ESSAY// My life is fucked up because I called a powerful man out for rape, pt. 2

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READ FIRST: My life is fucked up because I called a powerful man out for rape on behalf of Young Chicago Authors

In December 2014, I published “small fortunes,” a novel chronicling my life. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway, and Roberto Bolaño’s Savage Detectives a lot of it was about romance, but the point was making a snapshot of the arts scene in Chicago at that moment in time.

At the closing of the opening vignette, I see Chance the Rapper at one of Jamila’s release shows and it’s a warm handshake-hug. But he’s hanging out with Bee Kapri, who isn’t talking to or looking at me. I show me watching him embrace and embraced by the friend group I am being excluded by right in front of me, as we look up at Jam jam from the edge of the stage. I’m going to fill in missing information in this thread with the help of this record.

I tried to be very kind as well as firm in my thread, but at least two people were angry with me because they thought I was omitting important events as well as implying that their success in the past five years wouldn’t have been possible… if they had… I dunno. Followed through like I did?  I intentionally was not implying that from a general, conspiratorial standpoint~ Young Chicago Authors nefariously kneecapping careers. But since I’m being pressed on specifics and omissions now I am going to say it:

If you were excluded by Bee Kapri for calling out Roger the way I was five years ago, you would not have the same opportunities for success you have now. 

Five years ago, after the allegations against our mentor came out, Jamila + Fatimah invited me to a meeting at their place to talk about it.

I saw Adam at a poetry performance about sexual violence in the arts and we emoted about our world breaking apart on a leaf-covered street corner. I let him know about the meeting, he indicated to me that he already knew about it. I didn’t organize the gathering or see it as my responsibility to do so, I was just so so grateful to Jamila and Fati for putting it together and for everyone who was there. I trusted them with my life.

Myself, Dominique Chestand, Malcolm London, Kush Thompson, Jamila Woods, Fatimah Asghar, Adam Levin, and H. Melt met to discuss the sexual violence accusations against one of our mentors, Roger Bonair-Agard.

As soon as she heard about this meeting our friend, YCA employee, and influencer Bee Kapri ceased contact with us. During the discussion at the apartment we vented our fears and reactions and discussed what we could do, hoping to incorporate more community members as we expanded.

We discussed Bee and someone said she had just been posting about some new book award of Roger’s so they didn’t include her yet. We came up with the idea to bring one or two people each to the next meeting.

I just knew I was coming with Raych (and probably Molly tbh). I hoped Bee would come, but left it to the leaders (Jam+Fati) to navigate. We wanted to work through soliciting public support and response from YCA. But when Bee found out about the meeting she felt like she was being made out to be a rape apologist, and like we were basically conspiring against her. And like I said, she stopped talking to us, except for with hurt and rage.

Our next scheduled meeting was cancelled because Malcolm was attending Roger’s baby naming ceremony.  I watched and was told that Bee was letting person after person back into her circle, but not me, and person after person receded from our working group.

That was the end of my friendship with Bee and the beginning of the end of my time at Young Chicago Authors.

I stopped feeling safe in the YCA space primarily because of Bee and Kevin Coval’s power and proximity to Roger. I think in the following Spring she sent a text inviting me to co-feature at that week’s open mic. I told her I was going to do a piece about Roger. She rescinded the invitation. The last and only time we hung I think was the end of that year I remember being invited to a holiday party of hers. I was grateful. Her family is awesome. Her little sister loved me. I was loved.

I was talking to survivors. A former YCA instructor who is a trained rape counselor and now runs her own poetry space for survivors of trauma+abuse told me in a public Facebook thread that years prior she had informed Kevin about another mentor’s inappropriate sexual activity with young people and she was ignored, he stayed, she eventually moved away from Young Chicago Authors. Others chimed in.

Before any of this I had also recently seen my mentor slammaster Robbie Q communicate that he was weirdly frozen out from YCA leadership by Kevin. And by all accounts and appearances, Kevin Coval and Roger Bonair-Agard were great friends who had been teaching, organizing, drinking, living, and…etc. together for years. I spent a year trying to navigate the fact that no one was taking responsibility at YCA while other organizations around the city WERE making public statements; Bee was not talking to me but hanging out with all my friends, and all of these things were problems that I knew could have been avoided maybe even before we held our first meeting the year before. I was not a legal employee of YCA, Bee was, most of the others were too.

In a mediation with Kevin Coval, H. Melt, and Jamila Woods, Bee Kapri later tells me she singled me out in regards to Roger+YCA for not including her in a meeting I didn’t even organize because of how much I meant to her, and the specific depth and origins of our friendship. What am I to do? But this was later in 2015.

At the end of 2014, I had my first mediation sessions with Kevin Coval. YCA had publicly severed ties with Roger, but I continued receiving messages about him working WITH YOUNG CHICAGO AUTHORS via satellite slams, helping with programming, etc. Even this year, when Eve Ewing posted my tumblr post from 2014 asking for accountability, an educator tweeted under her saying Roger had been booked for an LTAB slam in Texas and they wouldn’t be attending because of it and wish they could find more information. (Even now, Roger is listed first on the Free Write literacy youth program’s leadership page, and YCA collaborates with them basically every day of every year) So I had been publicly pressuring Kevin to make a statement using a diversity of tactics including letters, patience, diss tracks, genuinely tweeted rage, and fielding public conversations that folks wanted to have but couldn’t find an outlet for.

At this point, I am an outlier amongst my friends.

But Kevin and my’s mediation sessions were beautiful. The facilitator was kind and thorough. They were difficult too. I was surprised in some ways that Kevin was disturbed by my behavior, I always tried to make it extra clear, even at my most emotional, that I was genuinely literally following protocol and using all the tools at my disposal to make sure…no one got away with rape.

But we saw eye-to-eye in those sessions, and the mediator suggested we use our powers to work together and make something new and wonderful.

Kevin and I met for lunch.  Encouraged by H. Melt’s affirmation of me being an important queer male presence in the space, we settled on doing a queer-themed open mic. Kevin got the Queeriosity name from another similar event, and got the title cleared. Wow, this was gonna be awesome. My own space to help kids like me and be radical.

Then Louder Than A Bomb 2015 happened.

From my apology the next day…

“Yesterday I went to LTAB semifinals. I went to the 4-6 PM bout and was a VIP judge for 7-9PM.

I left several times during the first semis bout. I was disturbed by the consistently upsetting content. I had to call a friend for help. To calm down and also to ask how I was supposed to judge in this setting. My friend asked me -my- criteria, I chose out of what they offered: word choice and complexity of approach to the subject matter.

 

[…]

 

I made tweets criticizing the first slam and it embroiled me in some serious conflict with a few organizers of the event during.

My initial tweets read:
rly disappointed in & unenthused by this #LTABsemis. it feels formulaic, uninspired. “every piece” is quivering voices, generic complaints

and all the scores are like 8.5s.  realized what a specific event this is (has become) #ltab

The organizers feel that I was belittling the children.  Given the sensitive, passionate nature of my self, the children, the organizers, and the cause itself I hope you can empathize with how difficult and tenuous this is. I am trying to be direct. And kind. I do not intend to be destructive. Ever.  Forgive me, please. I offer this essay to give background to my truest, most complex thoughts.”

I publicly and privately apologized and offered to talk with anyone who was still mad. No one responded to my email. I let educators and community members express themselves on my wall and engaged in dialogues. The next time I went to an open mic at YCA Toaster pulled me aside to make sure I wasn’t going to make fun of any kids.

Like, nigga what? ME, NIGGA? I was literally the cheeriest most affirming presence at every single Wordplay, I got kids to scream their life was fantastic, I cheered, laughed, I listened, I documented, I shared, I cried, I checked in on loners, I introduced myself to newcomers, I even started the thing they do where they make sure the room repeats after all the -isms that aren’t allowed. (Lamar Jorden was hosting, when he said “no sexist” and because it was such a persisting problem I said again “SEXIST” and he said “actually that’s a good idea. I want yall to repeat after me when I say this”)

In 2018, my good friend Raych Jackson still wants to remind you that I was/am the guy who is MEAN TO KIDS while everyone jokes about people digging up tweets.

I know this is because I haven’t been hanging out with Bee Kapri and able to humanize myself and ingratiate myself with folks anymore. I became not just an outlier, but an outcast. All anyone seemed to see was my indignance, me from a distance. My tweets going at their leader and their best friend not talking to me or looking at me. I’m not at parties, I’m not at a show with you, unless I’m with Raych and thus under her protection.

Malcolm London, who looked up to me for years, directly insults me online during the twitter thing. I go around the event approaching people who responded online in person, with love in my heart. When I talk to him in person he is still mad but more understanding, says something to me like “we want you in the space,” referencing the roger thing as if to reassure me but also with a tone to assure me that it can be taken from me. Jasmine Barber enthusiastically supports me when I see her that night, she gets that there is a bigger split happening.

No one is ever as loud in supporting me as they are in disparaging me.

At the same time, I’m inviting H. Melt to be the first feature at Queeriosity.  I wanted to have different features come in and help make the theme/program for their evening. I specifically ask H. Melt to help me because I believe in YCA and that we can get back on the same page with our homies but I need H. Melt’s help to feel supported and sane. “I need you.” H. Melt super reluctantly agrees. In the wake of Roger, etc. they do not believe that YCA can care for them, will only hurt them.

After LTAB i’m worried YCA is going to cancel Queeriosity anyway but instead the nonprofit tells me they’re just going to institute more control of it. Jamila and Fatimah are brought in, and me, H. Melt, and those two are the Queeriosity team.

Queeriosity was difficult because we had nearly no budget, promotion was wonky, and there were a couple times the space was double booked, and our main supervisor stepped back weirdly so then Jamila became the boss and our peer and our friend? The four of us had an amazing season tho where I helped mentor the first openly queer generation of YCA. The kids still come up to me and hug me, send me messages; I consider young Sol Patches family.

But at the end of our Queeriosity pilot session, Jamila sat down H. Melt and I, the two people who were pursuing justice with Roger the longest and hardest and the two most visible queer people in the community at the time, and fired us as young people walked around us printing things and H. Melt wept and asked “why?” “is it roger?”

Jamila later sincerely apologized for how this went down. And assured me it had nothing to do with Roger. They didn’t like my teaching style, I didn’t fit their standards. I said “you never trained me. I asked to be trained and brought in more you never let me.” I am still fired from the program I started; they tell me later others behind the scenes were “interested” in a program like Queeriosity anyway before I came along. People like Bee…

H. Melt and I consider bringing a Queeriosity-like program to somewhere else. Young Chicago Authors had made us sign a contract giving them the name and program, something H. Melt was iffy about from the start. In the end, H. Melt is rehired by YCA and teaching and featuring at Queeriosity alongside Bee Kapri when the next season starts.

Then I sexually harassed my friend Molly at a party. We had had a sexually explicit friendship. We had helped each other through breakups, double dated, flirted, propositioned each other at various points. Literally said “we’re going to have sex one day” to each other, like boop.

The only time we actually hooked up, I had just ended a long term relationship as she was ending one and beginning a new one simultaneously. We made out but didn’t go further because she was really into this new guy.

That great guy Joseph Chilliams became one of my friends and collaborators, but I was hella jealous. And at this party, I was really drunk and dealing with sex and having a lot of sex and wanting to see how much explicitness and bad-ness I could get away with with my sexy thighs and long hair. I had been approached by and gotten away with hooking up with girls with boyfriends before and honestly felt so cool that no one would fuck with me even if they knew. The taboo made it…you know

So i told Molly all the things I wanted to do…with…to her…around the party. It wasn’t explicitly violent, but if Molly was trying to give me signals that she was very uncomfortable and I wasn’t following them… yeah. We talked in the morning. She told me how it especially bothered her because of my friendship to Joe and me knowing how she had just been through awful shit with her ex. She was right. I was sorry.

We hung out and corresponded a little after that. She even told me about her later doing… things at a party Joe was at, and him understanding, but her not even completely understanding herself. Word. But we continued to drift, we were already estranged. Where am I now with my friend group? How do they see me? They won’t!

I truly believe Molly knew and knows me as a person. She watched me developed from someone who had never had sex, to my first queer experiences, and beyond. She knew I didn’t even let Joe say “bitch” on our record, and I didn’t use that word or really allow others to say it around me. She knows how sad and devastated I get after causing pain to a woman, any woman, in any way. She’s seen me check our other male friends with love for a decade every time they hurt or disrespected women.

I always thought we could have worked through it. If I was able to be around, at all. But my fate was sealed. Like I said, people in the larger community still fuck with me. Most of these people I name still Twitter followed me, even though they didn’t interact with me or show up to anything I ever did… And I couldn’t show up to their shit or YCA out of fear of seeing Bee.

This is the story of the erratic sexual aggressor who is bad for kids. It feels good to own all this. This is the truth, my life.

The people holding me most to the LTAB situation and maybe the one with Molly (I really don’t think most people know about it, but I need to take responsibility now), are the people who should know me best, but are also the closest to Bee. Who should also know me better.

(I was just sitting here this morning reading that novel like damn I could have hung out with Chance, Bee Kapri, and my homies that night at Jamila’s release show alone, and my life might be drastically different now.)

Atevery step of the way I worked to make our original demands the new standard for all arts and activism in the city. I checked in with YCA however I could, sent emails, tagged folks, chopped it up with Kevin about my work with the Feminist Action Support Network, he said “Like a superhero?” I stopped having sex, lost my sexual identity. Molly wasn’t the only womanfriend I had harmed or harassed while drunk during that period. Trust me, it’s not that crazy but I took sober time. Night after night, I kept organizing, empowered venues to protect women from harassment at parties, to help people see the violence in all of us, to help people heal, I stopped pursuing sex at all especially with folks in my community, except the once when love hit me like a dump truck. And even then I couldn’t get it up. Get over it.  I did it all for free and I am a broke, broken man, who has paid my dues.

I never meant to use you all for my stepping stones.

Any questions?

 


 

From small fortunes:

 

“How would you feel if I was your daughter, though?”

 

I know it’s a good point, one of the points of this. Mom says “I understand what you’re saying, it’s just that you’re my son. And when stuff like this happens it can make you a target. People are going to try to mess with you.” That’s hers. I know that if something ever happened to me, for any reason, she’ll know that this is who I am, that me being in these situations and pushing them forward is inevitable. Maybe one day she’ll tell me she’s proud instead of afraid.

 

“It doesn’t matter what people say about me. I’m straight edge, I’m in school, I have a job, I’m really nice, whatever. As long as no one tries to kill me it doesn’t matter.” We never agree, in this conversation or others like it, we just talk ourselves dry and tell the other we love them.

 

I love my mom. I get off the phone with her and continue getting ready. I tweet “This is my first act as a man.”

 

25 QUESTIONS BEFORE WE SAVE THE WORLD with~ Ash Wednesday!

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I think I know Ash Wednesday through fellow rapper Lamon Manuel. It’s through Twitter, though, definitely~ we went back and forth #OnThere trading Drake lyrics, mostly from 2015’s What A Time To Be Alive. And I saw them do a sweet 16 on Instagram once! What a time to be alive, and they booked me and the amazing MFn Melo for the show tonight at Township.  Come see a set tonight from someone with naturally good taste in fun shit! The Ho Ho Ho Show w/ Plus Sign, MFn Melo, Squeak Pivot, Ash Wednesday, M.U.T.T., Hank McCoy, and DJ Stepchild. 2200 N. California, Chicago, IL;  doors 8 PM show 9 PM $10 @ door!

THE INTERVIEW

What’s your favorite color? easy, green! 
Who is your favorite athlete? although he’s technically retired I have a long standing love for Marshawn Lynch

What is your favorite poem and why? I’ll give it to HOWL by Allen Ginsberg. A sprawling work! It was my first foray into wildness as art/life/choice/being and it stays with me
What is the name of your fictional autobiography? ASH IS A FAST CAT 
How tall are you? 5’4
What is the title of the earliest work of yours you can remember? My first EP was called “Part & Parcel” – released in 2013. I googled briefly and am happy to report it’s not online anymore haha 
What is the title of your most recent piece of work? “Show It Around”; an unreleased song 
Tell me about it?  It’s about knowing what you’ve got and showing it off. Confidence, self-possession, drive, no fucks to give 
How did this show Thursday come about? My buddy Hank McCoy got the 12/15 date at Township to celebrate his homecoming from Europe! Hank has helped me throw shows in the past, so I jumped at a chance to pull this bill together!
Where is home? near Central Park and Belmont
What is home? home is where i keep my bicycle 
Who is home? no one b/c I don’t trust anyone enough to keep my bicycle 
Whose home are you? I am the home to many microorganisms !
What is your favorite plant? tree(s) 
Who is your daddy and what does he do? Bradley; he’s a business man
Who are you? Ash Wednesday 
What do you do? project manager slash rapper 
Who would you like to collaborate with? I’d love to get Joseph Chilliams on Show It Around! I dug those recent features on Noname’s Telephone and Saba’s Bucket List – go listen if you haven’t! #pivot! 
Where are you going? ALL THE WAY UP
Where did you just come from? I just came from Chicago on an airplane; so magic 
Where are you right now? I’m at an office in NYC right now @ Madison Ave & 52nd street; swanky right?
Who is Vashti Bunyan? I don’t know! I had to google her. I learned she’s a delicate sounding songwriter/performer who in 1970 put out a record that didn’t sell well. She gave up music after this, but by 2000 people were feeling that record! She released 2 more studio albums (2005, 2014) and is now ~70 years old. Vashti reminds me this life is circuitous
TELL me some impressions of the other performers? 
MUTT – his rap name stands for “Music Used To Transcend” and it’s true; experimental, expressive! His “deep self” definitely comes thru in his music 
MELO – a sweetheart! can i say that? he’s doing it for the music, he loves his people; i see the drive! MFN Melo what it look like!?
HANK – raps like a beast, hairy like a beast, a mans man, and bookers love him!

PLUS – i love the vibes. i’m ready to see some queer shit pop

squeak: squeak has got it! so polite, great swag, great look, and he knows droogs by anderson paak is a hit even tho it sounds unfinished

stepchild: jack of all trades in the iridium jersey. dj, live beats, host, swear i heard him freestyle for like 10 min straight; energy crazy

Why are you still performing? I (still) perform because I like to show it’s possible to do unconventional behaviors
What does a free world look like to you? a free world is a world free from pre-fab box-like expectations 

25 QUESTIONS BEFORE WE SAVE THE WORLD~ with Carl Nadig!

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Carl Nadig is a conductor of positivity in Dekalb, IL. He awesomely invited me to
perform at November’s Majakka Monthly Music Marathon, a benefit he helps
organize for the Dekalb Area Women’s Center. Carl lives life as a dedicated journalist, generous thinker, and he plays music in the duo The Pleasant Street Players and Human Drag.

THE INTERVIEW

What’s your favorite color?
I don’t have one yet.

Who is your favorite athlete?
My younger sister, Stevie. She’s a wrestler. Wrestling as a female includes more challenges that I can only imagine.

What is your favorite poem and why?

“The Rime of The Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is one of my favorites. The longer you read it, the more you become the protagonist in the story’s main plot.

What is the name of your fictional autobiography?

How tall are you?
5′ 10″, according to some medical experts.

What is the title of the earliest work of yours you can remember?
I remember painting a dinosaur in first grade. I don’t remember if it even had a title, because I was probably enjoying myself too much to name it.

What is the title of your most recent piece of work?
My new band just finished a song called “Make Me.”

Tell me about it?
You’ll have to hear it.

How did this monthly series come about?
The director of DeKalb’s Area Women Center, Anna Marie Coveny, asked Daerielle if she would play a few shows. Then we tossed the idea on hosting shows at Majakka Hall once a month for other bands and let all the proceeds go to the Women Center.

Where is home?
Right now? Pleasant Street in DeKalb.

What is home?
My mother’s voice.

Who is home?
Many people that are silently fading away.

Whose home are you?
That thought petrifies me.

What is your favorite plant?
I enjoyed walking to a specific willow tree back on my father’s farm, resting in the bottom of a valley, planted next to a creek.

Who is your daddy and what does he do?
My father is Rob Nadig. Farmer. It’s a profession that’s been in his bloodline for at least five generations.

Who are you?

What do you do?

Who would you like to collaborate with?
My mother’s father. He was a musician and lived in New Boston, Missouri, so I’m told. I never knew him.

Where are you going?
Down, according to some religion experts.

Where did you just come from?
Up, according to some religion experts.

Where are you right now?
In the middle.

Who is Vashti Bunyan?
I don’t know. Tell me about them. I’m curious.

TELL me some impressions of the other performers?
Grateful to be playing inside a new music venue in DeKalb, so I try to return that gratitude as much as I can.

You have to hear them.


Why are you still going?
I don’t understand.

What does a free world look like to you?
Probably more trouble than it’s worth, frankly.

the homies blog presents // 25 QUESTIONS BEFORE WE CHANGE THE WORLD with~ Kevin and Hell!

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I’ve performed with Kevin and Hell numerous times, and they were very memorable times. Once, his mullet was shaved onstage. Another, it was his birthday! Both times he laid down a funky, quirky, lo-fi jazz that is warm, enigmatic and sweetly brilliant. One of his stickers is in my bedroom and another is on my co-friend Jerrod’s water bottle. I am honored he asked me to perform for a series of shows he’s been putting together this fall.

THE INTERVIEW

What’s your favorite color?   Clear
Who is your favorite athlete? The one that is just trying to enjoy themself
What is your favorite poem and why? The one I haven’t heard yet, because it’ll be something I haven’t thought already.
What is the name of your fictional autobiography? Stairway to Kevin
How tall are you? 6 feet and 2 inches
What is the title of the earliest work of yours you can remember? I can remember how it sounds but not the title.
What is the title of your most recent piece of work? Moons of Mars
Tell me about it? It is a song where I float around in space and listen to the stars. A music video is almost ready.
How did the show September 29 come about? I wanted to bring some of my favorite local acts to Fat City in a quieter setting
Where is home? Wherever I’m comfortable
What is home? A state of mind
Who is home? You are home
Whose home are you? I am my own
What is your favorite plant? The truffula tree
Who is your daddy and what does he do? My dad is Mark and lives in Montana
Who are you? I am Kevin and/or Hell
What do you do? I transcribe music from the vast realm of possibility
Who would you like to collaborate with? The Myth Science Arkestra
Where are you going? I can’t say for sure
Where did you just come from? Not 100% sure about that either
Where are you right now? Next to some flowers on a painted bench
Who is Vashti Bunyan? I don’t know, yet
TELL me some impressions of the other performers? A lot of very different people working to bring people together.
Why are you still performing? I’ve temporarily retired to research the fruiting bodies of fungi.
What does a free world look like to you? One where people don’t need to impose their own agendas on others.

OLD ESSAY// Noname Gypsy, Real Human Being

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This piece originally appeared in Side By Side Magazine, October 2014.

Noname Gypsy sits across from me in a Hyde Park Native Foods. “I wonder why everybody’s world when it comes to rap is the same. My world, I feel like, is different from Saba’s world, and Saba’s world is different from Chance’s world, but when we’re talking about people who are on the radio all of their worlds are damn near the same.” She throws out the names of current hot boys Migos and Travis $cott, but for Noname, born Fatimah Warner, it’s not a dismissal, pedantic or otherwise (Travi$ Scott’s Days Before Rodeo is her favorite shit out right now).  Instead, it’s a thoughtful, well-meaning observation about potential friends.  If hoes can bring everyone in the rap game from Nicki Minaj to Kid Cudi to Too $hort together, Noname Gypsy inevitably ends up in the corner with the Cherrypie Blues. “I don’t pull hella niggas so I can’t rap about that. I don’t pull…,” she laughs,“hella bitches so I can’t rap about that.”  It’s not that Warner is female that makes her stand out, it’s that the desires and observations that Noname Gypsy blends into her sweet, poetic molasses are so innocent that they seem truly obscene (“offensive or disgusting by accepted standards of morality and decency)” in the obscenity-obsessed world of modern rap. “I’ve been rapping a lot about having a husband and kids recently. I really want to be married with kids, I don’t know if that’s a rap thing to want,” she jokes.

One thing Noname has in common with a few of her most special peers is a missing album. Not delayed,missing. As in the fans think it should be here now and their almighty creator hasn’t delivered (See: Jay Electronica, Chance the Rapper). Noname says at least three people ask her about her highly anticipated Telefone project a day. On Mick Jenkins’s recent jam “Comfortable” Noname actually raps ‘Telefone never coming out.’ When I ask her if she would consider the project “Zero percent complete,” she laughs and says “Yeah.”

She’s been writing with Saba- the two send each other a new piece a day to keep the creative juices flowing. Well, Saba’s been sending her verses. True to form, Noname has been writing but second-guesses everything too much to show it off. If you start to type “Noname Gypsy” into a Youtube search, her song “Paradise” will be the first entry. Except Noname took the music video for “Paradise” down; it’s her biggest solo song and she hates it. “It’s not like I haven’t been making music and don’t have raps, they’re just not at the level I would like them to be. I’m not at the place where I feel comfortable releasing music.”

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For Noname, having that level of discretion is essential. “Taking shit down when I want to and being able to control my image is kinda what keeps me sane.” It brings her back to her oft-spoken appreciation of Jay Electronica, a role model for her patience and desire to remain down-to-earth and experimental. “Dizzy,” the piece Noname dropped this week is a hot bomb. Her style is fresh as ever and only becoming sharper, the song recalls the new FlyLo/Kendrick joint if they decided to just chill out. Noname Gypsy spins around the track describing sunsets, blurring timelines and never allowing her grin to become inaudible. As always she imbues intimate vulnerability with a grand serenity throughout, spitting ‘Lotion on my skin got me feeling super smooth, like I could save a life…’. The juxtapositions in the song are telling of the contradictory impulses Noname experiences – she wants to be a legend. On her own time; without videos, interviews, or television. Just music. “And I think there’s a way I can do it,” she says. A smile isn’t far off.

Telefone never coming out. Follow Noname Gypsy on Twitter

the homies blog//INTERVIEW: sam and lam make magic

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*~“There is no good or evil, only power.”
      – Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone (1997)~*

My interviews usually only last 20 minutes. It’s the perfect length! We are recording in filmmaker Samantha Wakefield’s apartment; rapper Lamon Manuel has work in a half hour. At the 21 minute mark, however, an awkward silence intrudes at the prospect of our talk ending. The three of us have covered the ins-and-outs of Lamon and Samantha’s working relationship, and it’s certainly been a very fun time, but something is amiss. I finally ask if there’s something else either of them wants to say.

SW: No, I’m just so appreciative to be able to find someone to work with on this level.
I don’t know if that’s why we’ve worked so well together, [because] you needed someone like that in your life but I feel like I probably did.

LM:  I definitely did. Working with Sam is the first time I’ve given real creative control over something I do to another person… That’s never happened for me. And I’ve worked with people in different forms, whether through a rap group, or, you know, trying to work on videos with other people, but like really giving it over to someone and following through like “Alright, cool, I trust you…” I don’t have that relationship with anybody else. I’m super thankful for having that with Sam.

“Skies,” featuring fellow Tomorrow Kings member SKECH185, is the first in an ongoing series of companion pieces to Lamon’s upcoming debut solo album Music To Feel Like Shit To. Manuel worked on production of the video prior to meeting Wakefield, but didn’t feel happy with its direction. “It was too much guided by an ownership relationship. One of the original treatments for the ‘Skies’ video was for SKECH and I to be present and for there to be women fighting each other representing us in some ways. Or we would just be watching…  I just felt like that was real fucking weird.”

Samantha became involved after Lamon saw her at one of his shows and later asked if she would like to play the central character in a string of music videos he was planning. Yes, she said, but she’d be willing to direct as well. “I feel like from the time we started working on that video, till the time it came out our friendship grew a ton,” Wakefield recalls. “It paved the way.”

The work that has come since is uniformly dark and challenging, with Sam and Lam’s connection the light at the end of the tunnel. The pair’s initial collaboration, and my favorite to-date, is a video in Wakefield’s The Window Series. It’s just Samantha watching Lamon (through her lens) and Lamon speaking as honestly as he can about things that hurt him. The simple presentation allows for its principle’s presence to overpower the listener like a quiet fart.

Our interview takes place October 25, 2015, only days after the 1 year anniversary of Wakefield choking Lamon for the first time during one of his shows. “Each time I try to choke a little harder. Before I would use one hand, and lately I try to make sure I use two,” Sam explains. “I’m just trying to do my part, for you,” she says, looking over at Lamon. “But it’s always intense. It always feels intense.”

Control, and loss of it, is a heavy theme in Manuel’s work. It’s safe to assume that the protagonist of “Skies” goes where she goes to in an attempt to re-assert it and that the leads in “Shit…” (played by Lamon and Samantha) have lost it. At the same time, the real Samantha and Lamon continue to push forward, surrendering to each other as artists and homies. “It feels like we’re not afraid to venture somewhere if we come up with an idea.”

the homies blog//INTERVIEW: talking with transqueer author H. Melt about their new book “The Plural, The Blurring”

h.melt bio photo

Photo by Kiam Marcelo Junio

H. Melt is my friend. It feels really good to say that! H. Melt is also an inspiration and role model to me as an activist and queer person and human being. Their new book The Plural, The Blurring – out November 20, via The Neutral Zone & Red Beard – exemplifies a lot of the things that make me love H. so much. There is the craft of their words, the memories, sometimes shared, that are weaved throughout the book, and the progressive, startlingly impactful documentation of their work writing to institutions for better treatment. Theirs is an intimate kind of activism, one they identify with the Chicago school of poetry writing, and one I have taken to heart as a queer revolutionary. Reading and being with H. Melt makes me feel excited, it makes me feel sad, it makes me feel the spectrum of emotions but knowing that H. Melt is out there, anywhere, just makes me feel safe.


THE INTERVIEW

The Plural, The Blurring largely focuses describing a very specific place and time. What’s the significance of having that setting at the center of the book?

The book is about Chicago’s queer arts scene between roughly 2012-2014 and how the art and activism going on in the city during that time coincided with my development as a trans writer. The book is largely about place and community, the ways in which they can influence an individual’s sense of self. For me, that period of time is when I am meeting and forming relationships with other queer and trans artists for the first time. I’m starting to take myself more seriously as a writer, as a trans person, and end up writing and publishing about the people, performances, and spaces that are most influencing and inspiring me. I’m also starting to grapple with queer loss and trans death, the ways in which loss can impact a community.

How have you been changed by the loss you’ve experienced and the gains you’ve seen achieved? Do you feel weaker and stronger at the same time?

I think that loss is inevitable. Sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes it’s painful and unexpected. The queer community is not stable, I don’t think that any community is. There will always be people leaving and spaces closing down.  This can open up room for growth, for new spaces and new relationships to form but at what cost? What’s being lost? I think the people mirror the changes going on in the city and vice versa.

In your review of the trans & genderqueer poetry anthology Troubling the Line (included in The Plural, The Blurring), you write about your roots in the Chicago tradition of poetry and how that has affected your own work and what you tend to relate to as a reader. Have you found other queer poets who similarly embody that tradition?

I have never read a book of trans poetry by someone from Chicago. That’s part of the reason that I wrote the book. Many of the queer and trans writers that I’ve connected to most are not based in Chicago. While Chicago is a very literary and even poetry focused place, I don’t feel like there’s a queer poetry scene here. A queer arts scene definitely exists, and that’s very present in the book. But something about the literary scene hasn’t always facilitated a place for queer writers. My writing community and queer community are more separate than I would like.    

Where does the inspiration for the essays and letters to institutions you include come from? Are you still writing those?

Yes, I’m still writing essays. A lot of them came out of feeling powerless, especially the ones directed at specific institutions. I actually sent or performed most of the pieces in the book about specific places directly to people who work or spend time there. That’s part of my practice. In some cases, those writings actually sparked real change, new relationships, and projects. For example, there is now going to be a trans poetry category at the Lambda Literary Awards and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has improved their trans healthcare and now has a student-led group called the League of Extraordinary Genders. In other words, the essays and poems are part of a larger movement to create more access to resources for trans people. To help keep us alive.

“Part of your practice,” can you talk more about that?

The letters and essays felt more urgent–they were tools as part of my larger vision and hope to make more space for queer and trans writers and artists–by critiquing institutions that could be more welcoming to us, and reviewing exhibits, books, and plays that had some relationship to myself and the larger community. That’s really what I see my real work as–supporting other queer and trans writers and artists.   

The Plural, The Blurring is now available for pre-order.