2oo7 til’ Infinity. Q&A with the the ATL Duo

Words by Matthew Spence:

[The following introduction was written and visualized in Abbott Elementary Style, mainly because of a binge of the show.]

Ranked #13 in Forbes: “Ehh, Pick Your Poison, Your Kid Will Still Hate It” On the Best Schools list, The School of Hard Knocks has a versatile curriculum that makes PCA look like Everest College. From life skills like figuring out what dinner you can get with $5 in coins to using dish soap when you run out of laundry, To the astute: knowing when to use “whom” instead of “who.” A mass of a cast and class. A school, many black kids attend, whether they want to or not. Among the variety of lessons offered through many subjects, there’s a variety of students. Groups and cliques are more expanded than the crews at Cascade.

Trappers, Bel-Air-esque preppies, Huey Freemans to Maxine Shaws, to the dude who owes you $2 but will never actually pay you back. Today’s documentation, though, will be on the students in the middle. The Dope Kids. Black people with knowledge of many worlds but are still trying to figure out their own.

From the Book of Chum, Verse 1, Line 14

“Too black for the white kids and too white for the blacks.”

For some time (and a long fucking time), that was a problem lingering over many black kids, pre-teens, teens, and even adults. Just hovering over you like teachers who think you’re cheating on a test. Now, in the 2020s, it’s something to embrace with a middle finger.

 

Being such a layered topic within itself, I’ll cover it more in-depth another time. but to keep it sweet and short: “Black Suburbia” is becoming more visible to those who need it the most. Not necessarily people who live in well-off areas necessarily, but black people who give people the refresher that it’s ok to be open-minded and not succumb to social norms people expect of you because of ignorant expectations. Just like shit you want and do shit you want, no matter what. The long line of individuals in Black Culture who set their footprints for us to create our own trail of creating and enjoying. We’re the Class of 3000 Generation. Enjoying the benefits, but still have to keep the saga moving for the next generation.

 

In the 2020s, we see many that are doing just that: Paris, Texas, Teezo Touchdown, and BLACKSTARKIDS. Bubbling over the past couple of years and onward, we have 2oo7.

Photo- Courtesy of 2oo7

Two brains equal 1, courtesy of Shai Nowell and DivineDevine. Friends and fans of each other’s respective solo work prior, 2oo7 would become a healthy plant grown and nurtured by the love of music and dopeness. An Indie R&B duo? You can say that to get an idea, but that’s the surface of them. Merging music and influence from their own worlds from various genres and artists, whether it be: The Internet, the White Stripes, N.E.R.D., Tracy Champman (whose appearance at this year’s show we talked about), or Paramore. Ranging from R&B to alternative, they’re a great example of music becoming more of a combination of colors as time passes. Artists can’t simply be simply put into one box. Like a playlist on shuffle, who knows what’s next?

Broad City and Baby are two songs with a post-punk influence and Gothic-sheen elements. Broad City is like them wanting to make their own take on the Cure’s greatest hit (and yes, it indeed does hit).

Yet, “BreakUp 2 MakeUp” or “Seek Me Out” carry the R&B grooves and tenderness. Smooth, headbobbing, and snapping our fingers every 4 beats. “Kangaroo” takes you on a left turn with its wave of Electronic and Dance, but the musical whiplash is what makes it even cooler. Kangaroo is Track 1 on their debut LP, “Riot of the Kelly Green Love,” and the follow-up track is a switch-up to their R&B bag.

Like when a rapper opens their LP with the first verse going to another rapper, it’s artistically off-putting but intriguing nonetheless. The packaging may be different, but nothing was tampered with. The ingredients and results are the same. Devine flexes her chameleon voice [“Look At Me Now” is a perfect example] and her ironed-out songwriting. Shais has fine-tuned production and instrumentation skills. Delivering music that screams “I need to hear this live,” as you can hear, would translate well from record to stage. Trading back and forth ideas and feeling the vibe seems to have paid off in their favor.

Two albums in: 2021’s The Riot of the Kelly Green Love and 2023’s Love Letters from the Mosaic. Sprinkle in their 2022 EP, “Bottles, Coughs, and Red Pandas.” They’ve garnered a couple of songs with 500k streams, with “Touch Me” having over 1 million. Instagram follows from Paris, Texas; BLACKSTARKIDS & Sleepingongems follows Shais personal page.

Getting respect from peers alike and being part of the ATL scene that seems hotter than hell in the summer. The path they are on is leading somewhere. The location isn’t known yet, but it’s somewhere incredible, that’s for sure. On a lucky day in February, I got to ask them a few questions and talk about a ton of shit. Music, the ATL scene, Gen Z nostalgia, Kanye, and a bunch of shit that may or may not make this interview. We talked about shit. I’ll shut up.

 

Being that you both are solo artists, how did you guys come together to make music?

Devine: We knew each other for some years before making music. I was hanging with my friend…

[record scratch]

 

Hi, this is Matthew interrupting this interview, Kuzco style, to point out that this friend isn’t some ordinary friend [because no true friend is ordinary :)]. This friend is the famous Playboi Carti fan from his arrest video.

Like, for seriously, yo. “Technically speaking, without that guy, 2oo7 may not exist, technically in a butterfly effect way,” as Shai points out. “His life is so random; there was a moment where he was like, ‘Yeah, I was with Drake’ and I’m like, ‘DRAKE?!? Yeah, Ok’ then later there was like a video of Drake walking out of a stadium and he was just in the entourage walking with him”. Thanks, Mr. B-Boss, sir. We shall proceed.

…He [Shai] was always here. I had heard one of Shais’ albums, and I really liked the production. So, being here a lot, and just asked, “Hey, you wanna make music,” and he was like, “Yeah, I’m down.” We were just making music, not really trying to be a group. We ended up having so much music for a project. Put it out as collaborators, not as a group. The feedback and music say, “I don’t think this could be a one-time thing; we gotta keep going.” Two friends making music and just blossomed.

Any sound in mind prior?

Shai: Definitely not; we were just making stuff. Me as a person who’s big on capturing what you want right in the moment and not being too bent on boundaries. I’m just making all types of stuff. Could be groovy or dark. Just making stuff, and I think the sound is the summation of the things that we do, that feeling of “Oh, this is 2oo7.” Every song doesn’t fit an exact sound, but it’s the summation.

Describe Your Sound in 3 Words

Shai: Care-Free-Niggas. Just not giving a fuck. Not even in the sense of aggression, but so much so, we don’t care. Whatever we feel like, that’s what we’re doing. Bright or dark. Carefree Niggas.

Devine: nostalgic, versatile, and fun

(Shai realized he might’ve given a phrase rather than three individual words, but that’s fine. I myself have two words: talented and dope.)

 

Any pressure to remain consistent with a certain sound? [whether due to appealing to certain audiences, virality, etc.]

Shai: I don’t really feel too much pressure to be transparent; our most successful songs are due to our work marketing. I genuinely feel whatever we do decide to put out there and we feel good about it, it’ll be successful.

Devine: It’s like the Solange Interlude: “I’m so many colors, so many things.” To try to focus on this one because it was successful doesn’t do us service to who we are as people because we’re so complex. Everyone is complex. A blend of so much keeps everything interesting and fun.

Shai: That’s one of the things I wanna bring forward: people realizing we’re multi-dimensioned deep down. For me, I like black people shit; I’m a Nigga. I like this, that, and the third, but I also like shit like Edge of Day Break, Armor for Sleep, and shit that isn’t necessarily black culture. That’s ok. You can like all of that. What makes people gravitate towards you is your ability to not care about what people think.

Was it important for you to highlight your musical influences and palette?

Devine: Yeah, it helps explain the mixture of stuff a bit easier. If you say, “These are my influences; they have nothing to do with each other and are decades apart from each other,” it helps explain the “Kangaroos” from the “BreakUp 2 Makeups.”

Continuing, she elaborates more.

“Our generation of black kids, depending on where you live, if you’re like a black suburban kid, you get both sides. Suburban angst, and you’re still black, so your parents play like Al Green and Old-School Hip-Hop. Being black and suburban also plays a role in exposing us to different things. The melting pot of the black suburban kid.

Shai: [I] went to high school in Savannah, Georgia…

[Note: When he said this, I immediately thought of the OutKast song “West Savannah.” [My nerdy ass wishes I mentioned it.]

I was in this other suburb called Pooler. Sweet, no problems. It was so new; it was in the same district as one of the worst schools in the county and one of the worst in the state. So I went to that school even though my home life was chill in the suburbs and everything. So I went to that hood-ass high school, but because of that, I think I learned a shit ton of what it means to be black at a lot of different levels.

As we kept the convo rolling, they established that 2oo7 is for “people like me.” Representing the black teens, young adults, and everyone in between, who put it quickly: refer back to that Earl Sweatshirt lyric in the introduction or the intro in general. That’s it. Motherfuckers who like Tom Petty and Iggy Pop but also listen to Xzibit and Danny Brown. Kids finding their element, and as Me and Devine were discussing us both coming from immigrant parents (as she was born in Congo and moved to the US when she was a baby), she dropped a divine gem. “When you have parents from a different culture, finding your own thing is important. Kids of immigrants kind of share the same story.”

 

How do you feel you expand your musical identity with each project?

Devine: I don’t like making things that sound the same. Doing that with each song allows us to create a new world for the different projects because we wanna create a different sound. But not saying, “This is the sound we want for this next album, and we’re seeking it out.”

Songwriting Process?

Shai: Working with Devine gives me the freedom to do anything, as long as it’s cool. We’ll finish a song on it. It requires me starting on production and bring it up with Devine, and she’ll try to lace some vocals, melodies down, and ideas. We try to piece them together as we go. As of late, we’ve tried to implement a more concise process; even the doors are open to write a song in anyway.

3 albums apart of your musical DNA?

Shai: Princes self-titled, N.E.R.D.s “In Search Of,” and the 1975s “A Brief Inquiry Into Online”

Devine: Tracy Chapman Self-titled: Anything Disney Channel like Demi Lovato’s “Don’t Forget.” I think at the age that I was and seeing a girl rock out and all this stuff, it resonated with me crazy. Paramores: “All We Know is Falling.” I remember having that album on my iPod and falling asleep to it.

Zooming into a 2000s nostalgia convo, following the iPod mentioned (my brother had a Zune), we realized we’re geezers and times have changed. Reflecting on the Schedule Program (especially regarding music) era was honestly low-key special and an era we’re not gonna get back. MTV, VH1, MTV Jams, VH1 Soul, and TRL. World Premieres aren’t the same, more convenient than ever since we can watch on our own time, but the need and necessity to be on militant timing to not miss them aren’t there anymore. However, that’s another convo. On a 2000s bender, it made me ask…

Why 2007?

Courtesy of 2oo7

….Well, simply from a tweet, but there’s more to it. Popstar Benny tweeted out, “Free Band Name: 2005.” Trying to think of names, they traced back to the tweet, but as the wheel kept spinning, 2007 felt more right. As well, it felt like “everyone was in their bag, no matter the genre.” Rattling off names and hit singles and albums from that year, I understood what they meant. The energy correlates to them: in their bag, making their best stuff, no matter what sound they are working with.

How did you find your voice? [Devine Solo Question]

Devine: What was really instrumental was getting my guitar when I was 12 or 13. I was always singing Beyoncé songs and Disney songs. Just singing anything that I could print lyrics to, but then I got my guitar, and I was like, “These songs are hard for me to sing, so let me start writing my own songs to cater to my voice and range and be the best I can do.”

 

The power of Disney helped, as she gave credit to many Disney artists of our time for being really talented songwriters. From Demi to the Jonas Brothers (and other artists all around), these elements would lead to her writing one of her first songs. As she sang the lyrics, I thought to myself, “You wrote this at 13??” because some motherfuckers don’t have competent lyrics until they’re 24. So, with that in mind, she didn’t have a headstart; she was 4 laps in when it came to songwriting.

 

Pick an album: Love Below or Ego Death?

Devine: Ego Death

<proceeds to look at the tracklist of the Love Below.

Yeah, I’m going the Love Below

Shai: Love Below

(However, it wasn’t an easy decision.)

We take a moment to talk about the Internet and Shai’s standom. Funny stories in between about a friend of his asking if the “Weeknd is going Vamp” due to not knowing who Vampire Weekend is. As we keep chatting, I can’t help but notice that they’re very community-driven and open people. As they mention, supporting many people in the Atlanta scene and expressing gratitude for being in the music scene in Atlanta.

The Atlanta Scene: Your thoughts? (I didn’t know how to ask it.)

Devine: The future is Female. Whatever it is—hip-hop, photography, media, whatever it is, it’s female. Women are like, We’re tired of always being the ones who goes to the show. It’s us whos going to the show to cheer you guys on and listen. So now we’re gonna be on stage.

Shai agrees two times.

“That’s why I’m excited about 2oo7 and working with Devine, who could be an inspiration to a generation of black girls.”

continuing with Atlanta

Shai: I think it’s super cool; it’s a great place to at least start music. Inclusive, the Faye Webster and Lil Yachty Collab (referring to the song “Lego Ring”) is a good rep. One day you could be chilling, and then you’re hanging with a local talent to a nationwide star.

 

From an outsider looking in, I can’t help but imagine the scene as some incomprehensible world. Like being a freshman on a university campus, just imaginatively enormous to the point where it’s like, “How do you find shit here?” In reality, it’s like an inclusive sandbox. Everyone knows everyone (generally, it feels like). You’re eventually gonna run into people, and if you keep the genuine respect, they’ll do the same for you. A small world. Multi-universe. It’s like Atlanta: Endgame. 2oo7 is close to artists like Tony Shhnow (the homie!). Shai explained they were aware of Anycia before she became an artist and explained how she fucked with their music and how he met her one time and told her that “she needs to keep going” as her music also goes hard as fuck. One day Shai ended up playing poker with Faye Webster and other friends (I wonder who won, now that I think about it). Devine just happened to go to the same community college as KARRAHBOOO.

Everyone wants everyone to win. 2oo7 not only wanna be champions for themselves but for everyone around them; they’re happy to see others making it to the top. Everyone seems to support everyone from a genuine place. The ATL connection is genuine and not superficial.

 

Wrapping up the conversation and Q&A, I ask… What’s for the future?

Devine: To keep making amazing music and keep meeting amazing people through the music. Music that excites me and that makes me wanna go “Oh I CAN’T WAIT TO PERFORM THIS”.

Shai: Definitely plan on putting something out soon. *NO DATE THOUGH*. The music keeps going!

 

Courtesy of 2oo7

 

Be Sure to Follow: 2oo7, their Site, Shai Nowell & DivineDevine

Be sure to Music their music: Spotify & YouTube

 

All photos are from their respective owner.

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