Tali Good for a Girl Interview MC Tali Natalia Sheppard

Interview: Tali (@Going Global)

TALI IS ONE OF THE MOST PROLIFIC ARTISTS TO COME OUT OF THE DRUM AND BASS SCENE

MC Tali good for a girl interview

And she’s my mate – ner ner!! Tali, MC Tali, or Natalia Sheppard, is a babe of all babes. She is one of the most positive humans I’ve ever met, and her work ethic for music is relentless and inspiring. This girl will not quit, her passion for her craft is 5eva. Tali first rose to fame after she moved over to the UK and signed with label Full Cycle, releasing her Top 40 UK Chart hit, Lyric on My Lip in 2004. Check it out, if you’re not familiar with Tali at all, you probably will recognise this track!

I met Tali a few years ago now through some mutual musical Christchurch friends when she was down here visiting and probably performing a couple of sets. Being a young sprogget on the rock scene, I didn’t know who she was by face or name, but when she got up on the mic during a jam session and started singing and rapping – my mind was absolutely blown and in awe of her talent and more importantly; her complete confidence and ownership of the space when she performs. I became a Tali fan right then and there!

MC Tali good for a girl interview live

So when I was taking Good for a Girl interviews to Going Global this year, and Tali was going to be talking on a panel, I knew I had to get her in for a chat. I am very aware that the Drum & Bass scene is just as – if not more – male dominated than the rock scene. And knowing Tali to have a strong mind and heart, and a clear passion for women in music with a lot of her music mentoring and teaching work focussing on inspiring and empowering young women and girls in to a career in music, I knew this chat was going to be good. REAL GOOD.

WATCH MC TALI AND MYSELF TALK ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE AS A WOMAN IN THE DnB SCENE HERE

Since I’ve already mentioned how Tali is one of the most prolific and hard working artists in this scene, you bet your ass she’s just released even MORE new music for us to wrap our ears around.

Listen to her fresh new E.P. dropped just last week, called Keta, HERE.

Check out on of my fav lush tracks from the EP, How To Get High, below.

CONNECT WITH TALI ONLINE

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INTERVIEW: MC TALI (@GOING GLOBAL) – TRANSCRIPT

Emma:
So we’re just going to talk being ladies and vaginas and stuff! Sooo… do you…

Tali:
You don’t wanna talk about my penis then? (laughing)

Emma:
No, not really interested in that (laughing). So first I would just like to know about your influences. Even just as a child – like the music that was surrounding you growing up.

Tali:
So interesting because I look at a lot of genres of music now in sort of relation to the same genres of music I listened to as a child and what women are doing now as opposed to what they were doing then. I definitely listened to a lot more hip hop back then. And I say ‘back then’ because it’s 90s/80s.. mainly 90s. I’m quite young, actually (laughing). But um, yeah, so it was mainly… I listened to a lot of hip hop. That’s what I really really loved. Because there was a lot of strong powerful female rappers back then. And a lot of them who were sexy and confident but without being overtly…. naked? You know? Who kept their clothes on a lot but were still sexual and confident. so I listened to a lot of like, Salt N Pepa, En Vogue, Nenah Cherry, um, even Missy Elliot in the early 2000s. She was a massive influence on me.

Emma:
I love her.

Tali:
Yeah and she had the style steez, and she didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought about her, her size, or you know, she was just herself. And to me that was really inspirational, especially because I didn’t have.. you know, being a drum and bass artist, I didn’t have a lot of female influences so I looked at the hip hop girls. And I look at the hip hop girls now and there isn’t a lot of hip hop girls I relate to now at all.

Emma:
Right. So because I know that you’re really in to women in music, and you up that culture, when you were younger, were you consciously in to women role models for your music? Or was it just you were drawn to them? Or..

Tali:
Umm I think it was like… cuz I grew up in a house with a sister and two brothers. But we grew up on a farm. And so even though there was this side of me that was really girly and liked, like, dolls, there was also the side of me that loved building forts and playing in the river and hanging out with my dog. And neither side was never encouraged more than the other. It was very much about being free and especially living on a farm, you have the potential to do that. And so I kinda grew up with that attitude of sort of, never trying to be older than what I was or cooler than what I was. Just trying to be me. Obviously that changed when I got a lot older and you have society’s perceptions of how you should be as a woman and stuff so it did start to creep in, but, back then I would say I gravitated towards these women because 1) I loved rapping, I loved Mc-ing, I loved music and I loved fashion. And they encompassed all those things but they did it in a way that was relatable. It was cool, it was sassy, it was confident and it was them doing them. I didn’t feel like they were doing something because the record label told them to do that, I felt like they were genuinely doing that and saying that because that was who they were.

Emma:
And did that empower you as a young girl that wanted to get in to music? That you were like “i could be like that”

Tali:
Yeah!

Emma:
Like were there ever any male artists that made you feel “oh yeah I wanna do that too!”

Tali:
Oh yeah! No, there were. That was not so much as a child. As a little girl you definitely look to female artists, don’t you? But there were obviously guys who were making music, like, (laughs) like I definitely loved a lot of new jack swing, and I loved a lot of hip hop again, but then I got in to a lot of rock music.

Emma:
Right!

Tali:
Yeah like I loved Red Hot Chilli Peppers, I loved Tool, I loved all that music.. I know! Um, Offspring, Beastie Boys – which was a combination of hip hop and rock..

Emma:
But isn’t it interesting that all the rock bands you’re mentioning are all male rock bands, too?

Tali:
Yeah! So there was only… probably no female rock bands.. oh maybe! I liked L7, and I liked Elastica. Garbage I kind of got in to, No Doubt sort of a little but. But those for me, I was already on my path of getting in to electronic music at that stage. But those male bands I’m talking about – the reason why I loved them so much was the emotion I was connecting with. So when I was young I was connecting with women I could see myself being like, and then when I got in to rock music it was more music I felt emotionally stirred by. And it was at that time in my life where I was 14/15 so you know.. emotiooonnss.. (laughs) you know 16/17. And then I started to get in to hip hop again. So like Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and this time it was about artists who had a platform and were using that platform to say something of value to society. So this was when I was at university and I started thinking about ‘what is my role in this world, especially as a woman? How can I use my platform to say something?’ I mean, I didn’t have a platform at that stage, but it was definitely on my mind. And then when I eventually got in to drum and bass, there were literally no females. I mean, maybe there were two DJs; Chemistry and Storm. And one female MC, but I wasn’t in to her, I didn’t like her style. So I was looking at 40 year old black men from London and thinking I needed to sound like that.

Emma:
That’s really interesting to me because obviously a lot of my experiences and my blog talks about women in rock at the moment. But that’s why I wanted to talk to you because I also know drum and bass and the electronica scene is heavily swayed towards men as well.

Tali:
Yeah, totally!

Emma:
So, did you feel alone?

Tali:
Oh, god yeah! Oh my gosh, absolutely. I mean on one hand it was really nice because I was very coddled, in a sense. When I signed to Full Cycle, the boys who signed me, there were 5 of them on the label, and they were very protective of me. They would definitely protect me and give me a lot of advice but all of this perspective was coming from a male perspective. You know like, nobody ever gave me advice on how I should deal with male fans who speak to me inappropriately, or how I should deal with a male promoter who calls me a diva just cuz I ask for a dressing room with a mirror. It’s like, we’d just come off tour, we were on a tour bus, there was me and 2 backing singers who were females, we had a dressing room with no mirror in it, and we were expected to put on clothes and do make up. You know, it’s like, there is a standard. That to me is a standard, asking for a mirror is asking for a certain standard. It’s not ‘go and use the public toilets’ – no I don’t want to use the public toilets cuz the audience is arriving!

Emma:
It’s also the ignorance to there weren’t many women artists around, so they just think women artist need what men artists need. Or like ‘all artist just need the same thing’

Tali:
Yeah! ‘oh well we’re all equal here!’ and I’m like ‘umm I’m pretty sure the guys would want a mirror in their room too-‘

Emma:
If they were putting on lipstick!

Tali:
Yeah! It’s like, I don’t even have a compact, I don’t think I even had a mobile phone at that point, I think my phone had broken before I even went on tour. Anyway – it’s things like that where I definitely felt that I needed someone to guide me. And I didn’t have that guidance. And so therefore there were moments where I possibly made mistakes or said inappropriate things, but I very very quickly learned ‘oh okay I shouldn’t have said that’ or ‘I shouldn’t have done that’ and I took that and I rolled with it. And now that’s why I’m so passionate about trying to bring young women through in electronic music and taking them under my wing and giving them guidance. And why I love good for a girl, because, we don’t have these conversations. We don’t talk about these things. And unless we do, and young women have places where they can go and read this stuff and be like ‘oh okay..’

Emma:
‘other women have this stuff..’

Tali:
Yeah! Yeah. If they don’t have that, then they will make those mistakes, and I want to be able to prevent people from.. I mean it’s good to make mistakes! But, at the same time, it would’ve been nice if someone had said to me, ‘hey, maybe tell him to fuck off that’s not appropriate’ you know, ‘it’s okay!’

Emma:
And do you have any kind of key moments in your career where you went ‘okay.. that’s fucked.’ Like… something where you’re just like ‘are you fucking kidding me?’ you know, to do with being a woman..

Tali:
Yeah! Well, to do with being a woman and not to do with being a woman. I mean, sometimes it was because I was alone, like, because I didn’t have somebody there or security or anything so people felt like they could approach me and speak to me. But I’ve also seen them approach men and speak to men like that as well. So it’s like, there’s definitely been situations that come down to the fact of being an MC and people come up to you and are like ‘gimme the mic man, gimme the mic. I wanna MC, gimme the mic’ and you’re just like ‘I don’t walk in to your job and ask to fricken start… serving people?’ I mean like go away! Definitely moments where as a woman I was like like ‘wow..’ I like, really did not expect that I mean… how long have we got?

Emma:
(laughs) as long as you want!

Tali:
(laughs) well I remember there was this one promoter, in Liverpool, and I’d already had a bit of a shit night because this one guy had come up to me and he’d asked me if he could have the mic. and I said ‘no… you can’t have the mic’ and then he was more aggressive like [british accent] ‘yah gimme the mic man yeah, I’m gan spit some rhymes and ting’ and I was like ‘no! fuck off, I’m doing a job!’ so he threw a bottle of water at me, and I think it hit me in the stomach or the chest, like a full bottle of water – plastic bottle  – but still fucking hurt. And i looked around and there was just all dudes and people didn’t know what to do. Nobody approached him, whether they didn’t want to start something, but nobody stepped in and was like ‘that’s not cool.’ So I was like, okay, what am I going to to do? So I just ripped the shit out of him on the mic. I proceeded to MC and cuss him, freestyle, and everyone just started laughing at him. And he got really angry and at that point the security guard had come through, and I said this guy threw a bottle of water at me la la la anyway, later on that night the promoter was like ‘oh I’m really sorry about what happened’ and I was like ‘oh that’s okay!’ and he was like ‘I’ll walk you back to the hotel’ and I was like ‘yeah cool.’ We were getting on really well, having this great conversation. And he was like ‘I’ll walk you to the hotel, you don’t mind do you? That’s alright isn’t it?’ And I was like ‘yeah that’s fine that’s totally cool’ and he’s like ‘I’ll take you up to your room, you don’t mind do you?’ and I was like ‘no no, no that’s cool, you can walk me up to my room!’ So he takes me up to my room and then he’s like ‘can I come in for a minute? Is that alright, do you mind?’ and I was like ‘no! you can come in for a minute, I’m going to make a cup of tea would you like a cup of tea?’ and he’s like ‘I’d love a cup of tea’ so we sit there and we’re talking and I’m like ‘I’m gunna go to bed now’ and he’s like ‘I’m just gunna lie down here, you don’t mind do you?’ (pause) yeeaaaah. it’s time for you to go now. You know?! He just got to that point like..

Emma:
Oh, he was sooo subtle about it.

Tali:
But I mean it’s kind of funny like I have had numerous times where there’s been a knock on my door at 4 in the morning and I’ll look through my peephole and there’ll be a certain DJ or 2.. who I cannot name.. who’s been like (whispers) ‘Tali. Are you awake?’ and I’m like ‘Not appropriate! It’s 4am!’ you know? All calling my room ‘yo man do you need some company?’ I’m like ‘nah bro I’m good.’ I want to be taken as a professional!

Emma:
Exactly, are they doing that to the other guys you’re on tour with?

Tali:
I wanna be seen as a professional, treat me as a professional. You might be attracted to me – call me when we’re off tour, and we’ll talk about it!

Emma:
Right now we’re working

Tali:
Not while we’re on tour and we’re working. Cuz it’s definitely not hap – you think I got this far and now I’m going to jeopardise it? And the amount of people who have said to me ‘she got where she is from sleeping with people’ or ‘she must have slept with the entire label to get there!’ and I’m like ‘Yes!! Because I have a magic vagina! My vagina is so magic that I just go wooooo’ and everyone goes ‘give her a record deal!’

Emma:
(laughs)

Tali:
What is the logic in this!? If you look at the back story, you’ll see that the back story is quite exciting. And the reason that I got here is quite exciting

Emma:
Oh no that’s doesn’t matter.

Tali:
Hell no, cuz I just woooooooo

Emma:
It’s actually just how pretty you are and whether you put out, basically

Tali:
I’ve had entire threads and forums dedicated to the way I looked. And things like ‘yeah I’d do her with a paper bag over her head’ and ‘she sounds like a cat being dragged through a lawnmower backwards’ and you know I don’t really mind if people don’t think I’m a good MC or they’re not into my music because it’s all subjective you know? It’s completely up to personal taste. But when people start talking about me like I’m an object and what they want to do to me? Like I cried absolute tears when I read those forums because I was new in my career and I was reading this shit and thinking ‘is this…?” and as a … what’s the word, where you go against that? I would be determined to dress as boyish as I could. So I would wear tracksuits, cap, big ponytail, big earrings and that and I would get on stage and have such a fierce attitude because it was like I wanted to push away the idea of seeing me as an object. I tried to make myself more male I guess. And sound more male. And because the only role models I had were males – you know everyone was like ‘you’re such a little tomboy’ and I’m like ‘underneath – I wanna wear a sparkly skirt!’

Emma:
(laughs)

Tali:
And a boob tube! And I can’t – because I don’t wanna be seen as an object. but as I got older, and I earned my stripes, as we say, this little soldier earned her stripes, it became apparent that  and also Roni Size who signed me to his label and he was like ‘babe what you need to understand about these people who are writing these forums; they’ve got one hand on their dick and one hand on the computer. And usually they wanna do you, or be you.’ and that’s what it comes down to. They’re jealous because they can’t have you, and you’re in a position that they don’t think you should be in. Especially because you’re some white little female from New Zealand, how dare you? You know?

Emma:
Yep!

Tali:
So, there was that, and he was like ‘stop reading the comments because that will drive you crazy’ and then secondly as I got older and matured more and became more comfortable in myself and my sexuality, I was like ‘you know what? If i wanna dress like this and you wanna see me as a sexual object, that’s your problem. It’s not my problem.’

Emma:
Because the important thing is you feel good!

Tali:
I wanna feel good! And you know, I am a sexual person. And I love being a female. And I don’t dress for me, I dress for other women essentially!

Emma:
That’s a huge thing men don’t understand! Even when it comes to make up. “Oh she’s wearing way too much make up. I like girls that don’t wear make up.”

Tali:
I don’t care what you like, I didn’t put this make on for you! (laughs)

Emma:
Yeah or okay dude don’t wear make up then, you don’t have to, if you don’t like make up just don’t wear it … but I do…

Tali:
It’s my choice! (laughs) But yeah I definitely feel like there’s this fine line as well because society kind of tells us that in order to be attractive, and to be successful that we have to act a certain way and be provocative in a certain way. And I think there’s nothing wrong in being sexy and being provocative as long as that’s truly who you are. And you’re doing it for the right reasons. You’re doing it because it does make you feel empowered, not because you feel like you should be doing it. And this is why we should have things like Good for a Girl and people like you and I who speak out about this and let young women know that it’s okay. And there’s other ways to be empowered.

Emma:
And don’t let it get you down, and trust treat it like … well most people are fucking idiots. Don’t let it get to you, because .. you’ve fuckin’ got your eye on the prize and focus on that.

Tali:
Yep and I hate the way as well the minute that other women started to MC, and there were other female vocalists it suddenly became like this competition? ‘oh what do you think of Jenna G do you think she’s a good singer? Oh what do you think of–’ I think they’re all fuckin awesome! ‘Oh yeah but don’t you care that she played this festival and you didn’t?’ No! Stop trying to create this competition between us. I’m not a jealous person and I’m not a competitive person. I am me, I do me. You know, what really gets my goat especially is line ups. Festival line ups. And it’s really important we talk about this too. Because – you know this too – I’ve had instances where we cannot be put on a line up because there’s already a female on the line up!

Emma:
Yep.

Tali:
And especially for me, as an MC, I’m like ‘I’m sorry? I don’t see any other female MC’s around here. I’m like the only one and yet I can’t be on this line up because there’s another female who’s a DJ and plays house music?!’ You know? I’m a Drum n Bass MC! It’s completely different.

Emma:
Yep!

Tali:
You’ve got 5 white dudes, who all MC over Drum n Bass and who all pretty much sound the same. (whispers) Where is the logic in this? It just gets me so wound up! Because like.. ‘oh well we’re just booking the artists that are successful. We’re just booking the artists that make money. We’re booking the artists, the headliners that are touring at the moment.’ Bullshit! Do your research! There are other artists out there who are female, who are touring, who are making money, who if you gave them the opportunity, people usually go; ‘OH MY GOD A GIRL MC!! YEAHH!” and all the chicks push their way to the front and all the guys are like ‘wow this is amazing all these women!’ and the promoters are like ‘this is great, it’s heaving it’s going off, we’ve got females and guys’ – I put them there, Mofo! I did that! (laughs)

Emma:
Yeah, cuz you’re never gunna have people come away from a festival like ‘you know what? It was cool aye but there was just too many girls there.’

Tali:
Yeah.

Emma:
Like that’s never gunna happen. I don’t know why promotors or festival organisers worry about there – whether they actually consciously worried about that or whether it’s just when they’re confronted by it and they’re like ‘ooohhh i have to make up an excuse’ that’s kinda what I like about Going Global showcases because when you breakdown the 12 artists, 6 of them have women in them so it’s 50/50.

Tali:
Yes! Definitely!

Emma:
There needs to be… some major festival somewhere just quietly, not announce it, just for their next festival book 50% of their acts with women in them. Not say anything about it, just do it.

Tali:
Yeah!

Emma:
And then let the media take it once the festival line up is announced, and it the people notice then that’s cool, and then if it’s a major festival that does it all the smaller ones will follow on..it’s the power of influence as well is really important.

Tali:
Totally!

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