As music fans we’re always on the hunt for new sounds and creators. Through Highsnobiety Soundsystem Co-signs we’re connecting with the next generation of artists that we’re excited about. These are the origin stories of those pushing boundaries and shaping the future of music culture.
Where: New Jersey
For Fans Of: Solange, Frank Ocean, SZA
Playlisted: "Deep End," "time machine," "gold fronts"
A hypnotic, disembodied voice cast a spell on thousands of listeners worldwide before the name Fousheé was ever attached to it. The New Jersey singer/songwriter’s origin story is uniquely of its time while simultaneously echoing the narratives of countless Black women who have been overlooked and uncredited for their work in the music industry.
Fousheé’s voice went viral on TikTok after being sampled by Brooklyn drill rapper Sleepy Hallow on his "Deep End Freestyle." The vocal was originally written and recorded as part of a sample pack for the royalty-free sample library Splice - so, legally, its use was fair, and at first Fousheé didn’t pay it much attention. But, with the song accelerating across the Internet, that didn’t go down well with those closest to her - particularly her mother, Marcia, the drummer of '80s all-female reggae band PEP - who saw the lack of acknowledgement as an injustice.
“If anything it hurt my Mom the most,” says Fousheé, wandering around her LA apartment one late spring morning. “All she saw was that all these people were making money and having a great time, and getting millions of views off this song, off this sample that I made, and I was the only one left out of that. That didn’t go over well for her.”
YouTube commenters pondered over the owner of the voice, while some even tried to peddle their covers as the original. Eventually, after seeing NBA icon Dwyane Wade, using the sound on one of his videos, Fousheé posted a TikTok declaring: “the irony of this is... I’m actually the original singer in this song... but no one knows or believes me... and it’s legit making me go off the DEEP END.” The morning after posting the clip - which now has over 6 million views of its own - she woke up to the kind of interest she’d been working towards since childhood, having written her first song aged five.
“All of a sudden all these labels were calling, and people who didn’t care about me suddenly cared,” she recalls. “It was surreal. We were in the middle of quarantine, and we were also in the middle of George Floyd and a lot of racial issues were taking place. I was angry because of that, and quarantine was just, like, difficult in general. But all of a sudden I had all these opportunities.”
Due to overwhelming demand from fans, Fousheé recorded her own full-length version of "Deep End," which has taken on a life of its own, becoming a bona fide hit that’s inspired uploads from over 3.5 million TikTok creators and racked up over 13 million views on its Kill Bill-inspired music video. She’s also now credited as a feature on Sleepy Hallow’s version.
While her ordeal had a positive outcome, she recognizes that it’s still an anomaly to see a Black woman successfully reclaiming what’s hers, which contributed to the reason she initially didn’t think speaking up would be effective: “It’s a very common story. I know a lot of very talented singers, writers, musicians who are Black women who are part of very important things and their pay doesn’t reflect that, their life doesn’t reflect that, they’re just kind of given whatever,” she says. “[Sister] Rosetta Tharpe, the first rock artist, was a Black woman, playing her guitar in church, and look at how it’s branched off and then been taken over without credit to her.”
A prolific live performer pre-Covid, quarantine has given Fousheé time to focus on defining the sound that she’s creating. “What I’m trying to do is make songs that can sonically be put in categories of alt, or rock, or indie music – and write lyrics that feel like hip-hop or R&B or soul or trap,” she explains. “Very few Black artists take up the alt category: so I want to take up space in that category, and still embrace the things that make me who I am and what I grew up on.” Through “writing a whole bunch of songs, listening to a whole bunch of songs, walking around my apartment brainstorming, passing out, waking up, repeating,” she’s built her debut project time machine.
With Malay – who also worked on one of her all-time favourite albums, Frank Ocean’s Blonde - helping her on executive production, the record’s loose theme allows Fousheé to take listeners on a journey through her reflections and aspirations. On the title track she asks, “Can I borrow your time machine? That’s a shiny new smile/ Can I try on your life? Wanna stay for a while,” echoing the mixed feelings of adapting to her quickly changing lifestyle, while looking left and right at those who seem to be doing it better. “I think that was just the grass is greener complex,” she considers. “Watching all these other artists look so happy and adjusting to the changes so well, like ‘Damn, can I just be you real quick?’ Really you don’t know that we’re probably all going through the same thing.”
During the process of recording time machine – and through collaborating with others, including Lil Wayne, Lil Yachty, Steve Lacy, Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin – Fousheé is learning self confidence. “I’ve been able to work with so many cool people,” she says. “And I think I’ve been able to realize that I need to be able to have that validation in myself too. And be able to stand on my own two feet. And that… I’m enough.”
Over the past 12 months, Fousheé’s concept of the music industry has altered drastically. And while she still aspires to establishment achievements like Grammy awards (“I think anyone that says they don’t is lying!”), she’s discovered that making music which truly represents her is the realization of success she’s been searching for her whole life. “I’m so happy right now,” she grins, as our call draws to its conclusion. “Young, little kid, 5 year old Fousheé who was recording on her karaoke machine is all about this. I feel like I made it already.”