O.N.E The Duo: From Wu-Tang Fame to Debuting to the World as Country Music's First Black Mother-Daughter Act
Mickey Guyton. Brittany Spencer. Rissi Palmer. These singer-songwriters are among the small group of leading ladies in the country music space, raising awareness and visibility for Black women tapping into the scene. Among those inspired by such artists is the rising country-Americana mother-daughter act O.N.E The Duo. Comprised of Tekitha, known for her work as the female vocalist of the Wu-Tang Clan, and Prana Supreme Diggs, her daughter with RZA, Wu-Tang’s founder and producer, the duo have created a sound rooted in country music – mixed with their signature style. With the edge and folk softness of Fleetwood Mac beautifully combined with a Motown soulful slant, O.N.E The Duo is breaking stereotypes while forging ahead a refreshing sound.
EDITION had the pleasure of sitting down with Tekitha and Prana to discuss Nashville, new music, and overcoming the “urban” label.
See more: Country Music Star Brittney Spencer Shows Us Her Tour Wardrobe & Talks the Power of Self-Love
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You both relocated to Nashville in 2016. So, how do you like it? How's the community?
Tekitha: We love it. I think it grew on us. It became this safe haven creatively, emotionally, and on the community side as well. I think that Prana and I, both in our respective ways, have been able to find our own little groups that we belong to. Also, there's a bit of an intersection too because my daughter, although she's 21, she's kind of 45. So, my friends are her friends. She might call them auntie and uncle. They're her friends. What we found here in Nashville is it's the same vibe. We'll meet people, and it's like, ‘Wait a minute, I think your mom is kind of my big sister but wait, she’s my friend too.’ But then the same with her, I'd be like, ‘Your little friend, that's my nephew.’ I can't imagine leaving to be honest. I'm trying to figure out a way to seriously root down here and be an even greater component to the community here. They embraced me, and I will embrace them back.
Great! Piggybacking off what you just mentioned, I interviewed Brittany Spencer recently. We had a chance to talk about her evolution as an artist. She’s also one of the handful of Black artists in the country scene. Tell me about your journey. You explained that there's a community there and that you've been embraced, but in what ways have you had to overcome certain obstacles?
Prana: I think having to combat the hip-hop or “urban” label put onto us, especially because of mom's background in hip-hop music. I think, in the beginning, it was people would want to do hip-hop and country music. That doesn't always come out to the greatest authentic sound, especially as it represents us. We're not urban. Also, please don't use that word.
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Prana: Hate it! I have always hated it. It’s like, ‘What do you mean by urban?’ But, surprisingly, especially because we really went full throttle in 2020 – we have been in rooms where people have been more willing to listen and trying to set their personal biases aside. I really think people like Britney Spencer and Mickey Guyton are doing the foundation work of Black women belonging in country as much as any other person belongs in country. I think we are still yet to see in the grand scheme how the public will view us being in country music, but as it stands right now, the industry is being open and welcoming.
Tekitha: To piggyback off what she's saying, we have to make sure that the credit is given to the team that Prana and I have built around us and the way that they support the vision that she and I have. It's not a vision that they have solely on their own. We had to create and set the vision so that they could go, “Oh, wait a minute.” Then, also like she’s saying, they are open, they’re knowledgeable, they understand this system, and they also do not approve of the system either. So, our vision with their knowledge and understanding there's a way to play the hands that has to coincide because this is an American business, and this is a corporate business. These are institutional strongholds that we're up against. To Prana’s point, with Micky specifically, and any of the Black women who are in that genre who have paved the way, they actually have made it easier for Prana and I to not have so much resistance on the front end.
Prana: I will say, the one thing that's probably very different from everyone else's experience is that Black people have to educate more. In every room that they're in, there's always “Wow, I never thought about that.” I think that will be an ongoing obstacle, as long as you're working with someone of different backgrounds saying, “No, you know, you can't say that” or “We need to think about this.” So, there is that aspect of educating, which can be taxing. You just want to do the work.
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I like what you both mentioned about the vision, and there's an education that has to happen. So, as this mother-daughter duo, how are you hoping to drive that vision forward in a way that’s educational and entertaining at the same time?
Tekitha: As a parent, and then as an auntie, as a friend, I lean more so into compassion with everything. Whether I'm teaching or not teaching, I think that's the best way to reach somebody, even in their most resistant state, not to let their ignorance force judgment from me. There are so many factors that come into play where people are just not understanding or blocked from something that actually could benefit them. I think with the music and with this project, we have a unique opportunity to show a lot of compassion while also being like the stern Black mom that I am. We're going to listen to your ideas, too. ‘But what about this? Did you know this?’ This is my perspective, though – the gentle educator from a compassionate place.
Prana: I think a lot of the educational aspects and the learning aspect comes from you getting enticed into who we are as people through the music, and then you listen to us talk and the many things that we'll end up doing, and by that, you will also be educated.
Yeah, that makes sense. You two came from hip-hop roots. So, what was your first introduction to country music?
Tekitha: My first introduction to country music was in childhood. So, my father was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and my grandmother was born in Texas. I didn't know this until I was in my later teen years that I had all this country music and all these songs that you couldn't tell me what the name of the song was, you couldn’t tell me who sang the song, but I knew every word. And it just started happening recently in this environment that we're hearing now. “Well, do you know this song?” And I'm like, ‘No, no, I don't know it.’ Then, they'll play the song, and I’ll be singing the song. ‘Actually, I do know that song.’ When I talked to my father, and I talked to my mom and my aunts on my mother's side, they were like, “Your grandma loved this music. This is a part of who you are.” – but I did not know that. For Prana and I, we did not launch into this project thinking, ‘Let's do country music.’
We were singing together acapella, and maybe with a guitarist every so often. We came to Nashville in 2015 for one week. We did a co-write with singer-songwriter Rebecca Lynn Howard and her husband, Elisha. It was the first song that O.N.E The Duo did together, and it was called “Love Will Break ‘Em Down.” We didn't even know that it was called country. All that we knew was that we wanted to do stripped-down acoustic music with some banjos, maybe an upright bass, guitar, and fiddle. So, my introduction to country music, I knew, came from childhood, but we didn’t even know that's what we were doing until we got to Nashville. We started meeting with executives saying, “This is country,” and then you had another executive say, “This is Americana.” Now there's this debate as to what we are doing.
Prana: I think for me, I can't remember the distinct moment where I remember starting to listen to country music, but odds are it was probably “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood. I don't really remember mom playing Dolly Parton or Patsy Cline or anything like that. But, back to my Carrie Underwood track, that was my jam! I didn’t know what she was talking about. I was five. I didn’t know what she was saying. So, for me, that was my introduction. Then in my teen years, I started to discover it more. But yeah, obviously the same experience. Not really trying to do country music, and it’s coming from our soul.
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Yeah, you can tell the dynamic energy you two have. It's coming from an authentic place. What would you say you admire about Prana? And vice versa?
Tekitha: Oh my god. Don’t even get me started! Do you know what I admire so much about Prana Supreme Diggs? My baby’s like, “Why are you worried about that? Do you.” I love this about her. Now, I think all of us in our 20’s might have felt like this, but no, she’s a 21-year-old who really is 45 or 60. It's not that she thinks she knows everything or anything. What I love about her is her ability to hold her ground, but to be also intuitive in a way that you wouldn't expect a person of her years on the planet to be and how she supports and loves her family and friends. It really brings me to tears how she loves and supports me, and even with this project, which I don't know if I said it already, was her idea. This project was not my idea. O.N.E The Duo is her baby. I'm going to do the best I can to make this vision of hers a reality every step of the way, even when I'm not feeling super powerful. I'm much more sensitive than she is. I'm a super-sensitive person. The thing I admire about her the most is that she helps me to understand that my sensitivity and my compassion is a good thing, and she does not want me to lose that, but she also wants me to not give a f*ck. She’s like, “Calm down with all that compassion, my friend.”
Prana, what about your mom? What does she bring to this project?
Prana: Mom said it herself. Mom is just a very compassionate and thoughtful person, and she has almost psychic-like foresight into things, and that's why I do think the balance is important because sometimes, when you got the psychic foresight, you think that you've seen the clearest path. So, what I appreciate most, even aside from my mom's compassion and thoughtfulness, is her ability and willingness to listen because not every parent is open to hearing their child disagree with them and be like, “Well, maybe not mom.” Mom has always been able to have open dialogues, and she doesn't make me or anyone else around her feel less than, which I think is very noble. People don't really take the time to make sure that you also feel okay. I think that that's something that she really brings to the balance. I always say that we really do have this yin-yang dynamic, and there's a little bit of the yin in the yang and a little bit of the yang in the yin. It's the perfect partnership.
So cute. I love it. Lastly, I know you both released “Guilty” last September. What can we look forward to going into 2022?
Tekitha: Girl, we got songs! We have about five on deck right now. We're trying to figure out the strategy and what would be the best next rotation. What's on deck right now will be a cover song that we did of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Now we're not shooting a video or anything. It'll be a lyric video or something like that, but that'll be another presentation, a cover for us to do, but we have “Love Will Break ‘Em Down” is on its way. “Hearts Like Mine” is another song that I want you to plant the seed in your ear about that. “Stuck in the Middle” is another song. These songs are co-written and produced with Nash Overstreet and Shane Stevens. Shane had the number one Billboard country record with “Fancy Like,” and he's one of our writing partners.
Prana: We’ve got some hitters coming out. Singles working into maybe a little album.
Tekitha: It’s a full album for sure – ain’t no little album about it. We thought we were doing an EP, but now we're not. It'll be a bit of an evolution of sorts, there's for sure the country vibe, but then there's also the O.N.E The Duo vibe. It’s going to be a part of our brand moving forward for us – our music identity.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.