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O.N.E. The Duo, made up of a Black mom and daughter, say they belong in country music

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

O.N.E The Duo is a mother and daughter making music that combines country swagger with hip-hop cool.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUPERPOWER")

ONE THE DUO: Hey. (Singing) Got my speakers up and my truck up higher, going vroom, vroom, baby. Running through these streets with my drip on fire. It's a runway, baby. Being a woman is a superpower. Power up, power up.

FADEL: Prana is the daughter in that duo. And her parents, well, they're hip-hop royalty. Prana's dad is RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. And her mom, the other half of the duo, is Tekitha, a longtime vocalist with the Wu-Tang Clan and a solo artist. Prana says Tekitha filled her childhood with music through jam sessions that packed her house with poets, musicians and rappers. She remembers one particular late-night party that eventually led to the duo.

PRANA SUPREME: The morning after this jam session, I came up to her and was like, Mom, I have a great idea. What if we sang and wrote our own songs together?

FADEL: Yeah.

SUPREME: And she said, no.

FADEL: (Laughter).

TEKITHA: Immediately.

SUPREME: Yeah, her exact words were, no, why?

FADEL: (Laughter).

SUPREME: And I was just completely taken aback by this rejection. I was like, wait a second. I'm giving you a million-dollar idea here.

FADEL: (Laughter).

SUPREME: Why are you saying no? I definitely threw a temper tantrum - not a proud moment for me.

FADEL: Aw.

TEKITHA: She did. It was really sad, too.

FADEL: Aw.

SUPREME: Yeah.

TEKITHA: I was like, oh, my God, I hurt her feelings (laughter).

SUPREME: Yeah.

TEKITHA: Her eyes just welled up with tears.

FADEL: Aw.

TEKITHA: You're not listening to me. I want to do music with you. I was like, oh.

FADEL: Tekitha, you're already an accomplished, respected artist in hip-hop and R&B. Prana, you are the child of hip-hop royalty. How did you end up in country music?

SUPREME: The country just came from the evolution of us exploring our sound. And then coming to Nashville was because we wanted to come to a music community where we could explore freely and not have, like, any preconceived notions of who we needed to be as artists or who we should be as artists. And the history of country is very much rooted in Black culture just as much as any others. So many Black artists were a part of the tapestry of country music, and they kind of got pushed to the wayside. We're not pandering or compromising our Blackness to do country music. This space is just as much ours as hip-hop, as jazz, as rock 'n' roll.

FADEL: Is that the same for you, Tekitha?

TEKITHA: Country music has allowed me to express myself in a way that I have wanted to for many years. And I feel the same way about hip-hop, actually. To be able to tell a story rooted in truth and through personal experience is really important to me. But one thing I have been lacking was more vulnerability. Country music has created a space for me personally as an artist to just be vulnerable. When I came here, I was going through a divorce. What Nashville gave to me was a place for me to heal. Also, the community, the way that they supported me and nurtured and cared for me through that process, allowed me to sit where I'm sitting today.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOEDOWN")

ONE THE DUO: Let's do it. Let's do it, let's do it.

FADEL: You know, I was thinking about "HoeDown." Tekitha, you talked about how country and hip-hop have given you the space to tell stories rooted in truth. And that song, to me, very much still sounded hip-hop.

TEKITHA: Yeah, I think, for "HoeDown," we were in a really fun mood that day.

SUPREME: We were.

TEKITHA: The energy of the song, it kind of did make - like, it's almost like coming back to your roots.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOEDOWN")

ONE THE DUO: (Singing) I'm going to throw myself a hoedown. Remind you who the boss when it goes down. This a level you ain't on, saying more money, more problems. Bring the problems. Stomping fires on the black top with the red bottoms.

TEKITHA: Of course, we have to have a fiddle. We have to have guitar. We needed that to be present even though we're kind of nodding to hip-hop.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOEDOWN")

ONE THE DUO: (Singing) I'm going to throw myself a hoedown.

FADEL: I have to ask you, though, because when I was listening to your music, which is so fun - it's just a joy to listen to. But you're in an industry that has been criticized pretty heavily for gatekeeping, right? Like, you think of Lil Nas X, "Old Town Road"...

SUPREME: Yeah.

FADEL: ...Being removed from the Billboard Country 100 for not being country enough back in 2019. Beyonce, "Daddy Lessons" didn't chart. A lot of people, again, analyzing this - is this about race? What is it like working in country music as Black women?

SUPREME: It's constantly having, like - why are you doing this? - called into question.

FADEL: Oh.

SUPREME: I love country music. I love the banjo. I love the fiddle. I love all these things. And I have a huge respect for the history of the genre. Being Black in this is definitely just having people look at you like, you're not, like, really country, though.

TEKITHA: (Laughter) It can be challenging trying to always explain your Blackness. You know, it's kind of like, dang, I can't just exist?

FADEL: Right.

TEKITHA: You know, there's no just existing?

SUPREME: I mean, genres are a little antiquated anyway. We truly feel like if you like it, then that's all that matters.

(SOUNDBITE OF O.N.E THE DUO SONG, "FEELS GOOD")

FADEL: I was just watching the "Feels Good" video before I walked in here. It just makes you feel good.

TEKITHA: Doesn't it?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEELS GOOD")

ONE THE DUO: (Singing) Concrete looking like waves. Grits be bubbling on the stove.

SUPREME: And it's, like, full of family.

FADEL: That's your family?

SUPREME: Yes.

FADEL: No actors?

TEKITHA: No, no.

SUPREME: No, not a single actor.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEELS GOOD")

ONE THE DUO: (Singing) I don't care if it's country or if it's rock 'n' roll, because if it moves my body, it feels good in my soul, yeah. Don't care if it's brand-new, 64 years old, lay that rhythm on me. It feels good, and I'm sold, yeah.

SUPREME: That song was so fun to write and so easy to write. It has, definitely, one of my favorite lines I've ever written, which is concrete looking like waves. It's, like, the perfect way to open up that song. So you know, it's summertime, and it is hot.

TEKITHA: It's hot.

SUPREME: And we're having fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEELS GOOD")

ONE THE DUO: (Singing) Double Dutch cutting that tall grass. Waiting on them fireflies.

FADEL: What do you want listeners to take from the music?

TEKITHA: I hope that they feel the love, you know? I know that might sound, like, kind of cliche a little bit, but it really is the truth. There is something profound in the energy between Prana and I. And it's an energy that you can only describe as love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEELS GOOD")

ONE THE DUO: (Singing) I don't care if it's country or if it's rock 'n' roll, because if it moves my body, it feels good in my soul, yeah.

FADEL: That's Tekitha and her daughter, Prana. They are O.N.E The Duo. Their new album is called "Blood Harmony." Thank you both so much.

SUPREME: Thank you.

TEKITHA: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEELS GOOD")

ONE THE DUO: (Singing) Feels good in my soul, my soul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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