Noel Scales | photo by Dom Nichole | courtesy of the artist
Music Is A Moment: A conversation with Noel Scales
The Philly songwriter, who will feature on the 25th anniversary to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill next week, talks about her creative growth, her goals in collaborations, and more.
This week we’re bringing someone who is known in this local scene as a singer, a rapper, a performer and an artist. We got to know Noel Scales in 2017 when she dropped her project Beautiful Bag; one of my favorites from her was “4 Never.” When I heard that song, I knew she was going to be a very very good songwriter. Over the past six years, I’ve not only seen her drop her own projects, but appear on other people’s projects, which tells me I was not wrong. She just dropped an incredible EP called The Mandemic, and she’s about to appear at World Cafe Live paying tribute to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill for its 25th anniversary. We got together at WXPN studios for a conversation about Noel, her creative growth, the inspiration behind The Mandemic, and more. Listen to our interview in the player above and check out some excerpts below; for tickets and more information on the tribute to Miseducation, which takes place on Friday, August 25th at World Cafe Live, head to WXPN’s Concerts and Events page.
…on how she’s grown over the past six years.
I’ve lived more life, so I’ve gained more perspective. I’ve been connecting with more people, I’ve been learning. I’ve even been delving into new art forms, tapping into myself more as a vocalist, as a writer. I’ve grown in the sense of now, I have substantial things to talk about, significant messages that I want to create and share. I’ve tapped into my substance mind, I guess you can say.
…on the thing that makes it easy for her to work with different folks.
Well, in the past I haven’t been picky. But now, I would say I have to resonate with your energy and spirit. You don’t have to be the biggest person in the city, or have the most followers, you don’t have to have a million more followers than me. I don’t get into that. I get into energy, vibe, feeling, what I feel with that person, how we flow and bounce ideas off each other. Just as much as I’ve been in studios and spaces with people who are deep in the industry and have those connections, I’m just as quick to be in the studio with someone who has no connections. Music is a moment, it’s not a ladder to be climbed, you create moment with people and that’s what makes those moments epics, is the energy between two people.
…on the way Kensington’s struggles with the opioid epidemic found their way into the reflective song “A Little.”
It’s actually a specific story. I actually had the song written for six years, but I didn’t have the beat. I wanted it to sound like the 70s and 80s in the crack era, American Gangster vibes. I drove around a dead body, it was a woman, completely nude. I was driving home from an event, and it was the most disturbing thing and I didn’t understand it. It was jarring. And it was a Black woman, and I’m a Black woman, so instantly you feel the hurt and sadness for her life.
…on whether she prefers singing to rapping.
Full transparency: I for a long time have been insecure of my singing voice. Being super critical of myself, “you didn’t do that run right, you sung a little too hard that time.” But no critical when it comes to me rapping. There’s something about rap that makes me feel strong, I use my voice in a way where it’s impactful. And it is a little gritty; I like grit, you need grit to survive.