When discussing the Jazzyfatnastees, terms like "precious" and "gems" are more than apt. These two soul sisters have been on my radar since the middle of the last decade in the 20th Century. Tracey Moore and Mercedes Martinez are the vocal instruments, creative beings, and alluring figures that comprise a group that moves me more than almost anyone else in the realm of music. That speaks volumes, because music is a medium that is near and dear to my heart that beats like a Roland 808. Saying that the Jazzyfatnastees duo is a direct, and indirect, influence on my musical tastes is akin to stating that Barack Hussein Obama is the unequivocal leader of the Free World.
Where do I begin? The Jazzyfatnastees actually started as a quartet of harmonizing ladies, dating back to 1993 or so. When going back through my hip hop archives, I recognized the Jazzyfatnastees nomenclature on The Pharcyde album. Of course a little detective work revealed that J Swift, the seminal producer for The Pharcyde sound during their unveiling period, was the brother of Mercedes, so the union was a very natural one between the units. An obscure appearance by the entire four lady outfit was for Left Coast artist Quinton, part of the J Swift camp (along with The Wascals). Here's one to grow on Jazzy fans!
Their signature harmony was already present when their blended harmonies made an impression on Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, at least from a studio perspective. J Swift actually penned their name, according to an article on http://www.jazzyfatnastees.com/. "The jazzy lyrics, the fat harmonies, and the nastee tracks, it's all about the music", is the way Ms. Moore put it when describing the Jazzyfatnastees potent concoction. Originally signed to once thriving Tommy Boy Records in 1993, the quartet, who blended their jazzy vocals with hip hop breakbeats to create a unique sound, became a duo at some point during the middle of the decade. Before this occurred, however, their patented blend made its way to the home of the "ATLiens", Atlanta. OutKast was blessed to have these sisters in the vocal spirit on another favorite of yours truly:
"Jazzy Belle" showcased the haunting, yet jazzy, for lack of a better term, backing vocals for a song uplifting our Nubian women. Very fitting indeed to have The Jazzyfatnastees on this ATLiens track. Afterwards, the duo of Mercedes and Tracey relocated from the West Coast to The City Of Brotherly Love, befriending a like-minded group of artists in The Legendary Roots Crew. The Roots would sign the now-duo to their MCA imprint Motive Records, allowing The Jazzyfatnastees creative room to develop their signature sound. The resulting first album from the duo was the very classic in my book The Once And Future. The video and song that stands out on the excellent debut was "The Wound", a tale depicting artificial as reality for women. Even though I have testosterone flowing through my system, I could (and still can) identify with the images and words within the video and song.
Even though the album didn't garner platinum record sales, Mercedes and Tracey developed a very faithful following. I've had the distinct pleasure of witnessing their personal and creative performances on numerous occasions. Devoid of pomp and circumstance, the Jazzyfatnastees allow God-given abilities to take the forefront when performing live. Their live performances, in my humble opinion, are second to none, because you feel at home and extremely comfortable with this duo singing, harmonizing, vocalizing in front of a musically hungry audience. I had the pleasure of meeting them after a performance at The Garage in DC years ago, with a then-unknown Kindred opening for the Jazzy ladies. Both were humble and personable, especially Mercedes, and I was fortunate enough to develop an e-mail communication of sorts with beautiful and talented Ms. Martinez, often discussing MCA as the "Musical Cemetary Of America". The next offering from these singing divas (and I use the term "divas" in the best possible light) was The Tortoise And The Hare, which was a continuation and expansion on the signature sound. Songs of empowerment, sensuality, and strength were found throughout this second offering from the Jazzyfatnastees, and to great effect. "All Up In My Face", "El Medio", "Let It Go", as well as seven other neo-soul/funk/hip hop influenced songs rounded out this very slept-on album.
Around this time, Tracey and Mercedes developed a very popular music performance series New York at The Wetlands that soon made its way to Philly called Black Lily, taking hints from Lilith Fair. Designed as a peformance showcase for artists to be themselves, it attracted many artists that influenced the burgeoning neo-soul movement. On any given Tuesday, you could find artists such Jill Scott (hey Jilly from Philly), Erykah Badu, Bilal, Musiq Soundchild, Kindred, Jaguar Wright, a very young Jasmine Sullivan, and many more. Typically backed by The Roots, this signature Illadelph event lasted for a number of years at The Five Spot, eventually ending its run (I'm hoping temporarily) in 2005. From those close to my inner circle, Black Lily, at least in that six-year run, is sorely missed. Looking at a Philly-based female hip hop documentary, "Scene Not Heard", my Jazzyfatnastee sisters made a point to state that even though Black Lily is no longer a weekly series at The Five Spot, it still lives on in spirit, and hopefully in the future the brand can be expanded. They were already spreading their creative wings in other arenas such as independent film, so I am anticipating, with fingers crossed, the next reincarnation of Black Lily. I can safely say that I am a faithful fan who will wait for as long as need be for the creative juices to flow from the Jazzyfatnastees, in whatever form or fashion.
There is an unreleased album that may see the light of day at some point, "The World Is Coming". If, and when, they release this third Jazzy project, I will be front and center on that fateful Tuesday. Until then, I am content with two musical offerings that are better in vocal quality and creativity than ANYTHING being played twenty times per day on radio. One thing that does linger in my mind is their hip hop brethren, The Roots, not using the Jazzyfatnastees for their opening cut on How I Got Over, "A Piece Of Light", featuring Dirty Projectors singers Angel Deradoorian, Amber Coffman, and Haley Dekle. Is it me, or does the atmospheric vocals of Dirty Projectors sound very similar to the signature harmonizing of the Jazzyfatnastees? If you read this Ahmir, let the Jazzy fans know why this is so. Coming from a professed Jazzyfatnastees fan of the highest degree, inquiring minds want to know. In any event, it has been good to see Mercedes listed on album credits for various albums over the years for her Illadelph family The Roots (How I Got Over, Rising Down). When the time is right, the world shall see and hear the group that was ahead of the neo-soul curve and very influential. Until then, do the knowledge, and experience this gem known as the JAZZYFATNASTEES!
THE JAZZYFATNASTEES DISCOGRAPHY:
The Once And Future MCA/Motive Records (1999)
The Tortoise And The Hare CoolHunter Music (2003)
The World Is Coming (Unreleased)* CoolHunter Music (2005)
*The World Is Coming----there was a limited download release, but no formal album release