Brick & Lace: Give Respect

  It is a fact that certain styles of clothing evoke different attitudes. No matter what they rock, Jamaican sisters Nailah and Nyanda expect one thing: respect from men. The duo, known musically as Brick & Lace, has a lot to look forward to as they give Jamaican women a voice to the world through […]

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It is a fact that certain styles of clothing evoke different attitudes. No matter what they rock, Jamaican sisters Nailah and Nyanda expect one thing: respect from men. The duo, known musically as Brick & Lace, has a lot to look forward to as they give Jamaican women a voice to the world through their music. Far from overnight sensations, the ladies are on their second major label deal. They have worked with the likes of Lauryn Hill and Jurassic 5, and recently their third member dropped out of the public eye. Despite changes that could have been seen as setbacks, they aligned themselves with Geffen Records and multi-platinum singer Akon for a fresh perspective. With all the pieces in place, Brick & Lace hope introduce themselves to the world at large with their new album Love Is Wicked. We spoke to them during a recent visit to New York about how they continue to fuel their fire. Alternatives: Did you both want to pursue music at first, or did one sister convince the other? Nyanda: No, both of us knew that we wanted to pursue music. That has always been our passion. And no, it hadn’t been no one person convincing the other, ‘cause we come from a very musical family background. So music has always been a source of joy to us and a source of expression. AHHA: Is there one thing that you two argue about most? Nyanda: Sometimes we clash tastes in the studio. I would say that. But I think we keep each other on our toes creatively. We’re strong personalities. We’ll be like, “No, I like this melody better.” And she’ll be like, “I like this lyric better.” Sometimes we’ll have those crazy differences. But it’s all in jokes, and we keep it movin’. AHHA: I know that [a third member], Tasha, used to be part of your group. Is there a reason why she’s no longer part of the group? Nailah: Well, Tasha, you know she felt like she didn’t want… [She] set a different route to pursue other things. She wanted to start a family – kinda want to be more behind the scenes. What we’re doing now, she would call us and kinda talk about how she look at…give her… AHHA: Suggestions and stuff? Nailah: Exactly. I mean, definitely she’s written on the album with us. A lot of those tracks you hear on there, Tasha did the writing. So, she’s like a silent member of the group. She’s always the person to call and give her input and stuff like that. AHHA: Has singing backup for many notable artists such as Diana King, Beres Hammond and Lauryn Hill helped to propel your career? Nyanda: Oh definitely. Performing on stage at such a young age kinda really schooled you. You kinda get more familiar and used to performing in front of so many people, and kinda enjoying being on stage – the thrill of it and excitement. It was definitely something that kinda helped in our deciding factor. AHHA: Did you learn anything unique from any of the artists that you worked with during that period? Nailah: We learned different things from the different artists. We worked with Diana King, Marcia Griffiths, Beres Hammond and Lauryn Hill – we sang background for her. All these artists, the common factor with all of them… they love the music. They clearly do it for the love of the music. They really know how to connect with their audience. We really admire that a lot about them. AHHA: Yeah, that’s really important, to connect with the audience. Are you finding it harder to penetrate the U.S. market than the Jamaican market? Nailah: I don’t think so. Not at this time. I think maybe if it were a couple of years back. I definitely think now is a great time because everybody’s ear, definitely internationally their ears have been warmed up by people like Sean Paul, like Rihanna [and] Shaggy. I definitely think people are not as alienated to it as we think they are. I think people definitely love reggae music, and I think it has really been kinda seeping through the radio waves and people are gravitating towards our music. I definitely think people are ready for a new sound. AHHA: What is your fan base like in Jamaica? Nyanda: Wow. You know we get so much support from back home. And especially the females. They like, “Yo, Brick & Lace do yah ting girls.” But it’s always positive feedback from the females, and I think they like to see somebody represent them. Especially since Rihanna is on the scene from Barbados, they’re definitely happy to see their Jamaican girls on the scene. AHHA: Yeah because there are not too many Jamaican women representing music right now. Nailah: And also not just Jamaica, but also we have fans from all over the world. We did a European tour with Marcia Griffiths who headlined. We were performing there and people were exposed to us for the first time. Ever since we’ve just been getting love and messages asking about album, and actually some of the album that they’ve heard through underground, they’ve been requesting it, asking where is that song or when is the album coming out. So, definitely we have some fans out there who have really fallen in love, not just with us but our music, which is really important to us. AHHA: In 2003 you were signed to Jive Records. How did that benefit or not benefit your career? What happened with that situation? Nyanda: Well I think every situation, good or bad – we might consider it bad – but I think we need to look at it as learning experience. And the Jive thing, we saw that there was more politics in the industry, saw how things worked with record companies. Early on we felt the vibes never felt right. They considered we had talent, but I don’t think they knew how to present it. They were used to artists like Britney Spears at the time, so I don’t think they knew how to present Brick & Lace to the world. Nailah: We were glad about it, because we felt like who wants to be on a label who doesn’t get them or not going to do anything? We didn’t want to be sitting there, so it’s definitely a blessing that we’re able to leave Jive and be able to go to Geffen, and that they were able to get our zone, and they were able to receive us the way we wanted to be received. So we take it as a blessing. AHHA: Now looking at 2007, how has linking with Akon benefited your career besides being signed to Kon Live/180 Ent/Geffen? How has he helped in shaping your music and how it’s presented? Nyanda: Well, the label wanted us to work with Akon, and it was such a blessing because it really worked out for us creatively. There’s like mad chemistry in the studio and it just felt like he got it from the start. Musically, it was magic. I think people respect Akon. We had been huge fans of his, and I think people definitely respect him as an artist, as a producer and they trust his judgment. He’s credible. Yah know Akon not going to be working with no idiot artist. [laughs] If he gives us a stamp of approval, I think the world will say, “Alright well let me take a listen to this.” I think in that way it’s a positive thing for us. AHHA: Do you see yourself working with him for a long time? Nailah: Definitely. Oh my goodness, definitely. When we started working with Akon, we felt like he was gonna come and do a couple of tracks. He kinda fell in love with us and vice versa, and just the vibe of his whole team. The chemistry was definitely undeniable. Akon is so talented and I love where he’s trying to take the music. I definitely think they’re trying to elevate the game. Step up the music and make it more musical. We’re girls who grew up listening to so much. We come from a very musical family, where our father played guitar and keyboard. That’s what we know – music and melody – and that’s the great thing about working with Akon because he knows melody as well. It’s not about some cute little hooks or we need a hook right here. Our music is more melody driven. If you listen to his music he knows melody as well. So I definitely think in the future we’ll be working with Akon. Even on his writing projects he’s been writing for Nicole Scherzinger, and he was like, “Girls y’all gonna have to come write with me.” So we ended up writing on Nicole from Pussycat Dolls’s songs. It’s like we consider it like the dream team, even outside of our own projects we’ve been writing together. AHHA: Is there any artist you want to collaborate with? Nailah: We’d love to work with Kanye West. We feel like we worked with a lot of artists and producers that we wanted to work with. But in the future we’d like to work with Kanye maybe Stephen Marley, Damian Marley. We want to work with more Jamaican artists as well. AHHA: On your single, “Never, Never” you’re tellin’ guys to bring their “A” game and only then might they “get it”. Brick & Lace: That’s it girl, you got it! AHHA: Did either of you have any bad experiences with a guy approaching you sideways? Brick & Lace: Yes! Both of us, yes! Nyanda: You know sometimes you go to the club and you have these guys who, just because they have money, they’re throwing their money in the air. You just feel like, “That doesn’t impress me. What are you bringing to the table? All the money in the world, your fancy cars? That’s great, but you have to come better than that.” Definitely, we’ve had personal experience, and I know many girls can relate to that. AHHA: Do you think that the U.S. market finally knows the distinction between reggae and dancehall? Nyanda: Boy, that is so funny because people are always asking us. [laughs] Somebody was just asking us the other day what would we consider Junior Reid: a reggae artist or a dancehall artist? You know it’s difficult sometimes. Sometimes the lines are blurred. But you know, reggae tends to be more conscious or love music. Dancehall, I think is more grimy or more, your spittin’ edge of lyrics. AHHA: What is your favorite song to dance to? Nailah: “Dutty Wine”. [laughs] Nyanda: …and “Bad Man Forward”. [All chant: “Bad Man forward, Bad man, pull up!”] [All laugh] AHHA: I’d like to bring you back to the Jurassic 5 album. How did you go about guesting on that album Feedback? Nailah: Scott Storch was producing a record with them, and at the time we were in Miami. They invited us to sing with them on that record. That was fun. AHHA: Since you’re from one of the most gorgeous islands, what is your favorite vacation destination? Nyanda: Well when we toured Paris we were like in awe of the place. It is so…and Rome. Beautiful. Nailah: They have so much history. Like the architectural design. It’s definitely beautiful, how they uphold and keep that history. You know, we’re definitely island girls. We love to go visit all the islands outside of Jamaica.