As the old cliché goes, artists must “find their voices.” The rap duo Mother Nature, on the other hand, already know what they want to say. The two will waste no time telling you what they stand for: they’re a “badass group of MCs, coming to conquer the world through Black girl genius.”
Klevah and T.R.U.T.H. first met in a spoken word program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where they would later land an opening set for Run the Jewels in 2015. Since relocating to Bronzeville in 2016, they’ve performed with Joseph Chilliams, Ty Dolla $ign, OSHUN, and CupcakKe.
In the age of RapCaviar, the term “conscious” might seem unfashionable––for decades, it’s been lobbed at any MC with a boom-bap beat and something to say. But for Mother Nature, conscious rap isn’t a style, genre, or clique: it’s a calling.
T.R.U.T.H., who was raised in Austin, describes rapping as “a necessity, the need to express myself, to get thoughts out of my head and put them on paper.” Klevah, the daughter of a Champaign MC, says she “always wanted to be a rapper—I knew since I was a shorty, I was going to be a rapper.” But whether it’s through their music or through the workshops they host, “The MisEducation of Hip-Hop,” the two share a conviction that hip-hop can be a force for good.
You relocated from Champaign to Chicago in 2016. What was that like?
T.R.U.T.H.: It was time [to] take that first big step––[to say] “we’re about to go crazy with this, for real for real.” This is home for me, my family is here, stuff like that. We hit up Young Chicago Authors and different open mic scenes, homies we already knew, just linking up with them and asking where should we go––just getting where we fit in.
You also just dropped a track called “This Yo Year.” Tell me more.
T.R.U.T.H.: There’s a newer vibe on the horizon that people haven’t heard from us yet. I think it’s coming from maturity. People know that we can rap, people know that we’re wordsmiths––that’s what we do. But I to get people into the mindset that we’re not only that. We’re songwriters, we’re composers [and] encapsulate something in a song. It’s really just showing people our full spectrum of what Mother Nature is.
What’s it like working as a team?
Klevah: It’s dope, because you don’t have to do everything alone. You have more ideas coming in, more energy. We have chemistry, and it’s a beautiful thing.
T.R.U.T.H.: I think it’s unspoken pushes as well, more than either of us having to tell the other, “Yo G, you could be doing this better, or you can do that better.” I watch [Klevah], and I’m like, “keep doing that shit”––you know what I’m saying? It’s that expectation we have for one another, and we always hit that. And if not, then it’s going back to the drawing board––it’s never just something we’re going to let slide under the rug or not deal with it. We bring it to the table and be like, “This is what’s going on, this is why it’s going on, and let’s move forward to try and fix it.”
How do you look at hip-hop?
Klevah: You know, hip-hop at its core is about community. It’s about healing [and] gaining knowledge of yourself, the world around you, the people around you. So, what we practice in our house and in our music and amongst each other––let’s spread that, so we can create better environments for us to grow in. We all got our defenses up at this point, so we’re not even able to grow, to really move past that.
T.R.U.T.H.: That, in a nutshell, is us trying to raise the collective conscience of damn-near the world through hip-hop. That is the mission of Mother Nature.
What issues matter to you?
Klevah: What matters to us…Black girls, financial freedom, spirituality in the Black community, healing in the Black community––and all communities, but starting with that, because that’s the most disadvantaged in America.
T.R.U.T.H.: It’s who we are. So it’s only right that we fix [things] where we see our reflection.
Klevah: A lot of shit we do care about. Just consciousness, like whether people are even thinking…I’m just trying to figure that out, how to be a good leader for the [next] generation. Man, incarceration, my mom’s been in and out of prison all my life, and on and off drugs all my life, so I’m definitely sensitive to that, but also trying to think of ways to fight that within hip-hop and within Mother Nature.
T.R.U.T.H.: With incarceration, poverty––[there are] a lot of things in place that shouldn’t be and don’t have to be, but only [are] because there’s money behind it, money you can gain from locking someone up. So it’s figuring out ways through hip-hop to infiltrate and deconstruct […] it’s all about raising people’s vibrations and consciousness.
Once you start seeing, you’re my brother just like I’m your sister, regardless of color, skin, whatever––you a person, I’m a person, you bleed like I do, you breathe like I do. So let’s figure this out [instead] of throwing you in jail. That’s not solving anything. You’re on drugs because you don’t have the means to take care of yourself, you know what I’m saying. It’s a lot. My younger brother got locked up over some stupid shit, and for what? You wasted two years of his life for no reason …It’s families out here struggling to pay for a lawyer, for court fees, even getting people to the courthouse depending on where you’re at. It’s just a lot of things that need to be eradicated and built anew.
Klevah: I think that’s why we are Mother Nature. Because Mother Nature is going to destroy some shit, but only to make it more beautiful and more abundant. It’s all in the spirit of love.
What are your thoughts on the state of rap right now?
T.R.U.T.H.: It’s a balance, I feel. Within your artistry, you have to understand where you are and what that means to people watching you. We do have a necessity to let people know, OK, “I’m here, but I’m only here because I need to get this bag, I’m not trying to be inspirational…” I see some of the younger artists that are on bigger platforms saying these things, but they’re still making their party music, because we still need that. Hip-hop is love and joy and happiness and having fun. But at the same time, if you’re using this power and only throwing out negative—it’s a balance, you gotta balance that with something else. Even if you’re doing it outside of music.
Because people [are] just speaking their lives––“I was out here trapping, selling drugs,” doing this or that––“and I’m just telling you my story and what I went through.” And people get that misconstrued into thinking that they are promoting a negative lifestyle, or whatever. But that’s people’s lives, that’s my life, that’s my brother’s life. It’s people that really went through that and had to do it for whatever reason. But if you’re not letting people know what the other side is and how you’re coming out of it, how you became a better person, why you were there in the first place––that’s the problem. Because we’re so clickbait now, it’s little bits thrown out as a headline––and [people say], oh, you’re talking about guns, you’re a bad person.
Can you tell me more about “The MisEducation of Hip-Hop”?
T.R.U.T.H.: Well, [we did our first workshop] as a part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in Cleveland. That was even before we were a group.
Klevah: We just believed in ourselves very early. At that time, it was just [discussing] the elements of hip-hop––we kind of talk about it, break it down, and build something from whatever element they were most connected to. But after that, we got funded to do our own workshop in Champaign, and this time we did it with middle and high school students. And that’s when it really started to take off. We were like, yeah, this is what we’re trying to do. We recently did two workshops in [Flatbush,] Brooklyn, and just hosted at READY, an alternative school in Champaign.
T.R.U.T.H.: Yeah, working with kids, you’re always going to get inspired. Kids are so neglected at times, and that’s why they find freedom and vulnerability in our workshops. It does give you that free space to just express yourself how you see fit […] Right now, I’m doing mentorship at Beethoven Elementary, and we’re teaching kids math through counting bars.
It’s beyond just music, it’s beyond even just theorizing. You can really put this into schools and teach kids [in] a way they connect to. Because it’s of the now––this is what’s cool. This is what people hate us for and love about us––is hip-hop in America.
Mother Nature will perform at Blackbird in Urbana, Illinois on Friday, April 6, and at StoopFest in Lansing, Michigan on April 21