Perseph One, Houston's queen of experimental hip-hop, is a genius, or else she's bat-shit crazy. Either way, the Kansas City transplant has been a major player in the local underground music scene for a minute now. And with the help of longtime Houston music cog-turned-producer Mark Speers (the cool kids call him AndAcc), Perseph is set to release her second LP, her first with AndAcc, Patients of a Timeless Mind.
The Press recently sat down with Perseph, AndAcc and a bottle of Chimay Ale to discuss the new album, what it's like to be a female rapper, tongue-kissing George Washington and the duo's less-than-flattering thoughts on Houston music.
Houston Press: Chimay Ale, huh? You drink this a lot?
AndAcc: I drink it every once in awhile. It's a nice Belgian beer. I drink a little whiskey, but when coming to a classy place like Café Brasil...
HP: (Laughs.) Let's go from the beginning. How did you two get started?
Perseph: I got started in Kansas City in the [high-school] hallways with some friends. We started this whole group called Ces Cru. It's been through a lot of changes since I was there, but they're kinda runnin' shit in Kansas City now.
AndAcc: And I got started with ska bands in the mid '90s here in town.
Perseph: When we met, we were pretty much in rival bands. I was in Dubtex and he was in Sound Patrol, and we were like, the only sorta reggae bands in Houston. [Dubtex] weren't only strictly reggae; we branched off into dancehall and drum 'n' bass, and I made it into rap and hip-hop. [Sound Patrol] was real traditional. We ended up not talking for awhile because we became rivals.
HP: So how do two bands decide they are going to be rivals? Was there, like, a big gunfight and someone close to you got shot, Steven Seagal-style?
Perseph: Nah, it started as stupid beef shit, rumors — "Oh, did you hear what so-and-so did?" — or whatever.
HP: So no shootout?
HP: That's disappointing. So how did you get the name Perseph One? Is it, like, an ode to Persephone, Queen of the Underworld from Greek mythology?
Perseph: Yes. I actually started with Persephone and then just kind of shortened it up, because people were like, "Huh? Whaddya say?" And I'd be like, "Per-se-pho-ne, [but] I guess that's too many syllables for you to comprehend." Just say "Perseph."
HP: And you go by Mark? It's Perseph One and Mark?
AndAcc: I go by AndAcc. Short for And Accelerator.
HP: Your nickname has a nickname? That makes you double cool, sir. Perseph, can you explain what it's like being a female in such a male-dominated genre?
Perseph: First I get a lot of looks at my tits 'cause I have big tits. Then they look at my face and how I carry myself and they're like, "She can't rap." Most of the time I don't even tell them I rap unless they ask, but once they find out that I do, they kinda laugh like I told 'em a joke that wasn't that funny.
But that always changes once I start doing my thing. I feel like once that's out of the way, we can finally conversate without [their] having some preconceptions about who I am.
HP: Now, once you do get to rapping it's pretty rugged. The content is abstract, to be sure, and the beats are certainly super-synthed, but if someone asked you to describe your music, what would you say it sounded like?
Perseph: We actually just talked about this. What was it, AndAcc? How does it sound?
AndAcc: Uh...oh yeah. It's like tongue-kissing George Washington.
Perseph: Yeah, tongue-kissing George Washington. It's like that.
AndAcc: Because George Washington has wooden teeth.
HP: Oh, well that clears everything up. Thanks.
Perseph: It's like a combination of emotions.
AndAcc: Just think of how great George Washington is and how awesome he is, but about how real it is to be kissing him with his fuckin' brown-ass wooden teeth. There's good with the bad. On the one hand, it's George Washington, the father of our country, the hero of the universe, but on the other hand, he's got some nasty-ass teeth.
Perseph: But I think it's more beautiful than that.
HP: More beautiful than a tongue-kissing-George-Washington metaphor? Impossible.
Perseph: It's hard to put into words without coming up with some random shit or some corny term. I'd rather not.
HP: Okay, fair enough. As a sort of abstract or experimental musician, where do you think you fit into the Houston music scene? More to the point, what do you think of the Houston scene?
Perseph: I think the Houston scene needs to fuckin' step it up and really do some shit that's not inside the box. I think Houston needs to step outside the fuckin' box and start making some shit that gets people excited over it. And not just excited over some shit that you've already made them excited over, not that same Groundhog Day shit.
Perseph: Okay. How come when I go to a show, I hear the same fuckin' song from 19-something? I don't even gotta finish that thought. How many times do I have to hear, "She keeps on passing me by..." I'm like, "Dude, we've seen that shit a thousand times. Do something original like Babelfishh or Free Radicals or Satin Hooks or Del Vuelo."
AndAcc: It needs to be the kind of shit that doesn't make you wanna go to the club and sing it, it needs to be the kind of shit that makes you want to sit back and go, "Oh wow."
HP: So you want some "Oh wow" shit? That's not vague at all.
AndAcc: It's like, how many times am I going to hear, [sings] "Sometimes I feel..."
Perseph: "...like I don't have a problem..." [sic]
AndAcc: Exactly. That's one song [Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge"], and there's like a billion others with that same line.
HP: So that's what you're aiming for, something no one else has done? Not like anything on the radio?
AndAcc: Not to say that we won't make some hot radio shit in the future, but we're not really trying to make that hot radio shit.
Perseph: And a lot of people do, and that's kinda sad because they spend all their time, like, trying to make those radio hits and they fail horribly. And maybe we fail horribly at trying to be an artist, but that's the thing — you can't fail at being an artist if you're doing art. So we won't fail, whether you like our music or you don't — but I think you're gonna like it, 'cause the shit is kinda hot.