Six degrees brings together electric duo

By WilliamPrentiss

He Say, She Say Producer Million $ Mano (Emmanuel Nickerson) and singer Drea Smith share a special bond that can be heard in their music. The way Smith’s voice rides Nickerson’s heavy bass in their song “Crash Dummie” suggests the entire product came from one dirty mind.

The two musicians met at Columbia as undergrads and formed their band in 2007. They’ve been hard at work ever since, making music and performing at some of the largest concerts in the U.S., including this year’s Lollapalooza.

The Chronicle recently caught up with Nickerson and Smith to get the story behind their musical union.

The Chronicle: How did you two meet?

Drea Smith: We met at Columbia. I thought he looked cool. We started being friends. He didn’t know I did music.

Emmanuel Nickerson: It’s a little more extensive than that; we had a lot of mutual friends through Chicago and Milwaukee.  She was friends with a lot of homies that I was cool with in Milwaukee, so she already kind of knew about me, but we never knew each other. It was so weird; it was like six degrees of separation.

DS:  And when we met it was like, “Let’s make music together.”

EN:  Plus the fact that we both have influences from the same people.

DS: We realized we had three of the same CDs in our collections that many people didn’t have. I was like, “Man, you’re my best friend now.” You have three CDs that nobody in my high school had, and he’s two years older than me. You know, he’s a cooler, older guy.

EN: I am.

The Chronicle: How does gender come in to play in your song “Crash Dummies”?

DS: Most people think, “Oh, she writes X-rated, provocative, blah-blah.” Yeah, no. It’s totally about a woman knowing she’s being used and being alright with it because it’s like, “Whatever, people use people. I’m okay with it. I’ll do it.” I’m not saying it is okay to be used, but some people are fine with it if they’re getting something out of it.

The Chronicle: Does it ever make you  laugh when you see people singing the chorus, but not really understanding what the song means?

DS: I mean it’s a dance song, but it’s funny because I’m totally talking about being emotionally abused.

EN: That’s the beauty of music. You have tons of people at any super-uber-hipster function, where as soon as the DJ wants to be hard and plays Dead Prez’s “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop,” all these 20-something suburban Caucasian kids are just going nuts and—

DS: —not listening to the words.

EN: Dead Prez isn’t really for white people, so to say. I mean, at the end of the day, to even make that statement is dope because sometimes music can get a bigger feel than the initial message you wanted to put through. The way she [Drea] sings over it, the certain instruments that I use, it’s bigger than a word sometimes.

The Chronicle: Have you felt like when you’re writing your lyrics that people will want you to tone them down because they’re too sexual?

DS: People assume I’m this overtly sexual person, and I’m really not. I hope that people don’t think I’m all sexual, but I don’t want people thinking I’m a feminist either. It’s not a feminist thing. I do want to be a voice for women my age. I’m 23-years-old, and sometimes I do do things that are not that responsible. Ijust want to make smart music that’s reflective of what women my age think like.

The Chronicle: Has there ever been moments when you thought you wanted to quit?

EN: Yes, but this is isn’t a hobby at all; this is our lives. I care about my well-being, Drea’s well-being, and then actually being one [with] the fans. I feel like I owe so many people to put out things that will inspire the generation to come because that’s how I was made, by being inspired by the artists before me.

For concert information and a taste of their music, check out He Say, She Say at