Black music has always had a way of inspiring the masses and shifting culture in a way that cannot be duplicated. Our music has empowered us to stand out despite what is perceived as the standard.
O.N.E. The Duo, featuring Tekitha and her daughter Prana Supreme Diggs, is all about defying the status quo to create their own identity and lane. The two are shaking up the realm of country and Americana music genres with their own unique flair—in a way that's hella Black and oh so necessary. After getting her start with the legendary rap collective Wu-Tang Clan, Tekitha has instilled the power of music within Prana (her offspring with the musical powerhouse RZA). The mother and daughter pair's rhythmic stylings and deep connection to a wide range of musical genres makes their joint collaboration avant-garde by today's terms.
EBONY chatted with the talented duo about their placement within the country music sphere.
EBONY: How did O.N.E. The Duo come to be?
Prana Supreme Diggs: Everyone puts our names together to call us "Prakitha" because we are always in sync. One day, mom and I wrote a song together based off "One is the Loneliest Number" and it inspired us. Although we move as one, we're very different from each other, but still much the same. So the concept of "one" really just captures who we are. Then, we wondered "what if we made it an acronym?" O.N.E. stands for observant, noetic and effervescent. These are three words that we approach life, our music and our songwriting with. Additionally, it's what we want to bring to other people. That's where O.N.E. The Duo came from.
Through your mother and daughter dynamic, how have you streamlined your collaborative process?
Tekitha: It depends on who we're working with—the producers or the musicians who are in the room—because we are a live music duo. You get a producer who just does the music, but in truth, it's really about collaboration. It's about having multiple instrumentalists and songwriters in the room. We haven't had a song pitched to us yet that we haven't contributed to in the process. Therefore, every experience is different and caters to the room that we are involved in.
Prana: Mom and I like writing with other people a lot because, usually, we are already on the same page or on the same wavelength. It can actually be kind of hard to make an idea move forward because we both have a similar songwriting style in terms of being thoughtful with the language we use. We want to use a word that you can get like a triple entendre out of, that way of writing is very much so influenced by our backgrounds in rap and hip hop. Being able to collaborate also helped us be punchier with our writing while being accessible to more people and not compromising our artistic integrity.
Black music is expansive and the blueprint for many other genres. How does O.N.E. embody that fact?
Prana: Black music is everything. Something that often happens with minority groups is that they get put into a monolith. "If you're not this, then you're not Black." When you look at the history of Black music, so many of the most iconic pioneers across genres have always been innovators. We've always done something different. Recently, I've been listening to one of my all-time favorite songs: Marvin Gaye's "When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You." I think that that is one of the most beautifully written songs. Of course, when we think of Marvin Gaye, we don't associate him with country songs. Country is a storytelling genre. "When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You" is a country song. There's not a chorus in sight until the song is almost over but there's still the rhythm there. It's still structured although he's not even rhyming the whole song. It's truly one of the most beautiful and fascinating songs. Gaye is an example of an artist that we might not typically call country, but hat's a lie_we've simply forgotten the essence of the genre.
Black music is just such an essential part of my identity. Literally, my parents are a part of one of the most fundamental rap groups of all time. Wu-Tang was part of pioneering what rap sounds like today. However, some artists go through their hip hop moment and go back to what they really wanted to do in the first place, like rock or whatever. It's tricky because you can't come into hip hop just to leave hip hop, which we see many people do as a gimmick. So it's interesting to be doing country and Americana styles of music because we evaluate how the music belongs to us, as Black people. How's it any less Black for a Black person to do classical music? Or for a Black person to do folk or heavy metal, you know? Our art should not have to be confined. Music is still a universal language and that's often how during the hardest times in our history we would communicate with each other. To lump Black music as just one specific genre is to take away what we offer as a culture.
Tekitha: As a people, we've given the essence of energy to the field of music. This energy is why hip hop literally has taken over the world. With Black music and music of the diaspora, there's an energy that we're pushing out into the world that no one else can do like we do it. I don't care what anybody has to say about it. That's what makes us elite and premiere. Not elite in a "pat me on the back" type of way. Elite in the sense of expression that is received by people and that resonates with them to the point that they want to follow that good feeling. It is almost cult-like. What we do with Black music transcends genres and charts. That's not to say that our white brothers and sisters are not doing their thing as well. We're not saying that we're the only people to touch other masses of people. However, there is something very unique about what we offer to the world, that's all.
Today, the general landscape of the country and Americana genres is associated with being white and male-dominated. However, artists like Mickey Guyton and K. Michelle are redefining the current culture of country music. How do you aim to navigate this particular music scene?
Prana: We are dealing with a construct where people don't like Mickey Guyton literally because she is Black. Folks see Black people and immediately want to put the hip hop or urban label on us. The audacity of humans. Everybody can get on this train of progression, though, because it's moving forward regardless.
I think how we are approaching making country music right now is centered on going back to its origins, rooted in blues and rock. These roots are highly infused by Black American and African influence. I don't think there's anything not country about what we're doing. It has rhythm, a slight twang to it, and the banjo. I mean, that's an African instrument of a drum and a guitar put together. At the core, country is undeniably Black, if we want to get real about it.
Tekitha: We were having this conversation with our manager as we discussed one of our songs getting mixed and mastered. As we talked about what elements needed to be added to make it sound more country, she said "Honestly, when I hear every single song you guys have done, there isn't one that isn't country to me through and through." She's a veteran in the country music space, so hearing her say that is significant. She is not a person who says things just to be nice. I say that because I find that to be very interesting, because when other people listen to us they often think we are trying to be "hip country."
Also, when we go into these rooms, we can't sacrifice our Blackness or put on a show to emphasize what being Black looks like. This can happen often when you're in a space where you have to educate a lot. It's also crucial that we approach the music in a way that doesn't have us hand-holding —it's not School House of Rock, you know? After 2020, there has been more self-examination, and individuals looking at their own personal biases. So now, when we go into these rooms, people are already open to listening, which is really a nice breath of fresh air, especially in a genre like country with how it's perceived in the mainstream. People will often say, well, I like every genre, but country—but it's not even really because of how the music sounds as much as a perception of it. So with our natural inclination to our own music and energy, we really think that people will feel and relate to what we are putting out.