January 31, EDM twins Crewela Is released zer0, Their first album in seven years. Sisters Jahan and Yasmin Yusuf did not plan this way. Their 2013 dubstep-based debut, WetNo. on Billboard 200 Debuted at number one and the group was invited and crushed to every major dance-music festival in the world. And then, in 2014, Cruella broke up with a former member who then filed a lawsuit. Case Which was spread across social media. Jahan highlighted the wave as a result of online propaganda Composition for 2014 Billboard; Then, a career-crippling legal dilemma may ensue, he joins his sister in the reconstruction. zer0 A new Cruella represents both – those who have their own record labels, collaborating with South Asian stars, and singing their own truths – and so on. Yasmin and Jahan explained to us what that meant.
Spotify for Artists: In 2014, Cruella suddenly emerged from growing success, in Jahan’s own words, “the most hated group in the EDM scene.” How were you feeling then?
World: Anxiety. My whole self-worth revolves around Cruella and people’s ideas about it. So when it broke, I had no foundation. I didn’t do anything to find out what gives me a sense of the value and purpose of life outside of this project. I often leaned towards Stoicism to reconsider my thinking, and had the opportunity to see with insight how obstacles might be the way, e.g. Ryan Holiday Said. For Yasmin and me it was really transformative when we were destroying it, and looking at how we could make it from a more authentic place.
Being a woman in the male-dominated EDM world has definitely given you thick skin.
Yasmin: I actually think I felt untouchable because a lot of good things have happened to us since we started our careers. It removed the screen and I’m actually grateful for it because I had conversations with people I didn’t necessarily agree with, or witnessed things I knew were wrong but wouldn’t say anything about it. By the time we got through the case I had lit a flame under my hips so I could talk or stand up for things, or put myself in someone else’s shoes. I think it made me the one I like the most now.
When the lawsuit was filed, you were exposed to a stream of online hate speech. Jahan, in you Billboard Article, it looks like you’re collecting those tweets. Did it set you on fire somehow?
World: I’ve taken it almost as a study, for example, see how many people are repeating this old generalization about women: that we don’t do the job, and we can’t be trusted. It made me imagine girls who are aspiring artists, lyricists or DJs, how their own scenes talk about them and how it reinforces this feeling, “I should probably stay away from here.” Of course it affected my mental health, but I tried to take a more objective approach, such as, “We need to look at this and see that this is a problem in this genre and in the industry in general.”
Is starting your own record label part of re-establishing your identity?
Yasmin: Yes. Since the lawsuit, we’ve worked to move everything forward, and launching Mixed Kids Records has really helped us evolve. Being able to call all our own shots, owning all our masters and being the people financing our own projects has changed the way we think about everything. We’re more cautious in some ways, but we’re much more excited and shooting from the buttocks among others. Having a full agency is the best thing for us.
Is it part of your passion to connect music with your Pakistani heritage?
World: Yes, we have begun to examine our roots and these identities within us: Muslim-raised Yusuf girls, but sex-free girls who have grown up with Western education. “East meets West” is our motto – our mother is American, German, Lithuanian. Our father is Pakistani. But we grew up listening to Bollywood songs Led ZeppelinCelebrate Christmas, but fast for Ramadan. It was a really exciting challenge for us to figure out how to lean on it. Bollywood dance sequences and scenes of ancient temples are playing in the studio as we sample tabla and olol [drums] But creating highly nostalgic lush polysyntheses for electronic dance music. And with art, Pink Rock aesthetic layering-Islam-inspired images with lotus flowers and paisley. I think all of this makes this project so real for us.
Is the title of the album related to the idea of starting from scratch?
World: This is one of our many explanations. When zer0 Turns out, our dad sent us this inspirational message about how every moment is an opportunity to start all over again in the air. I think this is a good reminder. The word “zero night” comes to my mind – the idea that we have this moment, and whenever we hold on to things in the past, or worry about the future, because we don’t live in that sacred place of zero.
After all, what in the world does this very personal record look like?
Yasmin: It is very surreal. It’s awful to reveal the work you’ve been doing for so long. Almost in a maternal way, a part of me just wanted to hold it in my womb because it was ours at the time. But in the end you need to let go, and I’m so excited and refreshed that people can hear who we’ve evolved into, and where we’re going because everything is a step. I love that people know us little by little.
Would you tell young women about moving to male-dominated creative spaces?
Jahan: Really take the time to get to know your inner world because women have such magic. Yes, we are always changing, but how it makes you unique and magical and unpredictable, and how exciting it can be once you know that he, or it, or he, or the creature in you. Respect anyone. If it’s gross, if it’s ugly, if it’s angry, if it’s hetic, if it’s sad, if it’s emo, if it’s sexual, if it’s sensual … just express it fearlessly. Many artists are trying to create music for the trade, but if you really want to make a sustainable and growing business, believe that when you respect it, the universe will reward you in the long run.
– Chris Martins