The history of dance music, the history of the underground, the history of innovation, all come from marginalized communities. People of color, young people, queer people, poor people, anyone who has ever felt ‘less than.’ We’re here. – DJ Clickbait
House music was born on the south-side of Chicago in gay clubs in predominantly Black neighborhoods. Before that there was Disco in New York’s legendary Paradise Garage which was a staple of queer nightlife long before Studio 54 was even a thought. The history of dance music is one that was born out of queer spaces, written by queer voices. Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan were legendary trailblazers who laid the groundwork for the vast dance music landscape we have today. They are key figures in any written history of dance but more often than not the fact that they were both Black gay men is omitted.
As Pride month draws to a close, the LGBTQA+ community has come a long way in the fight for equality but there is still a ways to go. A community that has a genre called “Brostep” should perhaps take a moment to reassess whether there are maybe too many cis-het white dudes on any given festival lineup. Homophobia, Transphobia, and marginalization of queer artists is still a problem that we need to address in the dance music industry. We owe it to the genre’s forefathers.
So lets take some time to highlight a few up-and-coming artists that openly identify with the LGBTQA+ community and are making some of the most exciting out-of-left-field music today. And while one’s sexual or gender identity shouldn’t define them as a person or an artist, the fact of the matter remains: representation matters. So rather than run the risk of being reductive, we let the artists speak for themselves. We asked each of them how identity plays a role in their music or lives and let them take it from there.
Of course my sexuality informs my art, and I deliberately tell gay stories through my music. Because of how universally straight our pop media landscape is, I knew more about what it was like to be a straight teenager than what it was like to be a gay teenager when I was growing up. I was over-prepared for an experience that wasn’t gonna happen for me, meanwhile the first time I had a crush on a boy I didn’t know what the hell was going on.
For me, I love filling in those blanks that were missing when I was young. There’s so much untapped potential there. I’d love to make a banger that they play at school dances, and make all the gay kids feel like they’re a valid part of the teenage experience.
An early NEST HQ Alum, Brooklyn-based ABSRDST has been making pop weirder than its ever been. His forward-thinking production style is a combination of funky melodies soaked in bright neon colors arranged with a cartoonish irreverence. On paper it makes no sense yet somehow it all works when it comes together between two speakers. This year has seen the highly anticipated follow-up to his collaboration with Diveo, “In Case It Crashes,” which featured a sleek promotion campaign that centered around a Kickstarter campaign, a Pitchfork-style hit piece, and a fictional product website that had a functional chat room and a cryptic series of easter eggs embedded deep in the site. ABSRDST’s latest single “Blushy” is an unabashed celebration of the current state of pop and the first original to prominently feature his own vocals.
I think it’s important to recognize that without queer artists, the dance music we know & love today wouldn’t exist. Every day more and more artists are taking our culture from us & using it for their own gain, and this goes across all mediums. It’s important to pay attention to each other, and to be open about your sexuality. I make music for myself, and everyone who falls in the LGBQTA+ spectrum.
I don’t make it for the straights.
Hardcore will never die. A new face in an old scene, Mitomoro is bridging the gap between the sounds of beloved rave genres like breakcore, gabber, and happy hardcore with the sounds of today’s dance landscape. They co-ran RAVE TOOLZ with Ducky for a bit; which is fitting given the numerous A+ bootlegs they’ve put out, tackling artists such as Porter Robinson, Rustie, Masayoshi Iimori, Maxo, and Toto to name a few. A fierce champion of all things 160bpm, they have plenty more to come on the horizon and nothing is off limits.
I’ve been really, incredibly fortunate to be free of any obligation to define myself concretely – in terms of my musical style, identity, orientation. I recognize it as an absolute privilege, and though I take pride in my identity I live even more in gratitude for it. I get to be transient in every aspect of my life. Fluid. I leave my world wide open and in return the world brings me love and inspiration from a million different places.
To say Ducky is an up-and-comer no longer feels accurate. Fellow NEST HQ Alum, Ducky has been on a mission to reclaim brostep from the bros by going harder and faster than all the rest. Currently supporting Kill the Noise on tour, she has already launched her artist label QUACKHOUSE Records with her single “I Can Do It” and released countless edits and remixes, including the UGH JUST RAVE pack, on her bootleg/free-release label RAVE TOOLZ. And that’s just the first half of 2017.
Being trans is just one small part of who I am — if you want to know about me, listen to my music. There is nothing more personal. That said, I’m proud of my journey and I hope there are people out there who see me unapologetically living life and feel inspired to do the same. My friends and collaborators don’t think twice about my medical status. It’s simply a non-issue and I’m so grateful for that — not being ostracized or disrespected, but also not being coddled and protected. They know I can handle my shit but they’re there if I need them. I’m not trying to prove myself or my identity to anyone, I’m just living my life the way that makes me happiest. Take control and never look back.
LA-beatmaker Fifty Grand has produced for rapper XXXTENACION, released on Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs imprint, and is poised to release an artist album in the coming month. His dark atmospheric productions unfurl like a wispy fog wrapping around trees in a forest, graceful and ethereal but full of menace and sinister potential. His songs are dark and spine-chilling but alluring nonetheless.
i believe queer happiness is as much of a revolutionary act as queer anger, and one of the best ways to convey both is through music. While i don’t want my work to just be defined by my gender and sexuality, i hope it can convey and represent those feelings. Queer creators are so important, from those who assemble big projects like pride marches to angry done-with-your-shit musicians like G.L.O.S.S. and those who want to create a joyful, personal, narrative experience like the creators of Lumberjanes. i hope i can make other queer people as happy with what i do to the extent that those works have made me happy.
London-located and outer space-originated producer Space Candy makes music that, without hyperbole, sounds like if Aphex Twin wasn’t so scary and creepy. Their productions are incredibly intricate and complex while maintaining a sense of whimsy and humor about them. With no genre off limits for them, their latest remix for Crapface is a bouncy and bright injection of energy into the original’s MarioKart beach-course vibes, like hitting a boost pad and getting an invincibility star at the same time; sparkling and unstoppable.
Being a non-binary person who looks very feminine is difficult because I have to consider not only how I feel about my presentation, but also how I want others to interpret my presentation. As Ru Paul says, “We’re all born naked, and the rest is drag.” We’re all constructing ourselves to present not only what we want to see in ourselves, but how we want others to see us. Usually there are guidelines based along gender that we can use as a sort of railing, but what if we don’t want to use them? What restricts us? … People who don’t have to work to be seen a certain way don’t have to work to construct themselves. Gender non-conforming people, people who don’t conform to beauty standards have to construct their identity on a daily basis. How I relate to my body and my gender changes, whereas people who identify as cisgendered don’t necessarily have to think about that.
LA-based DJ Clickbait is emerging as one of the pre-eminent curators to have come out of the SoundCloud NXC scene. They draw on a broad spectrum of influences that range from nightcore to noise-pop to industrial techno to happy hardcore to bassline house making for unpredictable and exhilarating mixes. They have already had a packed 2017 schedule playing Mark Redito’s Likido Party, Broke LA Fest, and Mija’s Glitter Ball to name a few highlights. With the recent launch of their mix series “Transfer” we can expect to hear a whole lot more from Clickbait in the future, so now is a good time to catch yourself up to speed.
Words: Matthew Moen