Hip-Hop

Billboard's Hip-Hop and R&B Rookie of the Month for March: Fousheé

Fousheé
Matt Cowan

Fousheé

When Fousheé was five, she wrote her first song.

“I used to write with the tools I had at home then -- piano stock sounds and my little karaoke machine,” remembers Fousheé. “I always wanted to do music.”

The New Jersey native even remembers the title of the song, “In My Way” -- which is exactly how Fousheé is crafting her unique alt-soul sound and jumping from anonymity into the spotlight after going viral last July with the moving “Deep End” (No. 5 on the Spotify Global Viral 50 chart). That was in fact the second time the song went viral. An earlier version by Sleepy Hallow, “Deep End (Freesyle),” featured Fousheé’s vocals on the hook. She later unveiled her identity in a TikTok video that’s since logged nearly 6 million views.

Now signed to Trackmasters Entertainment/RCA Records, Fousheé is a multi-instrumentalist who grew up with music. Her mother was a drummer for a female reggae band called PEP in her native Jamaica before moving stateside. Growing up in New Jersey, Fousheé was introduced to such influences as Bob Marley, Toni Braxton and Etta James before becoming a fan of artists such as Frank Ocean while performing with various girl groups.

She was on her way to earning a communications degree with a minor in music when she and her mother were involved in a serious car accident. Recalls Fousheé, “That was a wake-up call for me to go harder with music.”

Since “Deep End,” Fousheé has garnered growing buzz with the breakup song “Single aAF” and her latest song “Sing About Love.” Earlier this week, she was named a VEVO DSCVR artist and released performance videos of her two newest tracks.

Flexing her directorial muscle as well on the videos for “Deep End” and “Single AF,” Fousheé gives listeners a lot to savor in her music. “You’ll hear some nostalgia and airy textures with rhythmic elements because I also like to rap,” she explains. “I also love interesting bass lines, cinematic samples, harmonies and witty lyrics that say things you probably shouldn’t.”

How has your mother’s musical background influenced your own creative pursuits?

She started playing with her band and emigrated to America before I was born. But she taught me principles like how to harmonize. I also learned from the music she’d play as I began to interpret it my own way. My mom would come to my living room concerts and cheer me on. She and the rest of my family have supported everything I’ve done musically. I took voice lesson at a young age, played the trombone and piano growing up, and recently picked up the guitar.

What inspires your songwriting?

My writing is inspired by my being an introvert trying to express myself, a creative person trying to figure out new ways to say things and a music fan on a journey to write the best song I ever wrote. Writing is therapy; it’s everything. And if I’m not writing a song, then I’ll journal to think of concepts. At this point, I can’t stop writing. I wouldn’t know how to express myself or channel my energy if I stopped.

You’ve moved beyond the post-breakup single life and back to love on your latest song. How did you approach putting this next phase into words?

I’ve been writing from the spectrum of a single person for the past year because for a while, it wasn’t about love songs. It was: I’m frustrated. I’m alone. I’m single AF. Now I’m dating someone who I think I love. And I wanted to talk about what that feels like, but realistically. It’s not like, oh, flowers and daises. It’s like, 'Oh man. Why am I even falling in love?' It’s kind of like I’m disappointed in myself because of the mistake before. But it’s also kind of cool to be singing about love. It’s a nod to that vulnerability … being in the moment and watching the play-by-play.

What hints can you drop about new music you’re recording?

There are a couple of features with people I look up to. One is James Blake, who’s a genius with his vocal arrangements and the way he plays the piano. He even gave me some advice about being signed. Kali Uchis and I are working on something that we’ll be putting out. I do have some interesting and fun things planned for the visuals. I’m also really going to be heavy on the alt with some songs. But there will still be some of the same vocal foundation element, just a little more realized. But overall, I don’t want people to expect anything about the project. I want them to be caught off guard.

Reviewers have described your voice as haunting. Do you agree?

Yes. I want to come into your house and haunt you -- keep you up night so you’ll remember this voice. I play a lot [laughs]. But I like to write about being sad a lot. I don’t run away from that and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s honest and it’s beautiful. It’s unrealistic to be happy all the time or have a voice that’s uplifting all the time. Sometimes my voice is weak, sometimes haunting as well.

Billboard Explains: How Grammy Nominees and Winners Are Chosen

Why is R&B still a vital genre?

R&B is the root of so many sub-genres. I grew up listening to R&B/soul, hip-hop and reggae. I like to think of my sound as alt soul: You’re always going to feel it in your soul no matter where it ends up crossing over to. I use a lot of guitar, electric guitar for a futuristic sense. So R&B is always going to be here. Now we're taking it where it hasn't been before, mixing in different elements. Soon we won't have any genres. People will just listen and hear what they love.

You have co-signs from SZA and No Name. Have they given you any advice as well?

I'm just watching how they're able to handle everything. I’ve been a fan of SZA’s for so long. I love her songwriting style, music and spirit. She’s always reaching back to help other women and up-and-coming artists. No Name is that reminder to speak up, to want more not only for yourself but for your family and community -- and doing the hands-on work. Kali, too. Being in the studio with her, I was blown away. She’s so sweet talented, and hardworking. I just think Black women are the greatest thing ever. I’m always in awe. If I can be and do anything close to those three women, then I’ll know I’m doing a great job.