Mx Blouse in Full Bloom

Mx Blouse in Full Bloom

With the release of their debut EP Believe the Bloom, Johannesburg rapper, M(x) Blouse is turning the local music scene on its head with their fierce confidence. The EP, like M(x) Blouse, is dynamic and nuanced and acts as a window into the soul of an artist on the rise. In it, they explore life, love, and the sometimes difficult journey of a nonbinary artist and individual navigating the world. 
Words: Tshiamo Seape

CSA: The first time I heard of your musical endeavours was on a nondescript night at Kitchener’s in Braam. You casually told me to listen to your SoundCloud and give M(x) Blouse a listen. You mentioned that a mutual friend, Joni Blud, had produced the track and that peaked my interest even more. The song was WTF (Squared) and the time was last year. At this point had you decided to pursue music as a career or were you merely testing the waters with a singular creative work?

 

M(x) Blouse: By the time that track was out I’d already made the decision that this is what I want to do. It’s a decision I made a while ago, and one that was only reinforced when I quit my last full-time job. I told myself I never again want to find myself in a full-time employment situation, neither do I want to find myself doing something I won’t enjoy. Pursuing my passion was the only real option I could think of.

 

How long have you been writing music for?
Well, I wish I wrote music itself, I don’t. LOL. I’m a lyricist, and I’ve been doing that ever since I can remember. If any of the thieves who’ve stolen my many phones over the years ever go through my voice recordings, they’d find a lot of lines and things that I spit to myself as a way of recording my thoughts and what I think could be good rhymes and stuff. I’ve got countless books with lyrics in them, many of which I’ve lost over the years because I tend to move a lot.

 

It’s sometimes hard for artists to define their own sound, so instead, I want to ask you how you want your audience to feel listening to Believe the Bloom.

To be honest, Believe the Bloom is a collection of songs about proving to myself first that this is real and not a joke. I wasn’t going for a particular sound, it just so happens that the EP has a lot of production from Joni, which probably gives it some sort of sonic direction. So, more than anything it was an introduction to Mx Blouse, and what I would certainly love for whomever is listening to take away is a little bit about who I am, my politics, my humour and all the things that make me me as an artist; things that I hope to expand on in future projects. The one thing I definitely do hope for is that the EP sounds like no one that you’ve heard before.

Believe the Bloom is the name of your debut EP and I would imagine a personal statement about your transformation into M(x) Blouse. What part of this journey/transformation has been the most exciting?

Certainly. To be honest, the most exciting part has been running into people I’ve known for ages, and many comment on what some have called a “reinvention”. Ha! I like that. I’ve grown in so many ways over a short period of time. If you’d met me three or four years ago you would have met a totally different person, and I totally credit this creative endeavour for that. It has made me so much more aware and comfortable with myself, and hyper aware of the spaces, as well as the dynamics that govern the spaces I inhabit. I think that’s largely because I am so aware of the things that come out of my own and other people’s mouths, and I like finding meaning in just about everything. It’s both an advantage and disadvantage because it also means I tend to overthink.

 

“I would certainly love for whomever is listening to take away a little bit about who I am, my politics, my humour and all the things that make me as an artist”

 

Your album came to us fully formed. The music and the visuals that accompany it seem far more polished than we’d expect from a first time artist – congratulations. How did you manage to assemble such an experienced team and put out such a polished project?

It really was just about reaching out, and I am very grateful for the friends I have. Super talented, and quite honestly some of the best at what they do. Lucky for me, they also believe in what I do, and it’s very encouraging to be able to work with people who believe in you. That said, I really do try my best to put out work I can be proud of. Obviously, I am still learning a lot about the music aspect specifically. I’m very new at it, and I know there’s plenty room for improvement, and trust me, the full bloom will be something spectacular. Keep watching this space 😉

 

Ok, so everyone and their cousin has a mixtape or is a producer. Did you feel apprehension about letting people know you wanted to become a rapper?
More apprehension than you would ever believe! No one really wants to take anyone seriously, because, whatever homie! You’ve got music floating around somewhere on Soundcloud or Bandcamp? So does my momma! No one GAF, period! There’s so much out there that your talent really just doesn’t matter as much as you would like. It’s kind of like where blogging was a few years ago. It’s like: so, you’ve got a blog? Yawn! I had to get over it though because this is the way of the world, you know? It’s a good thing that it has become easier for people to do the things they are into, so personally I think it’s not something one should take too seriously, this kind of apprehension, otherwise, it could stop you from doing what it is you want to do. Still, with so much out there, I do believe that at the end of the day, it’s the ones who are truly passionate about what they do that will stand the test of time.

 

Did any of the apprehension come from being one of the first (if not the first) gender non-conforming Hip-Hop artists?

That, too. Definitely. The odds are stacked against you if you’re not a straight identifying male in rap. It’s a boys’ club, just like most things in life. Will they book you? Will they want to be associated with a queer person? There are all sorts of questions. But it’s not just the boys club you’re worried about. There’s also a whole community of queer people you suddenly represent by virtue of being out and queer yourself. You kind of just don’t know how you’re going to be received. How should I present myself? Am I alienating folk by being myself? Should I assume a less obviously weird aesthetic? Am I too femme? Am I too masculine? These are all questions that went through my mind, for sure.

 

Why do you think Hip Hop specifically has such a queer aversion? Why is it so hyper masculine and where does it come from?

Masculinity is a fragile thing, period! Black masculinity, specifically, has mad crazy levels of fragility. And it’s no coincident; it’s by design. The whole race project depends on a weak black male’s existence. Unfortunately, as blacks, we bought into this religious colonial bullshit, and we hold it so dearly with it’s super misogynistic, hella crazy stupid ideas, and such. It’s killing us. I don’t get why the fuck it bothers anyone who the next person is sleeping with. You can call it what you want, I see it as weakness because it tells me you are afraid of something, and that’s your issue, stop making it mine, type-thing! I address this in a song titled ‘Can’t Walk the Streets’: “All of this fragility that niggers think is power/ Fucking stand-up comics, I laugh at you for hours!”

 

Do you have many supporters from the Hip Hop community? Have any artists reached out to collaborate with you or wish you well? 
A few people I know personally, yes, but it’s also way too early, I would say.

On a collab level, I don’t see myself as exclusively hip-hop, and in that sense, there are several collaborations under discussion. It’s just a matter of finding the time.

 

Does subverting the typically masculine Hip Hop environment bring any joy or is it more of a burden being the poster child of a changing music landscape?

I’d love it so much if I could just make music and not constantly be judged on who I am having sex with because essentially, that’s what it is. At the same time, it makes me incredibly proud having the opportunity to shatter stereotypes.

 

You’re part of a growing shift in the South African music industry that is embracing queer positive identities (of course FAKA comes to mind) as well as the role of women. Do you think this mirrors a general cultural shift, or is the music industry still lagging behind?
I just love that people like FAKA, Mr Allofit, Umlilo and others, are doing this on their own terms. I love that we are all so different, the only way you could possibly box us all in is if your cis privilege is on something hectic af! There’s a tendency in South Africa to use queer people as comic relief, and I hate that. So, in addition to the visibility, it’s very important the shift is not just about window dressing, but more about taking us seriously as artists.

“I’d love it so much if I could just make music and not constantly be judged on who I am having sex with”

 

Where do the biggest changes need to come from to make the industry more inclusive and which other artists pushing for equal representation are worthy of more recognition?

I don’t know, man. South Africans can be fucking weird. The fact that it took becoming a thing in Europe before Gqom was a thing here is shameful, but it’s a sign that things do change, and sometimes that change is forced on us by external factors. People used to call it tavern music, now everyone is dancing to it. I’m not too sure what it will take for the industry to become more inclusive, but I am not waiting around for it. I am doing this, and it’s being done. I’ll give everyone else time to catch up.

 

Take us through the biggest highlight of the past 12 months.

Releasing Believe the Bloom was an amazing thing because it took so long for me to do it, and the reception exceeded my expectations by far. Opening the Afropunk stage at Basha Uhuru was also completely unexpected and incredible in every way. There was the Mail & Guardian Friday cover recently, and generally chatting to people on the streets who seem genuinely interested, and like, why are you not on the radio? Also me, I don’t know. I’ve tried. Booking a tour in Germany is also just like “whoa, this is real”.

You can follow M(x) Blouse on Instagram and Twitter

 

Credits:
Art direction and styling: Bee Diamondhead
Photography: Aart Verrips
Makeup: Orli Meiri

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