Three years, three break-ups, and a phone call from Bumbershoot is an interesting recipe for a record. Nonetheless, former THEESatisfaction member Stasia “Stas Thee Boss” Irons tossed these ingredients in a pan and cranked up the heat, and out came S’Women, her debut solo album.
The tracks, which may have ended up being individual SoundCloud tunes, were put together when Irons was asked to play the main stage at Bumbershoot this summer. “I wasn’t even going to do anything like this,” Irons explains. “But I got asked to do Bumbershoot. So, these songs are a collection of things I’ve been working on for the past three years. A lot of the songs were already on my SoundCloud. A couple of them are brand new.”
While Irons admits a handful of the songs were meant to be individual singles, the full project has an amazing cohesiveness. Together, the eleven tracks tell the story of the three break-ups Irons experienced in the last three years. Usually, when you listen to a record crafted out of heartbreak, you can expect some emotional drain—the crashing waves of pain experienced by the artist washing over the listener. S’Women takes a different approach. While the lyrics navigate the journey through repeated failed relationships, sonically the record feels light, ambient, and even refreshing.
Irons unique creative process provided the perfect foundation for a groovy break-up record. The beats were all made way before she added the lyrics. “Some of the beats that I made, I made while I was in those relationships,” Irons says. “So, the beats are like ‘aww this is how I’m feeling about you,’ but when the relationships failed I would have to write something else over the initial beat.”
One of those failed relationships she mentions is the break-up of the former Sub Pop duo THEESatisfaction. While in the group, she made the instrumental for “Solo,” whose minimal beat is mainly comprised of a soulful vocal sample accompanied by simple drum taps and delicate piano. Irons glides over the chilled out beat with slow methodical verses and unequivocal bars like “She went for the dolo/ she took all of the solos” and repetitions of “All out of my F U’s/ hand me downs to my nephews,” and “Be the best you/ God bless you.”
Repeated lines are a deliberate device used throughout S’Women, their impact made greater given that most tracks are fairly short, hovering around two minutes each. Irons says the lyrical repetition is “more like chanting and affirmation for me. I want people to hear these words and feel them. Because I meant them. When I chant something I really want to reiterate that moment. And since the songs are so short, and they’re packed with things, I want people to go back and play them again and again.”
On “Bummer,” a track about being broken up with, the tune opens with classic, funky hip-hop drums. Then, her quick and deliberate verses strike: “You say you love her/ then you dump her/ then the thunder/ then the bus comes by/You throw her under.” At one minute, 19 seconds long, the track comes and goes extremely quick. But it ends with a lingering bitterness as “you throw her under” is repeated three times, distorted moans sizzling in the background.
One of the beauties of S’Women is Irons’ clever word play. She delivers verbal daggers, but she does so with a poetic smoothness, maintaining a chill vibe that resonates throughout the record. On “Melt,” she tenderly surfs fluttery synths dropping lines like “That was heavy like some metal/ and the pot calling the kettle/ a spade calling a spade/ a ratchet being ghetto”.
The record proves that music about the despairs of love doesn’t have to feel depressing. Take standout track “No Service,” which features a superb beat from 10.4 ROG and vocals from Jusmoni. Irons raps, “I once had soulmate that I did admire/ she was for sale but I couldn’t buy her/ bid her good bye and she flew like a flyer.” The story chronicles hurt, but the instrumentals jam. “I don’t feel sad,” Irons says. “Not anymore.” Hopefully, S’Women will help a few people get there too.