EW shoots hoops with Brit soul duo Floetry. They've got a buzz-worthy, chart-climbing debut, ''Floetic'' -- and they've also got game

By Evan Serpick and Kristina Feliciano
Updated October 18, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Floetry, Natalie Stewart, ...
Credit: Floetry Photograph by Mark Peterson/SABA

It’s because we have desk jobs. That’s what we told ourselves after losing two basketball games in a row to English soul duo Floetry, who agreed to play some preinterview hoops with us — and trounced us, 11-2 and 11-6. Besides being proven songwriters and dynamic performers, these girls are ballers, legitimate hoop stars in their native London. We hold chairs down all day, five days a week.

Floetry are Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie Stewart, or songstress and flo-acist, as they refer to themselves on their Oct. 1 debut, ”Floetic” — but we like to call them Dr. A and the Enforcer. Stewart, 25, a onetime performance poet, brings the rhymes — and the occasional shoulder to the larynx when she’s being guarded too closely. Ambrosius, 23, runs the court as effortlessly as she knocks out the full-bodied melodies on their CD.

She and Stewart have been friends — and b-ball rivals — for roughly half their lives, and it shows. They set picks and post up like Jordan and Pippen circa ’96. Now they live a block apart from each other in Philadelphia, where they recorded ”Floetic.” The 16-song disc, exec-produced by ”Jazzy Jeff” Townes, offers storytelling in the self-empowerment, self-revelatory style that has brought Grammy nominations to India.Arie and Jill Scott, and mixes the classic soul of artists like Sly and the Family Stone with contemporary R&B. ”The point of my art is to inspire,” says Stewart, stopping to talk as we ponder the possibility of a third straight defeat. ”It’s therapeutic for me. I repented on the album.”

”Floetic” may be their debut, but it’s not the duo’s first stab at the music charts. The prolific pair has written songs for Whitney Houston and Bilal, plus the hit single ”Butterflies” for Michael Jackson, which Ambrosius penned when she was a teenager. ”If you hear [our] demo and you hear his version, they’re exactly the same,” she says, without a hint of arrogance. And the hit-records streak continues: ”Floetic,” the first single off their album, has already climbed to No. 34 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop chart and is still rising. Unbeatable? Tell us about it.

We should have known that they would cream us at hoops. Already ragged and panting after a short warm-up, we joined the duo for a photograph before the game. They spelled out UW, for uptown women, so we arranged our fingers into EW, for obvious reasons. Only we got it backward. WE didn’t stand a chance.