In the first few days of the new year, the internet unanimously selected its first viral song of 2017. Its choice was highly unlikely; a silky-smooth R&B jam that effortlessly evoked the golden ’90s haze of acts like TLC and Ms. Lauryn Hill while still managing to sound inherently here and now. And it just so happened to be in German, a language most would associate with guttural disposals of phlegm not often found in tracks written to chill out.
Yet in spite of, or perhaps because of, this cultural cross wiring, “Bist Du Down?” emerged as nothing short of a bona fide sensation. And the emcee behind it, Ace Tee, is just as miraculous. Born from the ashes of the genre that peaked around the time of her birth, she carries the weight of her musical forebears on her shoulders while presenting her immaculately conceived futurist vision, one where everyone is wearing adidas trackpants paired with a single Nike leather glove.
Obviously, we were down with this vision. So we caught up with Ace and her producing/rapping partner Kwam.e to get the lowest of the down-lows on bringing their runaway hit to life.
I’ve always actually wanted to ask this question to somebody… how does it feel to go viral?
Very surprising, definitely. I was shocked. I was shocked a few times. I don’t know what to say about it, I’m just happy. Hey, I’m blessed!
Tell me a little bit how you guys started making music?
It was around two and a half years ago. I met [Kwam.e], and he said he was rapping. I was like “Wow, for real? I rap too! So let’s be together and make some crazy music.” At first our songs were a bit darker, so we decided to dig deeper and find our real sound. And that’s what we did. We went offline, didn’t talk to each other for some months. Then there was one day I randomly asked him how he was doing. He said “Everything’s going good, but I don’t do that trappy music anymore, I do the laid back shit, where you bump your head”. I was like “For real?! I do it too! Let’s just do something!”. And that’s how it happened.
How do you feel about all the comparisons to ‘90s music you’ve been getting?
I’m really glad that people compare the whole project to Aaliyah and TLC. I’m definitely inspired by many artists from back then. But I would say it’s our own vibe. It’s a new vibe and a new sound, it’s not like typical ‘90s music. It’s new. We have this lo-fi sound in it, and it sounds like old new school, so we call it future R&B.
What is it about ‘90s culture that makes it such a great source of inspiration?
People really miss the old ‘90s vibe, the whole energy of it. Back when hip-hop just started it was a community, everyone was feeling a part of it. Not always positive vibes maybe, but they were still trying to get the hood together, that was the whole thing. I think that’s what people miss, that unifying energy. It’s real.
What is the German rap scene like? How would you describe it?
How’s the German rap scene like…. Wack. No, I would say interesting. Interesting and grey. But there are some artists who are really dope. In German music there’s the good and there’s the bad, but I think there’s no real German sound. It’s not specified. UK has a sound, everyone has a sound, but we don’t.
Do you feel like you’re making the new German sound?
I really hope so. I haven’t heard anyone doing the same thing we do. I hope we will continue to get more people to us, to our side, to spread positive vibes. To not talk about all these hoes, money and drugs, the basic stuff. It’s about expressing yourself.
So you guys are very stylish. How would you describe your personal style?
Fresh! I would say different. I don’t care what people think about me, I do what I have to do. Which is express myself through music and outfits.
What’s next? What are your plans for this year?
Music! All my plans for this year are music. Music, videos and love.
For more of our video interviews, check out where we took the rapper Le1f on our first date.
- Imagery + Video: Marcus Werner