Ten years ago, the London-bred duo Floetry hit the music scene with their debut album, Floetic. Their neo-soul sultriness and unique mixture of poetry and song quickly gained the attention of music lovers and critics alike, garnering a total of seven Grammy nominations.
Floetry, which was composed of Marsha Ambrosius (“The Songstress”) and Natalie Stewart (“The Floacist”), later released a live album, Floacism, and a third, Flo’Ology, in 2005. However, during the promotion of the last album the two separated and Ambrosius signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment as a solo artist.
Many were surprised when the group split. Stewart’s solo album Floetic Soul was released in 2010 and last year, Ambrosius dropped her album, Late Nights and Early Mornings. But Stewart’s new single, “Soul,” released last month, and upcoming album Floetry Re:Birth is most reflective of the split.
For years, Stewart remained mum on the parting, while Ambrosius was more vocal. Ambrosius told Honey Mag in 2010 that Stewart left the group and it was “the biggest heartbreak” she ever had to go through.
However, “Soul” details Stewart’s side of the story as she sings, “I just can’t sell my soul,” which has led many to speculate that there is animosity between the former musical partners.
“It’s not a negative song!” Stewart quickly corrects. “The vibration and ebb and flow of Floetry is very precious to me. I never wanted it to be tacked on to any negative vibrations,” she explains as her reason for staying silent. Though she does admit she was put off by Ambrosius’ 2007 mixtape entitled Neo Soul is Dead. “I was hurt by the language used in that,” she says.
Stewart’s second studio album, Floetry Re:Birth, counts as the first Floetry album in six years— though Ambrosius is nowhere to be heard on it.
“I did everything I could to get Marsha on the record and the best I could do was to do a re-interpretation of “Say Yes” to honor the 10 years. We wrote that song together, so Marsha was included on the album as best as I could include her.”
Stewart makes up for the lack of The Songstress by collaborating with other artists, such as Raheem DeVaughn and South African artist Thandiswa Mazwai.
“It’s not about trying to replace Marsha because Marsha is irreplaceable,” she says. “Floetry is a genre and over the next 10 years I hope to be able to assist more artists to create their own floetry.”
Stewart looks back on Floetry with fondness, though attention was never what she was seeking.
“I never actually grew up saying I wanted to be a recording artist. That wasn’t my aim. I was a writer and a performer who studied theater,” she explains. “Writing has always been my first love and music came to me.”
Stewart, who describes herself as an army brat, was born in Germany but was quickly uprooted, with her family, and moved to Hong Kong where she began school. They later moved to London where she was raised, along with her older brother and sister (she now has a younger sister as well).
It was at the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology where Stewart met singer Ambrosius, with whom she later formed Floetry in 1999. The two ventured to the U.S. in 2000 and the success happened from there.
Not only did they pen hits for themselves, like “Say Yes” and “Getting Late,” they also collaborated with other notable artists like Jill Scott, Bilal and Michael Jackson.
Stewart cites her time working with musical icon Prince as one of her most insightful encounters.
“He predicted the challenges the group would face,” she says. “I don’t have a song with Prince, but the collaboration of his spirit is very important. He told us, ‘Floetry will never end because Floetry is more than a name. It’s a style and a genre. As long as that’s remembered, Floetry will always live.’”
As far as reuniting with Ambrosius in the future, Stewart says the door is always open.
“I’m very, very content. I feel grateful for everything that has been and highly anticipate everything to come.”
Floetry Re:Birth will be available Nov. 13. Follow @THE_FLOACIST on Twitter for more information.