At a recent show in Seattle, Wise was set to perform her song "BitchSlut" when an older man got naively excited (the name of the song was apparently enough to get him going). But the track was not what he expected: Its premise revolves around the notion of "If I say no I'm a bitch. Say yes, I'm a slut," as its lyrics make clear.
Wise excitedly describes making the man feel totally out of his element with the feminist anthem. Her producer Dane made sure to videotape his reaction because it was so "priceless.''
"I love that," she says with a laugh when relaying the story. "I just love making them uncomfortable."
"BitchSlut" is the fourth track from Wise's debut studio album The Feminine: Act I
, released in April 2016. The alternative R&B album's unapologetic tone features wall-to-wall pro-feminism tracks, from "BitchSlut" to one entitled "Decrease my Waist, Increase my Wage." In February, Wise released the second installment to her series, The Feminine: Act II
, a project with a much more atmospheric and relaxed vibe.
Despite having recorded the songs for both projects at the same time, Wise decided to go about releasing them separately, grouped by the moods the individual collections evoke.
"When I first put out music from the project," she explains, "I had this idea to put out the loudest songs first all together in a group and then put the tamer stuff together in the second project."
Before she garnered attention for her bold lyrics and strong messages in her solo work, Wise's notoriety stemmed primarily from her collaborations with other artists. Specifically, since 2012, Wise has appeared on hip-hop powerhouse Kendrick Lamar's last four albums, as both a singer and as a songwriter. The critically acclaimed Compton rapper picked up Wise for his second studio album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city
, where she is featured on three tracks, including the hit single "Bitch Don't Kill my Vibe."
Wise describes her experience as one of Lamar's frequent collaborators as one of the "blessings" in her life. "It's been really fun," she says. "He's awesome."
After winning the Grammy for "Best Rap/Sung Collaboration" in 2015 for her work on Lamar's song "These Walls" from the critically lauded To Pimp a Butterfly
, Wise has turned to a solo career in an effort to further make a name for herself.
Wise's strong feminist messages come from her lifelong experience of "just being a woman and being frustrated about it," she explains. She acknowledges some progress in America, but says there are still glaring issues — such as the fact that, in her words, we have a "known fucking rapist for President."
"I mean female reproductive rights are still being attacked; it’s always an issue," she adds. "Men are deciding what women should do with their bodies still in politics. Men make more than women. And on top of that, white women make more than colored women. There’s a whole fucked up thing that’s happening right now that’s not going away.”
Through her music Wise says she has found a number of allies, who believe the same things she does and come out to support her. “They’re working actively, whether it’s in government or in their art to like push against the things we’ve been brainwashed and coerced into believing about ourselves throughout our whole lives,” she says.
Wise's show at Delmar Hall on June 11 will be the final stop on her tour with New York-based experimental pop act Lewis Del Mar. Once touring ceases, however, Wise has some pretty lofty tasks for her summer to-do list. She is already constructing songs for The Feminine: Act III
and also plans to make another album with her long-time producer/collaborator Dane Orr as the duo Sonnymoon.
And with that new music is sure to come those same strong feminist messages upon which Wise has already built her foundation — comfort levels of any misguided older listeners be damned.
“In the battle between my head and my heart, my heart often wins," she says. "I just feel something and I want to do it, so I do it.”
8 p.m. Sunday, June 11. 6133 Delmar Boulevard, $15 to $18. 314-726-6161.
What kind of music makes a sexist old man wildly uncomfortable? That would be the straightforward, pro-woman anthems by Grammy-winning singer Anna Wise.