Queer was once a term used to colloquially define an individual who was a little ‘strange’ or ‘odd’, and thus used to insult anybody who identified as LGBT. Since then, numerous social and cultural shifts have occurred, allowing for us to reclaim the word queer and make it into something empowering. For me, being queer is about celebrating every colour of the rainbow flag, not just the ones that relate to my lived experience.
From such empowerment, artists around the world have explored their sexuality and gender through many forms and expression, one very prevalent medium being music. With a plethora of queer homegrown musicians here in Australia such as Brendan Maclean, Miss Blanks and Jack Colwell, it’s easy to forget about our little neighbourinos across the way, in good old New Zealand.
So it is with great pride that I humbly introduce four fantastic queer acts that you really should be listening to in 2018.
Hip hop and New Zealand aren’t two things you would commonly hear within the same sentence. Throw ‘queer hip hop from New Zealand’ into the mix and people would think you’re just having a laugh. But alas, here to prove us all wrong is Randa, a transgender act with something to say.
Randa, aka Larz Randa, derived from his birth name Miranda, is a rap artist who’s inspired by the internet and transcending sadness into empowerment.
“Ultimately I would hope that people could feel empowered…. maybe someone who’s still in high school could listen to one of my songs could feel inspired… to realise it’s okay who they are” Randa says in an interview with a friend.
Listening to and watching Randa perform is like witnessing butter melt in the sun. It’s smooth, takes its time, and it’s so bloody satisfying. In one of Randa’s most well-received tracks, Rangers, he verses “Some people say I’m cool/others call me a faggot” whilst holding a bundle of sticks in the video clip, subtly commenting on the banality of the word’s meaning.
Randa has big things planned in the future, from zines to albums. As someone who’s supported Grimes, Crystal Castles and performed at New Zealand’s Big Day Out, you know he’s somebody you’ll want to keep your eye on.
Sexy. That’s exactly how you feel listening to the sensual synthetic production of Jessica Hansell (aka Coco Solid).
Coco is an emcee, artist and multi-collaborationist queen who has an impressive amount of feats under her belt, from attending SXSW, to supporting huge acts such as Girl Talk and Spankrock.
She marches to the beat of her own drum, merging ’80s synth pop with modern hip-hop energy. Back in 2011 Coco released her LP Pacific Rims entirely on cassette tape, an ode to the electronic and rap artists of yesteryear.
Listening to Slow Torture feat. Disasteradio is one of the finest examples of Coco Solid’s sheer talent and tenacity. There’s a a uniqueness to her production and lyrics that are refreshing to the ears.
Coco has also worked closely with FAFSWAG, a South Auckland scene that celebrates Polynesian fa’afafine (transgender) culture through fashion, vogue and dance battles. She has curated music for and documented the incredible FAFSWAG shows for years, and holds a very special place in the queer community of New Zealand.
Brown Boy Magik
I first came across Brown Boy Magik while doing some research into the Auckland Pride Festival, back in February this year. After a failed attempt to jump the pond over to New Zealand to attend, I decided to delve into some of the local acts that were performing and my oh my, was I pleasantly surprised.
Brown Boy Magik is a producer based in Auckland who has a fantastic reputation for bringing velvety vibes to a wide array of events and parties around New Zealand.
With one full EP under his belt (Call Log), as well a collection of polished single tracks, Brown Boy Magik is an artist that you honestly have to listen to in order to believe the sheer talent that he’s repping.
You know that feeling when you meet someone for the first time and they look you straight in the eye, listen to every word you say and smile with genuine intention? It’s a truly humbling sensation, and something that Noah Slee allows his listeners to feel.
Hailing from Auckland, Slee is a multi-instrumentalist, electronic producer, and vocalist who now resides in Berlin, a dream of his ever since he was a teenager.
“I couldn’t really be myself in New Zealand or Australia. I alway told my friends and family I was moving to Berlin to pursue music, but really, I needed to find a community that wasn’t just musical, but was open to my sexuality and able to let me breathe”, he stated in an interview with New Zealand’s The Spinoff.
After struggling with mental health issues, Slee bounced back hard with an album that seethes positivity and hope. Otherland, released in 2017, includes the infectious track Radar. Slee’s rhythm inspires and uplifts your spirit, with subtle callings to the likes of Anderson .Paak or Disclosure’s seamless production.
There seems to be a common misconception that our friendly neighbours down in New Zealand are out of touch within the cultural realm of music and art, but alas, they are full of fantastically original and innovative talent. Once you throw a queer lived experience into the mix, you’re welcomed into these musicians’ personal space, an enveloping and intimate experience that you won’t soon forget.