[Photo by Alondra Buccio]

Fousheé levitates above genre as punk's freshest face

“ALL THE WEIRDOS PUT YOUR HANDS UP,” Fousheé screams into a sweaty crowd. It’s a Thursday night in West Hollywood, and about 50 people are crammed into The Viper Room off Sunset Boulevard. Fousheé scans her flock of fans, eyes flashing dangerously with a warning — don’t you dare stand still. “Fuck this fucking Hollywood shit,” she smiles mischievously. “Let’s get a little messy!”

A mosh pit breaks out seconds later. Fans toss themselves into one another as Fousheé performs “bored,” a drum-driven punk song from her new album, softCORE. “You’re so cute, but you’re dumb/Look at the material, n*ggas give me anything I want.” Mid-chorus, she hops off the stage and throws herself into the mosh, grinning as she slams into her fans. “Get away, get away, get away from me/Get away, get away, get away/Now come back, come back.

Read more: Why Steve Lacy’s breakout is one of the most exciting things that happened in 2022

This is not the Fousheé many fans might have expected. Prior to the release of her debut album, the singer-songwriter was widely considered a rising hip-hop and R&B star. She dabbled in alternative music, gaining fans through her collabs with artists like Ravyn Lenae and King Princess. But by 2022, Fousheé’s voice was impossible to ignore. Once her background vocals appeared in one of the year’s biggest hits — Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks — all bets were off.

When she co-wrote the song with Lacy last year, the two had no idea it’d go on to become such a phenomenon. “You never know what people are going to be drawn to,” she reflects over Zoom. A jam session where the two just “played around and freestyled” is now one of 2022’s most defining anthems. “We were freestyling and spitballing, and I recorded a melody, and he was like, ‘That sounds really good. It should just be on the song.’” 

Lacy attests that Fousheé “was a huge influence” on Gemini Rights. “We connected at a time I felt so stuck and didn’t know where to go next,” he reflects. “Fou made me so relaxed. Her energy was like a quiet storm. She only said the right things. We laughed so much. I needed her judgment, even if I disagreed. Her contribution to the album was super necessary.” Her “pure spirit,” he says, really helped the record come together.

It wasn’t the first time the duo had made music magic together. Fousheé is also featured on Lacy’s breathtaking Gemini Rights cut “Sunshine,” and he was enlisted for her trippy 2021 track “candy grapes.” “He’s just one of my favorite people,” she says. “I think we’ll have that relationship forever.”


[Photo by Alondra Buccio]

IF THERE WAS A GENRE FOUSHEÉ LIVED IN before the release of her debut album, it hovered in the realm of indie-folk and R&B. With her debut album, softCORE, it’s near impossible to box her in. Is she punk? Blues? Rock? Something… else? She’s every genre. She’s none of them. Or perhaps we should unpack why anyone feels the need to put her in a box in the first place.

Truthfully, her tastes have always been expansive. “My mom is a musician,” she explains. “Before I was born, she was in this all-women reggae band in Jamaica. She played the drums.” Even though Fousheé was raised in New Jersey and came from a conservative Christian home, her mother “always gave me that freedom to explore creatively with sound.” “I really could listen to whatever I wanted,” she recalls. That included everything from R&B and hip-hop to jazz and Celine Dion, from dancehall to Bob Marley — the latter who Fousheé believes embodied “the values of punk and freedom of expression” that she loves so much today. “He was that guy shaking his hair around with his guitar and writing his music, and I think that was a very important example and the framework for what I do now, unconsciously.”

So it makes sense that by the time she was 5, she was already writing music. “Because of that exposure so young and my ear wanting to find something new, I’m just always listening to different things,” Fousheé says. In school, she began studying classical music, guitar, piano, and even background arranging, and she continued her musical endeavors in college. Throughout that time, she performed with a few different girl groups and continued to figure out her sound. But as she began playing live, Fousheé found herself “gravitating toward rock and alternative music. I fell in love with the guitar,” she says. And she soaked in that feeling of performing rock music live.

She released her first EP in 2018, but her life changed in 2020 with “Deep End,” a bluesy protest track that she was urged to upload to the royalty-free music database Splice. If you take a quick glimpse at Fousheé’s streaming numbers, you’d think it was a massive success story: the two separate versions of the song have nearly 500 million streams on Spotify alone, and it became the first time a Black woman entered the Top 10 of the Alternative Airplay chart in 32 years (behind Tracy Chapman’s “Crossroads”). This was largely thanks to her vocals going viral on TikTok at the height of the app’s pandemic-era boom. 


[Photo by Alondra Buccio]

It was everywhere — even Dwyane Wade flexed to it, but for the first few months of its rise, Fousheé had no idea. A rapper named Sleepy Hallow had taken her vocals, rapped over them, and uploaded his remix with zero credit to Fousheé. As it picked up traction on TikTok, her name wasn’t attached to it at all, and it went viral completely without her consent. “When I finally realized what was going on, the streams were already in the millions,” she told The Fader at the time. She fought to get her due credit on a song that she wrote, even uploading her own TikTok to prove that it was her song and voice. Initially, nobody believed her. Other TikTok users were even “popping up with alternate versions using my sample and claiming to be the original.”

Eventually, she was able to get the credit ironed out. She nods to that inciting event in the music video for the track, where she stoically performs the TikTok dance moves in between sprinting away from an unknown man in a bucket hat who attempts to fistfight her. 

When asked about the details of the experience with the song’s success, Fousheé dodges the question: “It’s all a blur. It’s crazy. It was a lot. I always appreciate that song in that era. I learned so much from it.” But she’s hesitant to relive the specifics, or perhaps she’s just moved on from it all. However, she admits she “was angry at a lot of things” afterward. Navigating the music industry as a woman can feel like walking on a tightrope, and Foushee “just didn’t feel like playing along anymore.”

Two years later, the lyrics “I’ve been trying not to go off the deep end,” feel like foreshadowing. She’s fully backflipped off that diving board into softCORE, a gleeful mutiny, an anarchic sensory overload, infinite dichotomies delicately crammed into 12 songs. 

“Even down to the choice of genre, this is a punk-fusion record,” she points out, the opportunity to let “out all that aggression and confusion and growing pains.”


[Photo by Alondra Buccio]

“There’s some metal moments, there’s folk. It hits every point on the spectrum but definitely goes against what anyone would expect of me. That was the point of it: to rebel against that, to question gender roles, to get a couple of things off my chest.” 

Track 10, “stupid bitch,” captures all of those emotions in two minutes and 45 seconds. Before performing it at Viper Room, she dedicates it to “all my bipolars out there.” The song begins with a distorted electric guitar, then Fousheé unleashes lyrical violence. “I’ll blow your brains out you stupid bitch,” she yells, listing the many expletives she’d like to do to a certain someone if she ever got her hands on them. Then, at a minute in, the music dims to soft chimes, delicate harmonies, and soft string instruments. “Blow you a kiss on your lips/Lollipop, love you to bits/Be sweet as chocolate, what’s your wish?” Then she chants, “Forever forgiving you/That’s my downfall.It’s a rage-filled ballad, delicious chaos, emotional whiplash. 

That was expression in its purest form,” she says. “I felt really empowered screaming at the top of my lungs.” It was the only song Fousheé produced on the album. “When I did it, I just turned off all of my overthinking, turned off my brain, and that’s what came out. I don’t know why,” she recalls.

There’s a presence of liberation throughout the album, and that freedom from both expectations and genre makes softCORE a thrilling listen. It’s an exciting lane for Fousheé to swerve in; where else can you hear the n-word being screamed over rock drums, or Ariana Grande-esque whistle tones over a metal guitar? “I made an intentional choice to make something that I didn’t hear before, but I wanted to hear more of,” she says. “You never hear these types of lyrics on that type of sonic palette.” 


[Photo by Alondra Buccio]

Rebellion is the holy spirit of punk, and Black women damn sure have a lot to go to the altar about. “I wanted to speak on my experience and put that in a world where you wouldn’t usually hear that and create something new,” Fousheé says. There are certainly Black girls who have dabbled in punk, but “it’s not as applauded” as their cis white male genre-peers. Look at Rico Nasty, Kelis, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Fousheé names. “We just don’t get embraced as much, but we still feel this way.”

But that energy has reinvigorated the genre. Punk is seeing a resurgence on the pop charts from women, and it’s a revitalizing match made in heaven. Or, hell. 

Unleashing all that pent-up rage is cathartic. Fousheé’s already performed a few songs on the album as the supporting act of Lacy’s Give You The World tour and says it’s surprisingly playful, the risk of rubbing people the wrong way be damned. Perhaps she can show the world that Black women’s anger “doesn’t have to be taken as negatively,” she says. “It can be a fun experience.”

While her favorite track on the album is “die,” softCORE isn’t only angst. She falls in love on “smile,” numbs the fear of heartbreak with Lil Uzi Vert on “spend the money” and flexes about the men she can pull but chooses to keep at a distance on “supernova,” the plucky and playful lead single of the record. While the song was critically acclaimed, Foushee took it to heart when she noticed many fans scratching their heads at it. As someone who lives in these gray areas of genre mishmash, “it’s surprising to me how conservative things can be on a mainstream level.” To her, the song “felt really fresh as a mixture of elements that I understood.” But some listeners didn’t get it. “I think anything different is scary to people. But this whole project gon’ be scary,” she laughs. 

Honestly, it doesn’t matter — it’s her world anyway. In “simulation,” Fousheé abruptly prompts listeners to remember “that this is a world that I’m creating. It could be really anything. Nothing is real.” This life and her music is “as real or as fake as you want” it to be.


[Photo by Alondra Buccio]

“A big part of our artistry is just having a place to escape,” she says. “I abandon who I am in reality. I get to be an exaggerated version of this character that I create of me, in my head. I like to separate the two people even though it comes from the same place and the same feelings.” 

 Fousheé may be brash and explosive onstage, but she’s soft and thoughtful when the lights dim, treading carefully as she chooses her words. There’s an ocean of difference between these two versions of her, and music allows her to explore both deeply, the soft and loving, the angsty and vengeful, the hesitant and confused, or every single damn feeling at once. It’s “a really vital part of my expression,” she says. “I don’t really know me without it.” 

Traversing across genres has given Fousheé insight into the vastness of who she is musically, as well as in her personal life. This freedom of expression in its purest form is third-eye opening, and the idea of the untapped self-discovery waiting ahead of her is thrilling. If someday in the future she’s not making music, “I’ll probably retire, move to Jamaica, and open up a pattie shop or have a farm or something. Until then, I feel this need to express the times and to make the music that I feel is missing in the world. And I will always do that. Until I don’t,” she laughs.

Until then, the possible futures ahead of Fousheé are cracked open, limitless like the man-made invention of genre, or as infinite as the stars in a supernova.