They are also much sought-after songwriters. Among the compositions they’ve provided for other artists is "Butterflies," the second single off Michael Jackson's Invincible album. The pair has worked extensively with Glenn Lewis, penning "Simple Things," "Lonely," "This Love" and "Take You High," from his World Outside My Window. They wrote "Love Again" for Jill Scott and Jazz from Dru Hill, from the Rush Hour 2 soundtrack, as well as "You Are" for Bilal, from 1st Born Second. Faith Evans and Brandy likewise requested songs from Marsha and Natalie.
Still, the #1 priority for Floetry is Floetry. To illuminate who they are, the pair composed a defining anthem, "Floetic," which serves as the first radio track off their debut album, as well as the title of the album itself. Says Marsha of the disc's musical center: "We put floeticism into everything we do. We are two opposites on the planet coming together and making something real creative happen." Natalie confirms: "We're very different. People often laugh and say Marsha's jiggy and I'm earthy. But we round each other out."
Indeed, these opposing forces complement one another, which is evident from their respective musical tastes. Says Natalie: "I have a Jamaican family, so I have a lot of reggae in me, a lot of rare groove vintage soul and revival music. Marsha has a lot of funk and soul in her. We're both into hip-hop, but my hip-hop is Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Common; Marsha's is Jay-Z and Nas."
The merging of these influences produces an eclectic sound Marsha describes as "a combination of everything that makes you feel good – it's Aretha's 'Respect'; it's Aerosmith's 'I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing'; it's the Friends theme. It's everything you have to smile about."
But the two are quick to point out some of Floetic's darker themes as well. Natalie declares: "I’m a character writer, a storyteller" and suggests that not all her stories end happily. Marsha also concedes the expression of some difficult truths: "When I record a song, my main goal is to be honest. If I'm singing about a woman who just got beat down by her husband and she's about to die. I'm gonna sing just like that woman." With the song "Sunshine," for example, the girls explore the theme of loss in a way that exemplifies their bond as collaborators and friends.
Natalie comments further on Floetry's aspirations: "I jokingly say that what I'm working toward in life is to be influential. I've been famous since I was born – when there were only six people in my world, the other five knew me, so I've been famous. Now it's about influence. Love songs today seem to be about arguments and breaking up, and the club songs are all about getting one over on someone else. It seems like every music video has some kind of fight in it. There are lots of things Marsha and I want to say that aren't necessarily dark and dingy. It's like, come on, I just want to be happy for someone. We don't deny the difficulties in life, but we want to say something positive, too."
Helping reconcile Floetry's creative impulses was the team behind A Touch Of Jazz Productions, which is overseen by Jeffrey "Jazzy Jeff" Townes. The roster of producers (collectively known as The Misfits) includes Andre "Dirty" Harris, Vidal Davis, Ivan "Orthodox" Barias, Darren "Limitless" Henson and Keith "Keshon" Pelzer. This crew’s combined credits encompass Jill Scott, Will Smith, Lil’ Kim, Darius Rucker, Kenny Lattimore, Musiq and Cherokee, among others, with demonstrated expertise in everything from hip-hop to soul to gospel to pop to jazz and beyond.
"Nat and I were writing together, but we didn't really work with tracks; we just did it to my voice – I was the track," explains Marsha. "We went down to A Touch Of Jazz and Darren and Keith played us some music. I was like, 'Yo, this sounds like a party, happy, feel-good-type vibe.' So I just started singing, 'Floetry and we're alright,' and 'Floetic' happened from there. Nat would write a hook. I'd write a verse. Nat would write a verse. I'd write a hook. And we rarely come across producers who can actually play, but with these guys. Vidal will get on the keys, Keith will get on the keys, Dre will be on the guitars and drums. Darren and Keith would start up with another beat and we'd just explode. It was a creative explosion down there." In fact, "Floetic" was born in the combustion of a single night.
Natalie picks up the thread: "So we went back the next day and made another track, and the Touch Of Jazz guys were, like, 'Come back tomorrow.' It kept going on like that and we cut 11 songs in seven days. There are three rooms at the studio. We all got together and we're bouncing these songs, running from room to room. And the guys are saying, 'These girls write real quick,' and me and Marsh are thinking, 'These guys really understand what we're saying.' It was a great union."
Perhaps Natalie and Marsha's contagious chemistry was predestined. After all, before the music, they had the court. "Natalie and I met through basketball," Marsha informs. "That was our main love. I was the superstar of my area of London; she was the superstar of hers. Everyone considered us rivals." Says Natalie of their respective camps, who anticipated a showdown, "They were hoping one of us would put the other in her place." But Marsha insists, "It was a friendly competition."
Their connection was undeniable from the beginning. "Our families are extremely loving and we share those kinds of value," ventures Natalie. "I think we’re kindred spirits – I think we've known each other before. With Floetry, we always say that as long as we share in it equally and give it back to the God, we're gonna be cool."
It’s this sort of triumph the girls feel they must experience together in order to fully appreciate, a belief that perhaps more than anything illustrates their identification as a creative unit. Says Marsha: "There have been shows where Nat's smiling at me for something I've done, and then she'll start spitting all kinds of freestyles, and I'll be thinking to myself, 'How is someone that clued?' I chose the right person to be down with."
Natalie concurs: "We're right there for each other, seeing it, feeling it. You know, there have been some arguments and some tears but also a lot of hugs. It all comes down to 'You shared this with me." We don’t have boyfriends. We don't have children. We don't have anything we're carrying with us. What we very much have is each other." Marsha jumps in with the last word: "We're sisters," she says, and leaves it at that.