Artist Of The Month: The Blessed Madonna
Artist Of The Month: The Blessed MadonnaDecember 13, 2022
To understand The Blessed Madonna as an artist is to know Marea Stamper as a person.
The self-proclaimed “20-year overnight sensation” was born for this. As the daughter of the late Louisville blues legend, Nick Stump, Stamper had generational musicality engrained in her blood before she even knew what dance music was. But when her stepfather, Roger, introduced her to electronic music via The Pet Shop Boys, New Order, and The KLF at ten years old, the story of becoming The Blessed Madonna was written in stone.
However, no story is linear, and it wasn’t for The Blessed Madonna either. Formerly known as The Black Madonna, Stamper had often gotten pushback to change her name. She never gave in, noting The Black Madonna is a deeply personal saint to her family’s religious tradition.
But in the summer of 2020, the U.S. was in the middle of the most important civil rights movement of our generation. Black people and other people of color were begging to finally be seen and heard. People were calling for accountability. This included a petition for The Black Madonna to change her name, signed over 1,000 times.
“I am under no illusion that I am going to get my life right. I am going to make infinite mistakes. I do not labor under the fantasy that there won’t be things in 10 years from now that I won’t regret,” The Blessed Madonna explains. On the week of Thanksgiving, they’re on Zoom with Beatportal, sitting in their mother-in-law’s basement on the outskirts of Chicago, only there for a quick family visit before heading back to London.
“And I don’t even regret that my name was the Black Madonna. I’m glad that there was something that I could do. I’m willing to let go of this thing — to let go of who I was so that you can know who I am,” she continues. “That’s not a burden. That’s a gift. It’s a gift to be able to do the right thing. I think you only get so many times in your life to like rise to a moment in history.”
In her 2018 DJ Mag cover, Stamper commented on DJs being held accountable, saying, “In the most part, people make their apology and go on and it’s fine.” When asked if she felt that she was able to do the same when petitioned to change her name two years later, or if she was under more scrutiny as a woman, she replies: “Is the pope Catholic?”
“I’ve certainly been on the other end of a few good old-fashioned internet witch burnings, but I also don’t think that you ever get that time back if you sit around and think about it,” she tells Beatportal. “Don’t get me wrong, there have been so many times that I thought, ‘Oh, I would just love to win this argument about myself and tell you who I really am!’ [But] you don’t get that time back.
“And I’m a work in progress. I’m not a perfect person. I think everybody knows that. And I definitely know it and the internet loves to tell me it. But, that’s okay. I am not perfect, but I am trying my best. And if the worst thing that anybody can say about me is that I got better, then I’ve won.”
Stamper has earned her rightful place as an outspoken voice in the dance music scene; throughout the years, she’s used her platform to bring up the issues of gender inequality and the pay gap in the music industry.
In their time as the talent buyer for Chicago’s iconic independent nightclub, Smartbar, they completely revamped their residency program to reinstate the sanction of North American house and techno music. Not only did Stamper find it imperative to uplift the underground, but she also made it a point to diversify the program with artists who aren’t men.
“I caught an enormous amount of shit for [it],” she divulged in a Red Bull Music Academy in 2016. “Now dance music talks about this stuff all the time, but you have to understand, four years ago, the shit that I caught for what I did in Chicago.”
By 2015, The Blessed Madonna led and launched Smartbar’s Daphne festival — named after pioneering composter Daphne Oram — as a way to bring attention to women and nonbinary electronic acts. In 2016, when she left Smartbar to fully immerse herself in her own music, she was named Mixmag’s DJ of the Year.
The building blocks continued to form to create The Blessed Madonna’s powerhouse career. In 2020, she took a couple of secretive months to curate Dua Lipa’s star-studded Club Future Nostalgia DJ mix, jampacked with legends like Moodymann, Jayda G, Missy Elliott, and Madonna herself.
In a British Vogue interview between the pop star and Stamper, Dua Lipa gushes, “I’ve admired your work for so long and it was such an honor and a delight to be able to reach out to you and see if you were interested in doing this project with me. For you agreeing and saying you want to do it with me is just mind-blowing.”
Stamper holds high reverence for pop music and its dominance by female artists. You go all the way from ‘Dancing in the Street’ by Martha & the Vandellas to ‘Hung Up’ by Madonna. Those records live in a space and time that’s outside of trend. And that’s what I want to do I want to try to make perfect records. I think it’s okay to aim for that. That there is you don’t hit that target unless you’re aiming at it.”
For the first time in five years, The Blessed Madonna released a single called “Serotonin Moonbeams” with pop icon Uffie. She stops to show off her new “Serotonin Moonbeams” tattoo before sharing, and the way that it changes you forever.”
“I hate the soppy ‘dance music is my religion.’ I’m always like, ‘Oh my God, shut up!’ On the other hand, I can’t lie and say that pretty much everything good that ever happened to me didn’t come from being smushed up against the front of a speaker. That’s where I met my husband. I got to work at Smartbar… like, all the good things. It’s a cliche, but it’s true.”
Their forthcoming album with Warner Records has been in the works for over two years, and it’s “pretty much” done, however, there’s still no release date set in stone.
Although listeners still may be waiting for new music from The Blessed Madonna, that still didn’t stop her from inadvertently becoming the voice of dance music. In February 2021, exponentially emerging Fred again.. released “Marea (we’ve lost dancing),” a song that encapsulated not only the loss we’ve experienced due to the worldwide pandemic but also the grief that live music lovers were navigating in life in isolation.
“I’m pretty good at picking myself up when I’m down,” Stamper says. “Unfortunately, I have a lot of practice. And I think probably what Fred caught was that moment. I think I was down bad enough that I was willing to say to somebody else what I was trying to say to myself to hold it together. But that record is gonna live in people’s lives, I think, forever.”
She recalls the first time hearing the song in a live setting for the first time at Coachella. With a big pair of glasses on, nobody knew it was Marea standing in the front of the stage, hearing the track that she was so deeply a part of. “Except for one guy. It was this weird moment and I look at the guy and he starts crying. Now, I’m crying! I just don’t think anything could have prepared me. I would describe it — and so many other things — as totally surreal.”
The Blessed Madonna’s new single “Serotonin Moonbeams” is out now via Warner Records. Buy it on Beatport.
Arielle Lana LeJarde is a freelance journalist living in New York. Find her on Twitter.