JB the First Lady is standing outside CBC Vancouver in the summer sun. Her fourth album, Meant to Be, drops in two weeks, and rather than seeming nervous about that, or sweaty in the July heat, she looks positively radiant.
The Nuxalk and Onondaga Nation's rapper, activist and mother is cool, confident and happy. She believes she’s written the best song of her life for this new record, and for the first time she’s exploring sex and desire in her music, alongside her trademark songs of protest, resistance and justice. She’s in love and she's feeling herself.
Meant to Be is the look, feel and sound of JB the First Lady truly coming into her own.
“We were talking about how women of colour, especially from the Black and Indigenous communities, our stories are from pain, and I wanted to come through a different door of the house and showcase that we are allowed to be happy,” JB says. “To be in love and to feel sexy. And not to oversexualize myself, but to talk about feeling sexy and my sexual expression. Being connected to my femininity and my sexuality and my sexual expression is an act of resistance. Because we're not supposed to be here, on so many different levels, as Indigenous women.”
You can listen to the First Play of Meant to Be a week before its release, and scroll down for JB the First Lady’s exclusive track-by-track journey through the new record, from brilliant rhymes and fiery beats about reconciliation and resistance to sexy slow jams and self-love revelry.
'Meant to Be'
"I'm telling my story through this track and how everything you're supposed to be will always happen. Even if it's a negative or positive experience, it always brings you back to the path of what you’re always meant to be. This is my fourth album, four directions for Indigenous people. Four elements, a full circle. I’ve completed my circle, my medicine wheel, and ‘Meant to Be’ is about love. I talk about being in love and genocide, and how we've overcome that as Indigenous people, and how we're still working against genocide with kids in care and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and men. There's just so much that we're fighting against every day, but it's meant to be. We're still here and we're not going anywhere."
'My Baby’s My Baby'
"It’s talking about the excitement of having a partner and daydreaming of making a baby and how much we love each other. We do this every day and night. My partner sends me Instagram babies every day of what our baby will look like [laughs]. We just choose each other every day and how important that is. Being in love and how excited we are to build a family with positive relations because that's another act of resistance. All these policies towards our people were meant to break our relations up. The whole act of residential schools and how I feel that today as an intergenerational survivor, or, in recovery. Having healthy relations and a healthy relationship with my partner and with myself is so important to me.... My story hasn't been told yet and how powerful it is being able to do that. Being connected to my culture and making my regalia, making my cedar hat. These things are very important to me because when you put on your regalia, your powwow regalia or your button blanket, that’s that [self] love. I had to discover it for myself, and I got to make these items for myself to bring that spiritual strength to me."
'Out of the Gate'
"I was doing artist development in front of everyone with my three albums and my two EnterTribal albums, and I was really exploring where I wanted to be. And ‘Out of the Gate’ is just, like, I’m here. I’m ready. I was on The Current, on CBC, and they're like, ‘Being an Indigenous artist, does it take like a toll on you to keep talking about these issues?’ And there's two ways you can answer that as a young person who's an artist and I was like, ‘No! I’m ready! Bring me to the biggest, loudest mountain. I'm ready to talk about whatever, bring awareness, I'm ready.' It's me stepping into my First Ladyship, I guess you’d say. Stepping into that speaker role, for my family, for Indigenous women. I’m ready, like, whoa, watch out. Bring that power!
"‘Out of the Gate’ and ‘Still Here,’ I’ve been working with this producer named David Tallarico. He’s worked with Missy D, Kimmortal, and recorded and engineered other albums. These two beats, specifically, were made by him. It was a new creative writing process for me in the studio where I showed him my lyrics and the flow and my hook and everything and he made the beat right there.
"He took the time, as a producer and as an engineer, to be, like, ‘Tell me about yourself and your sound. Tell me about your music, what does this mean to you?’ I've never really had a producer like that because being a woman in music, sometimes producers and engineers don't really take you seriously and that's just the reality. He was very engaging and he wanted to know. Because he’d worked with Missy D and Kimmortal — they’re female, women of colour, hip-hop artists as well, he knew how to be respectful and honouring and uplifting. And you can hear that in the music. It’s a new era for me."
'You Are The Light'
"This is the story of the first time that I met my partner. It was the Vancouver Mural Fest [last August] and it was my first Tinder date, and I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I should do this or not.’ It has an option to see their Instagram and he had Black Lives Matter, so I’m like, OK, he’s cool. He’s like, ‘I’m going to this hip-hop concert’ and I’m like, ‘Uh, what hip-hop concert? Like, please don’t tell me it’s another white guy hip-hop concert.’ It was Shad, who’s my friend. I told him and he said, ‘Oh my God, that’s my top three favourite rappers.’ So we go and we see Kim who’s talking about all of her favourite female hip-hop artists, like Ndidi Cascade and Kia Kadiri and she said, ‘JB the First Lady’ so I shouted back, ‘What’s up, Kim!’ And my partner was just, ‘What? Then Shad came out and said, ‘Oh, I heard JB’s in the crowd, shout outs to you! Where is she?’ and everybody points to me and I was just, ‘What the heck’s happening?!’ Then he dedicated ‘Fam Jam’ to me and my partner was like, ‘Who are you?’ [Laughs] I said, ‘I have no idea.’
"This song is capturing that moment, like we knew each other for a thousand years. We just knew from the first time we met. He’s been my light and I’m his light and the exchange of that. His name is Max Harris [he's also a producer on the record]."
"It’s, again, that sexual expression. You want to wake up with that person and how awesome that is. It's just one of those slow jams that I wanted to explore in this genre that I love to listen to, and make my own."
"I just wanted to capture what's happening in my environment. As a young person who is an activist who is a community builder, and kind of naming the gaps. Because there's so much happening with our people. Indigenous people are super complex politically. There’s grassroots, there’s activists, cultural people, community builders, Indian Act chiefs. We're not unified, and just naming that and saying that we need to come together. It’s almost like my battle rap towards our division as Indigenous people. And naming it, we can do better. Calling each other in instead of calling each other out."
"Kind of like a cue for lovers, just slow your pace. Play. Get to know your partner's body. Feel sexy, make them feel sexy. People see porn or music videos and it’s just fastfastfastfastfast. No, slow down.
"Being JB the First Lady, I had only wanted to do political songs before and this really expands that.... Like, TV shows like Mohawk Girls, seeing them as young women expressing themselves in a sexual way, that was one of my influences as well."
"Ahhh! Best song I ever wrote! I’ve been going through a lot, so it felt like I was able to put all my pain, anger and rage into the song and let it go. It's my best work. And I actually called the lyrics to me. It was the last song and we were, like, ‘Out of the Gate,’ that’s the one, but then I was like, ‘No, I think there's a little bit more lyrics in there, so c’mon, c’mon, c’mon universe.’ And they came, and again, just naming things: stolen locations, this is all stolen land and how that’s a hard concept for people, and how, as Canada and as Indigenous people, our nation to nationhood is such an abusive relationship, how it’s like a domestic violence relationship. How it’s very carefully crafted around us, how they depend on our division so that they can continue to profit and capitalize off of the people.
"It’s not even, like, we want to own the land and we want all the money. No. It’s about making sure there’s clean water— there’s no clean water on a lot of reserves and we don’t see that struggle because we live in the city. But there’s been boil advisories for 30 years-plus? That’s unacceptable. And ‘missing mother, missing brother,’ more and more the missing and murdered Indigenous men are coming forward. Like, the young men that were found in the river in Thunder Bay and how that enrages me. I needed a strong outlet to get that rage out because I get asked to speak about it, I get asked to bring awareness to it, so for me this song really healed — when you heal is when you’re being heard."
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