What she is: a foul-mouthed, mile-a-minute rhyme-spitter; a bawdy, brassy performance artist; a moonlighting schoolteacher; and a feminist provocateur. It all adds up to a singular style she’s dubbed “rap cabaret.”
We caught up with Boyfriend before her appearance this Sunday at Revolution Live with New Orleans bounce queen Big Freedia to find out just what it all means.
New Times: You’re touring with Big Freedia right now. Your first paid show was opening for New Orleans local legend Vockah Redu. How did you wind up in New Orleans, and what drew you to the bounce scene?
Boyfriend: It was the Southern city that intrigued me the most, and the bounce scene, I knew nothing about. I was quickly educated. And the fact that my own career has been a party to these bounce events is to me some really great symmetry. I think it’s one of the best exports out of New Orleans that’s come about for a really long time. Since, like, HBO’s Treme.
Do you feel adjacent to that scene? How do you fit into that world?
I think “adjacent” is a good word. I definitely don’t consider myself of that world. The experience of the show is a little bit different, and the music is certainly different. And I’m not a very talented twerker. But there’s theatricality there, and there’s celebration there, and we definitely have those things in common. Sex positivity.
To your mind, is Boyfriend a music project, or are the performance and the visuals all part and parcel?
I think you answered yourself with that one.
How much is your performance style about eliciting a reaction from the audience, and how much is about freeing yourself?
The whole process is this constant exchange of information that informs itself. If I’m not feeling like I should throw my martini into the audience, I won’t throw my martini into the audience, even if, the night before, that was the part of the song where I threw my martini into the audience. It has to be a relationship there, or else I’m just a robot and you might as well be watching a movie. I would just be having a slumber party for one.
What is it that you want people who come to a show to take away from Boyfriend?
I think it kind of boils down to “watch closely.” Because you might not leave my fan — and that’s ok, I can’t expect everyone in the world to love me — but I would hope that you’re forced to engage with “rap cabaret” in a way that’s going to alter the way you engage with other things you consume.
In a lot of ways, that goes along with your being a teacher.
Yeah, it’s a delicate balance for sure. I think the middle school girl in the mirror playing dress up wants everybody to like me, but the feminist inside me knows I’m not doing it right if everyone immediately gets it. There’s going to have to be some moments of discomfort to actually start a dialogue.
Do you find that people are willing to engage in that dialogue?
[I had] a little spy in the girls’ bathroom at the House of Blues last night who was overhearing two girls talk between stalls, while they were both peeing. “Is she a feminist? Because she was dressing really sexy! But is it? I don’t know.” It’s forcing people to talk. They don’t need to talk to me about it, as long as they’re talking to themselves, or each other, or to their journals.
Big Freedia Presents: Bounce Shakedown Tour 2015 with Big Freedia, Hibou, Boyfriend. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, October 25, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-449-1025; jointherevolution.net. Tickets cost $18.50 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.