common." Apparently by the end of Yo Majesty’s performances, it’s not unusual for one of the women to be topless.

That said, Shunda has said that fans are more interested in what these women have to say than in what they’re wearing, which doesn’t happen to include tight skirts and skimpy halter tops.

The group describes its music as "slammed up against the sonic perimeter of hip-hop and R&B with a totally New Wave infrastructure." As The New Yorker pointed out, it’s "a direct descendant of Miami bass, an unapologetically bawdy and rough-minded genre." (Think 2 Live Crew.) As an example, one song on Yo Majesty’s recently released first EPI is titled "Kryptonite Pussy."

But their unabashed bawdiness is only part of the Yo Majesty story. Shunda happens to have a solo gospel project on the side.

This past October she told The Stool Pigeon why she doesn’t see this as hypocritical: "Nobody’s perfect, and that’s why we’re up there talking about smoking and drinking and loving and fighting: If people can relate to us, then hopefully we can help them through their problems. At the end of the day, my goal is to win souls, whether I’m performing in a club or in a church."

She also told the magazine that most of the group’s material is about how to love a woman, and who knows more about that than another woman?

As for the division of labor, Shunda raps, Shon rhymes and Jwl sings her heart out. Shon and Shunda have been performing together since 2000, long before they met Jwl. And the three women recently teamed up with Hard Feelings U.K., who provided the beats for the seven-track EP and also produced the recording.

The lead track, "Club Action," has gotten air time in Europe on MTV’s DIY Disco and 120 Minutes, as well as the BBC’s Radio 1. Yo Majesty’s U.S. fan base has been steadily growing, and it spiked earlier this year after the group appeared at the South by Southwest music and film festival.

Yo Majesty has upcoming shows in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Quebec and Ontario, then they’re on to California and Texas. After that it’s Orlando and Chicago, then gigs in Sweden and Norway. Their new EP is scheduled for release in October, and a full-length CD is slated for early 2008.

Listen to Yo Majesty and watch their videos on their MySpace page.

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