Sam Bailey & Fatimah Asghar (creators of the Brown Girls web series) appear on The Nostalgia Mixtape podcast.
The Sam Bailey & Fatimah Asghar Episode
Sam Bailey & Fatimah Asghar look back on how Frank Ocean’s Blonde got them through the filming of their acclaimed Brown Girls web series…. and how it’s continued to get them through this thing we call life.
Stream the Sam Bailey & Fatimah Asghar interview via Apple, Spotify, or find your other preferred streaming service here.
Creators of the Brown Girls web series: Sam Bailey (left) and Fatimah Asghar (right) with Nostalgia Mixtape’s host Sama’an Ashrawi (center).
Sama’an Ashrawi:You know what my favorite line on this song is?
Sam Bailey: Oh, this one?
Sama’an: “Did you call me from a seance?” Come on!
Fatimah Asghar: It’s so good!
Sama’an: How do you think of that?
Sam: “Hope you’re doin’ well, bruh.”
Sama’an: So passive aggressive.
Sam Bailey: I know [laughs] For so long I was like… this is a fuck boy anthem, and then I was like, “Wait, maybe I’m the fuckboi.”
Sam: I was like really confused for a while. [laughs]
Fatimah: Identity crisis [laughs]
Sam: I was like, “Wait, who am I in this song.”
Fatimah: It’s really hard to know who you are in this song.
Sam: Because I think we’re probably….. Both?
Fatimah: But then this part is like really heartbreaking.
Sama’an: Hey y’all, this is Sama’an Ashrawi and welcome to another episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape. Before I had a cellphone, when I’d invite my friends over to hang out or spend the night, it usually went something like this: I’d ring them up at their home phone number, make a plan, hang up, and then I’d go out in the driveway and play basketball or baseball to pass the time until they arrived. The day we taped this episode felt something like that; my producer Jason and I were hanging out on his front porch and talking, waiting for Sam Bailey and Fatimah Asghar to arrive — Sam and Fatimah created a show called Brown Girls that means a lot to young brown and black people. My friend Zayna (who co-runs an amazing newsletter called she’s not ok) told me she’d never seen anything that encompassed queer brown love like Brown Girls does, and she’s right. Sam & Fatimah made a show that’s groundbreaking and important, and the future seems bright for them — anyway it was sunset and I was eating a chocolate protein bar that Jason had handed me. Sam was the first to walk up. Her smile and laugh were disarming and we quickly broke into conversation. And before long, Fatimah walked up, and there we all were, smiling and waving down at her; and there was that childhood feeling again, that same excitement, only this time it was two people I’d never met before. But the vibes were friendly and warm and familiar from the very beginning.
My friend Tara had recommended them to me as potential guests and I really couldn’t be happier with how this episode turned out. So, without too much pause, Sam and Fatimah… Take it away…
CHAPTER 1: Duality
Sam: Umm, coolio. My name is Sam Bailey, I’m a director and a writer and a… artist. And some good news is that…. I just got a new mic for my karaoke setup!
Fatima: My name is Fatimah Asghar, I’m a writer and a filmmaker, and some good news is my friends Cava and Paige just got married this weekend.
Sama’an: Shoutout to Cava and Paige! Good job, y’all. They did it. What song do y’all wanna talk about today?
Sam: “Nights” by Frank Ocean.
Sam: The OG. He’s the OG and the New G.
Sama’an: That’s fine. That makes sense.
Sama’an: Why do y’all wanna talk about that song?
Fatimah: I think that “Nights” holds a really special place in both Sam and I’s hearts, separately and together — and that album, Blonde, in general — and we just wanna hit on some of the reasons why it’s so brilliant and what it means to us.
(above: Fatimah Asghar & Sam Bailey at HBO’s Golden Globes party, their Brown Girls web series has been picked up by HBO.)
Sama’an: It just feels like so… I love Channel Orange so much. So, so much. But that felt more like a collection of great songs and this feels like a body of work; everything flows, it all makes sense together…
Fatimah: It’s like a journey.
Sam: Mhm, yeah.
Sama’an: And Blonde has a really special place for… I have a memory attached to it too. Me and three of my closest girl friends, we took this road trip to Malibu to watch a meteor shower. We started driving at midnight, from here, actually, and we played this album on the way up, and then I have this secret sand dune in Malibu, and so we climbed to the top and we put on “Self Control” and “White Ferrari” and it was just us on top of this giant sand dune under the stars and it was…. We all like cried together, it was really sweet. [laughs]
Fatimah: I love that.
Sam: Yeah… I feel like this album came out while we were shooting Brown Girls at the end of it. I have so much joy about that show, but I was going through some really shitty professional and personal things at that time, and I remember sitting on the porch in the neighborhood that I grew up in in Chicago, and my really good friend was going through her first divorce….. And we were sitting there chain-smoking cigarettes, drinking PBR, and listening to this album. On. Repeat. Like, ad nauseam. It got me through… August, September, October… that was this album. On repeat.
Sama’an: I’m trying to think what my entry point to this album was because I wasn’t a huge fan of it at first.
Sam: Yeah, a lot of people say that.
Sama’an: I was like, “Okay, I get it. Couple good songs.” [But then] I made myself listen to it straight through a couple times and on “White Ferrari” there’s this part where he quotes a Beatles song…. And I’m like, “Why did he throw that in there?” He didn’t have to do that. To me, those little things that Frank does give him so much more depth. I feel like also on this album, a theme that I saw was duality. You almost meet two different versions of him on so many of the songs. Specifically, on “Nights,” it’s two different songs. Like you [Sam] were saying, “Which parts do we relate to in the lyrics?” Sometimes you feel like one part, sometimes you feel another… And on “Nikes” specifically he’s like two different personalities on that song.
Sam: And he incorporates like that kid voice, that child voice. I was trying to figure out why does this album feel like I’ve heard it before and yet also very very new. I think it’s because he used kind of this youthful voice that’s not the voice we’ve become accustomed to listening to from him. It was so much smacked up against his adult voice, too, which I thought was really beautiful. It felt like it was in my head the entire time.
Fatimah: Yeah, I feel like also the two, dual voice thing. I really attached to Blonde when I was going through a breakup and I got super obsessed with the album again, especially with “Nights,” and just listening to it over and over again, and the thing that I feel about it was that… Relationships are so complicated and one minute you can feel like that first version of Frank where you’re like a little bit of that fuckboi…
Fatimah: … and then you can feel like that second version where you’re just like… “I don’t want conversation and I don’t want people to see me this way.” And I’m late for everything, and I’m struggling to get out of bed, and it’s just really really hard to do anything. And then with the kind of childhood / adult voice, something I think a lot about Frank’s work, especially on Blonde, is that he’s an architect of Nostalgia. Not only the fact that I can listen to that song and feel nostalgic for a period or time frame, but, like, he’s creating nostalgia in his work in a way that is so deeply impressive and really, really….
Sam: … and it feels like a deep cut… [laughs]
Fatimah: Yeah and it feels like when you listen to it… it feels like the same kind of feeling in your bones that I feel when I listen to… I remember listening to Back to Black by Amy Winehouse and that feels like a really nostalgic period of my life when I look back at that moment. Blonde feels that same way to me. It was this pinnacle marking this moment. I listen to music really obsessively and so I just would have “Nights” on replay over and over and over again as I was walking around.
Sam: We loved the album separately and then it was like while we were out here [in L.A.] kind of dreaming — I feel kind of corny and not corny saying that — we came out here with nooo… I didn’t plan to move out here. I came out here and all of a sudden everything was moving so quickly and we were pitching it and premiering it and all that shit happened… We would just sit on my porch with Sarah who is my roommate….
Sam: [laughs] We’d sit on our porch and just dream what could, what if…
Fatimah: What could happen… Mhm…
Sam: We both weren’t really planning on doing this. I was really happy with doing indie stuff in Chicago for my community and then this opportunity opened itself to us… and I felt like this album felt like there were so many possibilities, and, oddly, also, pain.
Fatimah: Yeah because there is this thing that people don’t maybe talk about when you switch from indie to more commercial production, there’s a mourning that happens. People treat you differently, your relationship to community changes, your relationship to home changes, and what it means to be not from here… right? There’s a way the album encompasses this real sense of mystery, like there’s so much possibility, but also this deep sense of mourning! Like, I am shutting a door on a time period of my life and a new door is opening, and that’s a huge, dark difference that I have just never heard people talk about.
Sam: I’m trying to talk about it more. There’s a lot of beautiful things that are happening, and doors are being opened, but there’s also a lot of pain and depression and self-doubt that also goes along with that, and I feel like no one really talks about that part of the story until someone’s dead.
Sam: Like, what was going on during that time? People don’t talk about… “Oh, you’re getting paid.” But you have to pay to get paid.
Sam: It’s very crazy, this world that I am… that I feel like we’re straddling.
Fatimah: Yeah, and I feel for me too I wasn’t planning on moving out here either, and I was subletting and so me and Sam were hanging out a lot together, but it was this thing where I was supposed to be subletting for a month and a half and then me and my partner of four years went through a break-up! We’d been living together for three years and it was this thing about being like, “Cool! So now I actually cannot be in my home in Chicago.” Right? So now I have to move. And everything is coming with me and I’m moving to LA, right? There’s real pain and paradox in that because it was like… a lot of people were like “Oh my god you’re moving to LA!” “You’re moving for work!” Which was true, all of that is true, right? The superficial answer of why I left. But then there’s also these things about the spaces that you don’t have access to any more. Right? The doors that shut on your journey with whatever that is. Art-making is a really intense process, and career is an intense process, and we’re kind of in this limbo period where there’s a lot that could happen and a lot that could not happen and I can see all these splinterings of different paths that we could be on, and it’s really overwhelming to sit in that feeling and be like… how do you get yourself out of bed every day and do the things you need to do?
Sama’an:I’m really glad, Fatimah, you said that thing about Frank’s music sounding nostalgic… I guess it’s like that was the name of his first tape, right? Nostalgia Ultra. His voice does this amazing thing where it feels nostalgic but it also feels so melancholy and it’s like no matter what he’s saying, you get a feeling just from the voice itself. It sounds like y’all were having a lot of those feelings when this album came out and so maybe it was the perfect soundtrack…
Sam: I mean, yes, I was going through that when the album came out, but then I was going through it again six months later [laughs]
Sam: Different problems, same fucked up feelings. I think this album has shown itself to me at each of those points since it came out. And it’s been like distinct moments, you know?
Fatimah: And also in poetry they say this thing: a good poem is one that every time you read you get something new out of [it.] I feel like with Frank’s music that is so real, every time you listen to it you can kind of pull new stuff out of it. There’s a lot of songs I love that do not do that. Like, cool, I can listen to this because I’m tryna dance, I’m tryna whatever, but with Frank’s work there’s this gravity to it, this control and temper of it that I’m just like… Every time I listen to it there’s something new, here’s another line that I previously had forgotten about, or wasn’t listening to or thinking. Even just kind of the way he sings, me and friends were joking about this once, we were driving on our way to a poetry retreat, and we were listening to Channel Orange and we were debating what would it be like if someone were to bring in those lyrics as a poetry workshop? Really thinking about some of that language because it’s so lyrical and poetic in this gorgeous way, and even the way he sings, he kind of line breaks it in this way that’s kind of fascinating… The way he pauses, you can think about the words differently. There’s so many multiple meanings that you can read from the songs when you listen to it over and over again.
Sama’an: Yeah! [laughs]
Sam: That was mesmerizing. [laughs]
Sama’an: I love his complexity, the complexity he presents. I think he makes it really clear on “Nikes.” Maybe this is just me and what I’m bringing to the listening experience, but when he says, “RIP Pimp C, RIP Trayvon,” to me that reminds me so much of that Jay-Z line, “I’m like Che Guevara with bling on,” he’s like this two different people. Pimp C is like….. If I didn’t love rap music so much, I would be like, “This dude is gross and misogynistic,” but he holds such a special place in people’s hearts, and Trayvon is like… his story is like pure innocence, and innocence being taken from you, and to throw those two people up next to each other in the same line is very emblematic of who Frank is.
Sam: It’s so funny, I don’t ever think of that as the couple. I think of it… “RIP Trayvon, that nigga look just like me.”
Sam: While that was happening and we were asking him for music… he does look like Trayvon.
Sam: And that is hard. And then to keep it pushing… I think that song hits me.
Fatimah: I think so too. What you were saying about the burden of asking artists to be constantly producing and constantly outputting when like… That’s what I think about a lot when I think about Frank Ocean is the way that a lot of Frank’s fans have always been like, “Where’s the new music?” Because he tries really hard to be private, I think. Frank just wants to make music and live his life, and there’s so much pressure, constantly, to be like, “Where’s this new song? New album.” I just think it’s so interesting to see that happen around him, and to see him consistently release projects that are amazing. I wanna know how he shuts out all that noise.
Sama’an: Also, if I were y’all, and I, knock on wood, finish making an entire season of a TV show, if the first interview I did after that show was done, someone asked me, “So, what are you working on next?” I would be so furious. I just spent this whole time working on this thing and you’re already asking me what’s next? No!
Fatimah: We get that question a lot.
Fatimah: Even like…
Sam: While we were doing [Brown Girls].
Fatimah: People will do interviews with us, asking about Brown Girls, asking about my book, asking about other stuff that Sam is working on, and then be like, “What else are you working on?” And I’m like, “Didn’t we just spend an hour talking about what I’m working on?”
Sama’an: There’s a lot going on! [laughs]
Fatimah: Like, what do you mean “what am I working on?” I think we spent so long answering that question, so that’s something I feel a lot.
Sam: You get used to just like rattling it off. Like, I would never, up until two years ago, or a year and a half ago, would tell someone an idea I had as if that’s something I’m gonna make. Out here, I have to do that shit all the time. Because they’re like, “Oh, what are you… you have any ideas? Is this a TV show? Is this a movie?” And you’re like… “Umm… I’m not sure yet.” The time that it takes to really fester and think of something and choose the way that you wanna tell your story is not, at this stage in our careers, a privilege that we get allowed. I think that’s something that probably happens to older white men who have fanatics that get to like go away and come back. But we just have to continue to produce or else it feels like the door has closed.
Sama’an: I really feel that. One of the other themes that I took away from “Nights,” is this idea of loyalty– or Frank’s idea of loyalty — and I was wondering where do y’all draw the line when it comes to being loyal?
Sam: I’m a loyal-ass bitch.
Fatimah: Me too!
Fatimah: I’m so fuckin’ loyal!
Sam: Yeah like maybe to a fault sometimes.
Sama’an: I’m the same way.
Sam: It’s like I don’t trust often, but if I do bring you in then I go hard for you, and it takes a lot for you to break that trust and support. Umm… where’s the line? I think the line changes with every person and every instance and gets broken and built back. I don’t know if there’s a line. If I am loyal to you then I am probably very much loyal.
CHAPTER 2: Pink Sheep
Fatimah: Yeah, in “Nights” what I think about a lot is the line of “Everybody needs you,” and how that kind of comes across as an insult or it can be lovely and admirational all in the same song. Growing up, my high school friends, I had a close crew of high school friends, and we’re all still in the same group text together. There would be this thing that would happen where some of them would get mad at me because they’d be like, “You have too many friends. These bitches are not your real friends, we’re your real friends, why are running around with all these people, right?” In college it was similar and it was because I was a lot more extroverted and I did that a lot more and then I stopped because I got burnt out by it. But I think that what I’ve realized in my 20s is exactly what Sam was saying is: I love a lot and I love really intensely, and I can sometimes be a little too trusting and I’ve gotten burned, but then also I think now I’m at the point where, if you work your way into my love circle, you have a seat there forever, right? I believe in loyalty to people and the way that fosters community. Love is an active verb, love is an active process, rather than just being like, “Oh, I love you.” To actively show up. But it also makes me extremely loyal. Also though I think you can be loyal and still hold people accountable, I think you can be loyal and still expect people to rise to be their best selves. That to me is the best act of friendship or love, is be like, “I see you and I see where you wanna go and I’m gonna hold you to that potential.” Rather than let us all sit in our basicness. So to me I think that’s what I really love about relationships and love.
Sama’an: Yeah! [laughs]
Fatimah: Shut up, Sam. [laughs]
Sama’an: Even though I think I’m loyal for better and for worse, I don’t think I would want it any other way. Sounds like maybe it’s the same for y’all.
Sam: I feel like I have to have…. I’m not close to my family, and so my chosen family, extended chosen family, we really hold each other down. Even if we fight and hold each other accountable, we can always come back to the fact that we love each other. And that’s the best form of love I’ve ever seen or experienced. I’ve seen these people who, over the last twelve years, have grown, got married, got divorced, dumped people, and still say that this is the family that we’re all gonna protect. And that’s why even when it’s bad, I’d rather be loyal than not.
Sama’an: What do people want at the end of the day? What do humans want? Is it to feel useful?
Fatimah: I kind of feel like people just wanna belong somewhere, right? I think people want that sense of feeling like someone else recognizes them or sees them. Or that they can just kind of be and co-exist with people. In terms of humanity at its best. Spaces I feel like are at their best are what Sam is talking about, these moments of chosen family where you’re able to be like, “This is who I am, this is my full self, and I don’t have to hide or censor any part of that, and I can belong here and feel accepted for all of those things.”
Sam: Yeah, I think it’s love in all those types of ways. Love of a passion, love of your friendships, romantic, whatever it’s defined by for you– I think people want to experience that, both give it and receive it. I think. A lot of times people’s actions are based off of fear of getting it or fear of losing it.
Sama’an: Did y’all maybe grow up with families that made it hard to be yourself?
Sam: I did for sure. I think I very much still feel like the black… uh sheep? I’m a black person… [laughs]
Sam: All my family members are black [laughs]
Sama’an: We gotta come up with a new term!
Sama’an: What color sheep are you?
Sam: I’m the pink sheep of my family. [laughs]
Sam: I think I was constantly trying to find ways to assert myself and be like, “Look at me! Look at me! Like me!” And I think that’s something that was very true to my experience… up until I would say, maybe even five years ago.
Fatimah: Yeah I do too. I mean I also have really great family members, like I’m really close to my sister Khadeeja and I have some really great cousins that I love, but I think that overall I have a pretty tepid relationship with my family and it’s like pretty….. You know… estranged at this point I think. There was a lot of ways that I wasn’t really able to be myself, and I felt like I was constantly fighting for myself, fighting for what I needed, and small things that seemed so basic, and I think that my way of dealing with that has been like… I don’t want to live a life where I have people in my life who make me feel bad, and so when people make me feel bad I don’t want to be around them. What that has meant is there’s a lot of family members I no longer engage with, and it wasn’t even like we got into blow up fights or anything, a lot of that was just me pulling back because I was like, “Actually I don’t feel good when I’m around you and I would rather us both live lives where we’re flouring separate of each other.”
Fatimah: That’s my coping mechanism of dealing with people I think I’m not a good match for is just to back out slowly.
Sama’an: I mean, it’s like, for the sake of your own sanity… It’s not healthy to keep putting yourself in those situations.
Sama’an: Was there music that got y’all through some of those feelings when you were younger? Like teenage years, college years?
Sam: [exaggerated laugh] I had horrible taste.
Sam: I shouldn’t say horrible because I respect these people.
Sama’an: You ‘bout to say “Lil Bow Wow?”
Sam: No [laughs]
Sama’an: Okay [laughs]
Sama’an: Alright, then it’s gonna be fine. Whatever you say is gonna be fine.
Sam: I was a big P!nk fan.
Fatimah: I love P!nk! I love P!nk! Oh my god her music is so emotional!
Sam: “Missundaztood” got me through whatever grade I was when that came out.
Sam: I think it was… eighth grade. I was a big NSYNC fan. TLC. I always say TLC taught me how to be a woman.
Sam: Yeah, TLC, because I have two older sister so TLC and Salt N Pepa was playing in my house. And then for sure like NSYNC.
Fatimah: I loved Ja Rule & Ashanti.
Fatimah: I loved them so much.
Sama’an: Name a better duo.
Sam: Oh my god. [laughs]
Fatimah: Not a single person is a better duo than Ja Rule & Ashanti. [laughs]
Sam: Oh my gaaaaahd.
Sama’an: Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell?
Fatimah & Sam: Nah.
Sam: Jay Z & Beyonce?
Sama’an: Come on, come on.
Fatimah: Nope! Not a single person. Beyonce is great solo. Jay Z can, you know… [laughs] But I love, love, love Ja Rule & Ashanti. I love them so much.
Fatimah: Also Aaliyah. Like I remember I wrote my first poem, you know Aaliyah had that song “4 Page Letter?” I remember my first poem–
Sama’an: I’m sending him a four paaage letterrrrr
Fatimah: To this boy–
Sam: And I sealed it with a kiiiissss.
Fatimah: You’re doin’ great! [laughs]
Fatimah: So I wrote my first poem after listening to that song on repeat over and over again to this boy I thought I was in love with in seventh grade.
Fatimah: I loved 3LW. I just had really basic music taste at that point. I loved P!nk too, I thought P!nk was great. I love Christina Aguilera…
Sam: I really like Robyn…
Sama’an: Oh wow, yeah.
Sam: Robyn got me through some really nasty… like I was a drunk in college. I was such a drunk in college. I remember me showing up to a body movement final because I was a theater person.
Fatimah: [very high pitch] Okaayyyy!
Sam: I was super wasted, walked out of class, and challenged some guy in stage combat to a duel and then got carried out of the building.
Sam: Robyn’s “Dancing on my Own” was the song I would play when I would get wasted. Robyn reminds me of bad thoughts. I’m a much, much better person in terms of my alcohol intake now, but Robyn was like bad decisions.
Sama’an: Thanks, Robyn.
Sam: [laughs] Maybe I shouldn’t have shared that…
Fatimah: No, that’s great! I’m really glad to know that. [laughs]
Sam: It runs in my family by the way.
Sama’an: We’re learning a lot about each other, this is a safe space. It’s fine.
Fatimah: Also Sam and I are always, at certain parties, we’re always the last people there, so drunk.
Fatimah: This is like what has been mine and Sam’s last year has been…
Sam: Every HBO party we go to… we’re the last people there and we’re crying at a table.
Fatimah: Very drunk. I said certain parties [laughs] really what I meant was all the HBO parties, we’re the drunkest.
Sam: We peed outside…. What was that one?
Sam: Fati, like, covered me with her dress.
Fatimah: I had a cape dress.
Fatimah: Yeah, peed on the street while we were waiting for our Uber…
Sama’an: That’s really sweet!
Fatimah: As the last people at this party.
Fatimah: Umm [laughs]
Sam: You thought that was fun? Wait ‘til our show comes out!
Fatimah & Sam & Sama’an: [laughs]
Sama’an: My best friend in elementary school…. I’ve had the same best friend since I was like three years old…
Sam: Oh wow.
Sama’an: But when we were in, like, fourth grade… [Editor’s Note: Now that I’m thinking about it, it couldn’t have been later than third grade.] We’d already been through a lot together by fourth since I knew him since I was three. I remember we were at recess one time and I really had to pee, and I was like, “Dude, I gotta pee so bad right now.” I could have just walked inside…
Sam & Fatimah: [laughs]
Sama’an: But that would take away from play time, you know what I mean?
Fatimah: Totally. Absolutely.
Sama’an: I grew up in the suburbs in Texas so there was a lot of trees… So he was like, “Dude, just pee behind that tree, and I’ll block you. I GOT you.” So I was like, “Okay, cool.” So I walked over to this tree, unzip my pants, started peeing, and like his version of “blocking me” was just literally just standing behind me with his arms like this [Editor’s Note: can you imagine little third grade arms being big enough to shield anything? Hahaha] Not blocking anything at all. So you could just totally see that a fourth grader was peeing on a tree. And I remember this crowd gathered by me [laughs]
Sam & Fatimah: Noooooo!
Sama’an: And this teacher ran over and was like, “Sama’an! What are you doing?!”
Sam & Fatimah: [laughs]
Sama’an: And I was like, “Uhhh…” and I pulled up my pants. She was like, “Would your parents let you do this at home?” And I had literally just peed in my front yard like three days before that.
Fatimah: And you were like, “Yes, absolutely.”
Sama’an: I was like, “Yes, absolutely.” [laughs]
Fatimah: I kind of love peeing outside.
Sam: It’s really freeing.
Sama’an: It’s great!
Fatimah: I really love it, actually.
Sam: I’ve seen this bitch…. We were leaving a bar and I had just asked if I could use the bathroom, and they were like, “Yeah, we’ll keep it open.”
Fatimah: Oh, I forgot about this night!
Sam: And then Fati waited for me, and then when I came out of the bar she peed on the sidewalk! [laughs]
Fatimah: I did! [laughs]
Sam: And it was like… a busy street. It wasn’t like we were…
Fatimah: I literally just squatted by a car and peed. And then everybody was like, “Fati, we can… see you.” And I was like, “Cool, cool! God that’s cool!”
Fatimah: “…I’m just gonna… I’m just gonna pee…” Yeah I really do love peeing outside.
Sama’an: When I was in college I had a phase that I went through… I went to college in Austin and everyone lived in apartment buildings, and I just went through this phase where if I was over at your apartment late at night, and I had to pee, I would ask if I could pee off people’s balconies? [laughs]
Sam: [laughs] You’re trash.
Sama’an: And I did it all the time! And it felt so good! I’m sorry. I just wanted to make it like…
Sam: No, thank you.
Fatimah: No, yeah.
Sama’an: … you just told the peeing outside [story] and so I just wanted to offer one more.
Fatimah: Yeah, you know, totally.
Sam: Safe place.
Fatimah: Safe space.
Sama’an: [deep exhale]
Jason Crow: We’ll edit that out.
Sam & Fatimah & Sama’an: [laughs]
Sama’an: Ummm OKAY. Back to Frank. Because that was a great digression, I’m glad we did that together.
Sam: Can we play “Ivy?”
Sama’an: You wanna play that song?
Fatimah: I do love that song.
Sama’an: Here we go.
Sam: This is the song that got me into the album.
Sam: Yeah. I was mourning a friendship breakup when I first heard this and it just… felt like the right song. Even though it feels like a romantic song, but it like…
Fatimah: Yeah, but… relationships do that, you know? Any relationship can feel that way.
Sama’an: Breaking up with friends is so…. I’ve only had to do it… once… and it was so hard.
Sam: It’s… yeah. It’s horrible.
Sama’an: It was so hard.
Fatimah: It’s really painful.
Sam: We don’t talk about it enough. When you’re like someone’s friend on TV, it’s not a really thought out character, not really. The one show that I think explored friendship in a really cool way, besides Atlanta at certain points, was Grey’s Anatomy with Sandra Oh and Meredith Grey. That whole friendship and how that was super complex. They were each other’s world’s no matter what guys and stuff came in and out. That seemed to be the strongest relationship, and the most complex in the series. I like Grey’s Anatomy.
Fatimah: Yeah… Mhm.
Sama’an: That’s okay, you can like Grey’s Anatomy. One thing I really like about Frank is he just makes cussing sound so beautiful.
CHAPTER 3: When Beyonce says “Bitch”
Sama’an: Like him and… D’Angelo makes it sound so good. Uh… who else do y’all think is good at cussing?
Fatimah: Yeah I love when Rihanna curses, yup.
Sama’an: Like I believe it when she cusses, you know what I mean?
Sam: I like the way Beyonce says “bitch.”
Sam: Beeeeiiiitch. She almost puts a little too much on it but I’m into it 100%.
Sama’an: I feel the Texas coming out of her when she says “bitch.”
Fatimah: It’s also rare for Beyonce to cuss, so when she does it’s like… you know… we all get a little excited [laughs].
Sama’an: Oh my god, the first time I heard “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” I was like [heavy exhale] my chair almost knocked over.
Sam: Also, Solange has the prettiest way of singing “nigga” I’ve ever heard.
Sam: [channeling Solange] “All my niggas in the whole wide world.” I was like “Ooo, yasss. Queen.”
Sama’an: [laughs] Right! I remember I watched Straight Outta Compton with my dad… My dad has since gotten into rap music, for a long time he didn’t, and it was very cliche, it was because of the language, and I remember watching Straight Outta Compton with him and it’s like the “Fuck The Police” scene where they show all the brutality and then them going in the studio… and my dad especially never really liked that song, and for him to have grown up in Palestine, I never understood why he didn’t relate to that. I was like… “That should be the first rap song that you relate to.” But I remember watching that scene with him and then the song comes on in the movie, and that was when he finally got it. He was like, “Oh.” I was like, “What else could you say about that? You have to cuss in that situation.”
Sam: Yeah, totally.
Sama’an: Do y’all listen to chopped and screwed music.
Fatimah: Not often.
Sam: It’s Houston.
Sama’an: I mean… I’m definitely biased because that’s where I’m from. But the chopped and screwed version of Nikes is so good because his voice is pitched up in the song and [on the chopped and screwed version, his voice] almost sounds like a normal Frank voice.
Sama’an: I listen to this stuff all the time.
Sam: This is something I’d get high to and listen to for sure.
Sama’an: I think Fatimah mentioned Amy Winehouse Back to Black.
Fatimah: Yeah… I listen to music very weirdly. I listen to it in a way where it’s obsessive. I will find an entry point into an album… If I listen to an album all the way through, and I’m like, “I like it, but whatever,” then I don’t really like the music, but if I listen to an album and there’s an entry point and I’m like, “Oh, this is my song.” I’ll listen to that song over and over and over again and then I’ll keep listening to that album. I’ll cycle through the album and then I’ll find a different song that I do that to. I can tell how much I love an album by how many of the songs I do that to. But I think Amy Winehouse has a really beautiful voice and again I was going through the end of a pretty shitty relationship when I was listening to that and so it was… and it was the thing where the person I was with loved that album and I… it kind of was like the fuel for me after… which is strange because usually you would think that I would be like, “I don’t wanna…”
Sama’an: Disassociate with it or whatever…
Fatimah: Yeah, like, “I don’t wanna deal with that,” but I just listened to that on loop over and over again and I was listening to that as I was reading Toni Morrison’s Jazz, and it was like….. They very much complimented each other in terms of emotion and feeling. So I kind of think of those three things together. And recently I re-listened to that album a few weeks ago and I was like, “Oh yeah!” There was a period of my life where this was always on repeat and I just never stopped listening to it.
Fatimah: Do you like that album?
Sam: I do like that album. I feel like I didn’t really get to her until later because I’m super late on music, but, yeah, once I did I played it on repeat. It was like that and… we got it on vinyl…
Sam: I mean, I think like both Baduizm and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill were super important to me because… I did not think I was attractive when I was a little girl, I thought my skin made me look ugly, and I had all these complexes with colorism and Lauryn Hill to me was the most beautiful woman ever and she kinda looked me in my head. So not only was I fan of her aesthetic, but like everything she did could do no wrong. So when she went away it was very painful for me.
Sam: I also love any time Lauryn Hill writes for everybody. She’s got this song she wrote for Aretha Franklin, “A Rose Is Still A Rose.” It’s really beautiful. And then Erykah Badu because she felt like music that was like music that was like bad. Like if that was going on, it felt like some grown folk shit was going on too. [laughs]
Sama’an: Like we learned how to be grown from Erykah Badu. [laughs]
Sam: Yeah, exactly. Like “Tyrone” that’s such…
Fatimah: That’s a great song.
Sama’an: Oh my god. Come on!
Sam: That’s a good album. That’s a great album.
Sam: What’s the one about her… he’s like… “I know you got a man and all.” [laughs]
Sama’an: Sounds like you have a personal relationship with that song.
Sam: It like opens up with like… She’s like, “Well I’m in a situation but…”
Fatimah: Oh my god.
Sam: [singing] “Oh what am I supposed to do.”
Fatimah: Oh yeah yeah yeah.
Sam: That’s a great song.
Fatimah: That’s a great song.
Sam: Next Lifetime! [singing] “I guess I’ll see ya next lifetiiiime”
Fatimah: Oh, that’s so sad!
Sam: Yeah, I know, right?
Sama’an: I feel like I need to see her not in like a big concert scenario. This needs to be at a lounge…
Sam: For sure.
Sama’an: Like I need to be sitting on a couch.
Sam: It feels like Love Jones era. The movie Love Jones.
Fatimah: I don’t feel like there’s a lot of musicians who come up in lounge singing any more.
Fatimah: And that’s like kinda….
Fatimah: Weren’t we talking about this when you were talking about how there kind of feels to be a loneliness amongst a lot of creators that are our age and stuff, or maybe even a little bit younger. I feel like you were saying there have been a few music spots in Chicago that have closed down.
Sam: Oh yeah. Yeah. I feel like Danny’s is always trying to get shut down. The places where you could see someone in a small venue, I feel like, are getting smaller and smaller. Whereas Chicago used to be this huge music town. I mean and it is, but we’re holding out. We’re like holding on for venues I think.
Fatimah: And a lot of those connections now happen on social media. Whereas they used to kinda more happen because you’d be at these places. It’s an interesting dynamic that’s happening amongst our generation, a lot more collaboration comes from…
Sam: Hitting someone up in the DMs.
Fatimah: Yeah! Versus just like being at the same place. I feel like, age wise, we’re right on the cusp of that. Where we like have so many connections from being like, “Oh, these are places we go.” But increasingly I don’t know if that is still happening as much.
Sama’an: A lot of my first big interviews happened because of Twitter. So I definitely relate to that. I would just hit people up.
Sam: I think that’s great.
Sama’an: It’s amazing.
Sam: I think that’s super dope. I think we all have complicated relationships with social media, but I also know that one of the factors into why I can be doing what I’m doing now is because I’m using social media and using platforms like Vimeo allowed me to get my work out there in a way that is really hard to do in film.
Fatimah: Uh huh.
Sam: I went to Facebook and had a meeting with them and we were talking about like what they’re doing with their TV department now. And I was like, “Yeah, man, I used to put my web series on my Facebook page and get followers.” It’s so weird now that they’re catching up to us in that way.
Sam: I probably shouldn’t have… done that? I don’t knowww, I’m high! [laughs]
Sama’an: We can cut it ouuuuut. We can cut it ouuut. It’s okay.
Sam: I saw both of you guys looking at me… [laughs]
Fatimah: We would not have had Brown Girls without social media. We couldn’t have had anything; the crowd-funding, the press that we got, and stuff like that. Also though I think social media sometimes is a place where there’s not a lot of empathy and I hope for more empathy in those spaces in terms of just like letting people… it can become really mean really quickly and kind of alternates to bullying or it can be just like internet bullying. But it can also be really beautiful in the space of connection. So I value social media for that.
Sama’an: I feel like it used to be much more… In the early days of Twitter, everyone was tweeting each other, everyone was reaching out, it was cool to reach out to people you admired, and now I feel like… no one does that any more. It doesn’t happen.
Fatimah: I also think that in the early days of Twitter you kind of interacted with your friends and people kind of like a text exchange, right? It was like, “What are you doing? Where are you at?” In a lot of ways it felt a little more organic. Now it feels like branding and platform and it’s a different thing than it was in 2012.
Sam: I didn’t get on Twitter until like 2015, so… I’m still figuring it out.
Sama’an: Like I tweet in all lower case now, you know what I mean?
Sam: Yeah, I do that too.
Sama’an: Because it’s part of my brand. [laughs]
Sam: Do you follow me?
Sama’an: I don’t follow you, should I follow you?
Sam: See… [laughs]
Sama’an: I felt like if I followed y’all before this interview happened…
Sam & Fatimah: [laughs]
Sama’an: I had seen the series already… It’s a similar thing I do with anyone I try to work with is… I don’t wanna super fan out.
Sam: Oh… No. That wouldn’t happen. All we do is talk about poop, why she hasn’t sent me her book yet, and…
Sam: …anything about, what’s that actor’s name that I really like? The guy from Jurassic Park.
Sama’an: Oh. Uhh…
Sam: Jeff Goldblum.
Sam & Fatimah: [laughs]
Sam: And Rihanna.
Fatimah: And I feel like we just tweet memes at each other.
Sam: So you’re missing out on a lot. [laughs]
Sama’an: I could totally get into that. I love a meme. I’ve sent memes before.
Fatimah: I don’t actually know how to use memes, I just retweet memes because I think they’re funny. I don’t know how to like…
Sam: You don’t have to make one, you can just Google them.
Fatimah: No but even in my text threads, I don’t insert memes because I don’t know how to.
Sam: I’ma show you.
Sama’an: I really want you to become… I want that to be one of your skills.
Fatimah: Yeah, we gotta work on it.
Fatimah: It’s like a deep thing I don’t do.
Sam: I’ma show you because they’re fun.
Sam: You should do this for yourself.
Sama’an: We believe in you.
Fatimah: Sounds good. Thank you. I need that. Thank you, all.
Sama’an: Thank y’all so much for talking with me about Frank Ocean.
Sam: Aw. Thank you for having us.
Fatimah: Thanks for having us.
Sama’an: I really appreciate it.
Sam: This was fun.
Fatimah: We’re super excited to hear.
Sama’an: Okay cool. If you think of another song later on down the road just come back.
Fatimah: For sure.
Sam: Hopefully we’ll have a lot more memories together.
Sama’an: Yeah, go out and make some memories!
Sam & Fatimah & Sama’an: [laughs]
Sama’an: I’m really still amazed at how smooth that conversation flowed for us having never spoken before. I appreciate Sam and Fatimah for giving me that energy. Let this conversation be proof of the way Frank Ocean’s music brings people together. As we mentioned in the episode there’s a certain quality to Frank’s voice that feels instantly nostalgic– I meant he’s got a whole tape called Nostalgia Ultra; it’s the same quality Drake’s music often has, except with Frank the tone is usually melancholy whereas with Drake the tone is much lighter and happier. And for that reason I want to say: Frank, if you’re listening, please come on and tell a story or two with us.
But I digress… Sam, Fatimah, thank you for reminiscing with us, for getting vulnerable with us, and for laughing with us.
Did you enjoy the Sam Bailey & Fatimah Asghar interview on The Nostalgia Mixtape podcast? Bless your ears with the official playlist companion. Listen on Spotify andApple Music.