Described as an “Ode to Black girlhood”, Zora’s Moon is a feminist anthem written by Candice Hoyes in deep collab with GRAMMY winners Sullivan Fortner and producer Casey Benjamin. The song is a groovy and assertive proclamation inspired by the writings of famed Anthropologist and author, Zora Neale Hurston.
To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the release of “Zora’s Moon”, the peerless DJ and producer Natasha Diggs hit Candice up with a proposition to remix the song with her classic NYC House edge, while simultaneously cranking up the Funk Factor by an order of magnitude. The result is nothing short of spectacular, a scrunch-your-face-in-delight funk-a-thon that that seems to have been engineered in the rail yard from where the soul train departs.
Candice was born to Jamaican parents and she’s an avowed activist both for feminism and racial justice, something that permeates the vast majority of her sound and her drive, so much so that her work has graced a number of organizations and grassroots movements such as Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, National Black Theater, Feminist Press and WellRead Black Girl among others. She’s also the creator of a feminist performance lecture series for Jazz at Lincoln Center and CUNY. is there anything she can’t do?
We had the good fortune to shoot a couple of interesting questions to this rising voice, because if you didn’t know her already, then you definitely should, like right now. check it out:
What was it like to have Natasha Diggs say “Hey, I wanna have a go at Zora’s Moon”?
It was THEE best feeling. Did I scream and do a dance in my living room?? Hell yes. Natasha is impeccable musically and artistically, and on top of that she has an extremely generous spirit. So I knew at that point, I was going to have a blast in the creative process. I felt so starved for collaboration this year and obviously so ready to work. So pretty much the stars aligned, then burst.
Feminism is paramount to this song and a huge part of what you do musically, where do you feel like real strides have been made in that regard?
I am an artist and an archivist: I love rare histories, songs, curious artifacts that go into my songwriting and even how I dress. But I feel grateful for the digital age, so I can afford to research and create and experiment using digital tools. Being able to produce my own projects, release my music, and now collaborate across a pandemic is a real stride. To be super specific, I am deeply in love with the song I made out of the underlying rootedness I have in Black literature, especially Zora Neale Hurston, who exceeded every societal boundary and taboo, yet still should be more widely appreciated. I am very clear that I speak her name and our names in more expansive and feminist spaces in a way that is joyful, Black and futuristic.
And on that same note, what do you feel like is the biggest priority that needs to be addressed by feminist movements and organizations?
We, feminists, need that critical race theory lens to debunk lies and to even ask the right questions. For example, yes there were enslaved Black people in New York until 1799. I totally recommend The 1619 Project- Shout out to Nikole Hannah-Jones. I had the privilege to study with Kimberlé Crenshaw when I attended Columbia University, and what a gift. She coined the term “intersectionality” which gives us the language to know how systemic practices work to perpetuate racial, sexual and gender oppression. I see the right to vote is being targeted to exclude Black and Brown voters, the rampant anti-Asian American crimes, the disparate impact of Coronavirus on Black and Brown people. If we are to organize our way through this moment, we need to build coalitions and make policies that include everyone.
Who’s the biggest female icon in music you would want to work with the most?
I would love to work with Sade, Patrice Rushen, Dolly Parton, Debbie Allen, Missy Elliott, and I really love Little Simz. Let’s put the vibess out there (laughs). I opened for Chaka Khan this summer, which was absolute heaven.
Back to your music. You started writing songs at an early age and were always “into” music, but when did you feel like it was a calling you had to pursue in earnest?
The calling came early! I knew by about age twelve I would be a professional musician, but I truly wasn’t sure how to make a career of it.
Were the people in your life encouraging you from the start or did it take them a while to come around?
Encouragement, yes, I have always felt my folks were on my side, and they sat through so many piano recitals and listened to me belt at top volume daily. Those moments were crucial. But also yes, it took them a moment to come around! I’m the first professional artist in my entire family. I couldn’t always explain my choices. That said, my Dad always told me great things require work. So the way I see it, they gave me what I need.
What is your goal as a musician? Do you work your craft with a specific purpose in mind or do you just let the creative energy flow through you as it may?
I work my craft to make music that reflects me at my essence, so I hope it is always authentic and meaningful to me. My goal is to have a long career and more recordings.
What’s this upcoming EP of yours about? Where do we put ourselves mentally to best take it in?
My EP is a deep dive into my Jamaican heritage, and it transports you to a magical little spot that goes back a few generations for me. So I’m thinking it’s a perfect rooftop or weekend drive soundtrack. It’s the best kind of escape!
CONNECT WITH CANDICE HOYES
photos / Lissyelle Laricchia
story / Samuel Aponte