HIV positive pop star Shygirl: “I want to affect your balance”

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HIV positive pop star Shygirl: “I want to affect your balance”


Shygirl bits are, for lack of a better word, dirty. The 28-year-old musician’s lyrics detail sexual exploits and throwaway partners. “I like to slide, figure skating”, does not concern ice dancing. This week, she’s releasing BDE, a collaboration with Northampton rapper Slowthai, and it’s less rap on her part, more a heady mix of cooed and harassed orders on a disturbing production. It’s sex like chaotic workout, and if it ends up shocking the listener, the artist has served her purpose. “I like it when art makes me uncomfortable, because I have to wonder where it comes from,” she says. “How can something affect my balance like that?” I want to affect the balance of others.

Her domineering musical persona is a far cry from the chatty and pleasant woman I meet at a bar outside the Cambridge University Union, where she has just given a talk on her art and accessible industries. creative. About a quarter of our time is spent laughing; sharp introspections into owning her narrative as a public figure come as easily as self-deprecating tales of recording angry vocal notes about previous partners. And it’s easy to understand why she’s seen more and more as a fashion force: following a recent Burberry campaign and the soundtrack of Thierry Mugler’s catwalks, she stands out majestically with orange hair, a slip dress. healthy and eye-catching Telfar Clemens boots, noticed by the wide-eyed students in our neighborhood.

His philosophy is more philosophical than his sometimes unprintable words suggest. It’s not just about loving sex, she explains, but rather communicating and disrupting power dynamics. “I’m talking about frustration,” she said. “A lot of things, I’m the one who turns things around and puts myself in the position of the aggressor or the user, when in fact it was I who was being used. I’m claiming something that I couldn’t claim at the time, saying by will or by crook I’m going to get what I want.

The lyrics still aren’t much different from those of her more HIV-positive female peers, such as Megan Thee Stallion and Lil ‘Kim, but it’s her sounds that push the boundaries. Her voice is based on glitchy rhythms tinged with Eurotrance turning to the extraterrestrial, produced by producers such as Sega Bodega and the late Sophie, and her sound is regularly classified under the recent label “hyperpop” (although she is wary of new genres ”) alongside outliers such as Charli XCX, 100 Gecs and PC Music maverick AG Cook. “There is a fantasy that club music speaks to and a euphoria that it provides, a space where anything can happen,” she says – the perfect canvas for the avant-garde erotic worlds she builds in her songs, and its homage to the club as “a place of fun”.

Real name Blane Muise, the artist was born in South London and moved to the area when she was a child with her parents. Her grandfather was periodically bassist for the Aces, backing group to reggae singer Desmond Dekker, and her father introduced her to an eclectic range of pop music when she was young – Craig David to Björk – by dropping CD on his bedside which he had picked up by work in a nightclub.

“Every day there are new ways the world is throwing things at you. “ Photography: Trinity Ellis

A defining moment was watching Carl Andre’s Equivalent VIII at Tate Modern at age 13: an ultra-minimalist installation of white bricks laid in rows on the floor. “It was so inspiring for me. Everyone was walking around these bricks, and I was like: it’s bricks! she enthuses. “I thought, I wanna do this – people think I’m a shit because I put [something] was.’ »

She became a professional musician at 23, collaborating with friends she had met in the city’s club scene, and DJing at venues such as London’s queer PDA club night. She identifies as gay – “I’m going to steal your daughter too, not just your man,” she tweeted last year – and credits queer communities with allowing her to talk about sex as a wife. She can’t wait to give something back to them with her music, including her many trans fans. “Even within the [queer] community, being trans is such a difficult position. I know so many close trans friends who have been left adrift by their biological families and found a family within us; I’m so protective of it.

Its frank lyricism is therefore more than a titillation: it cathartically revives stereotypes and sexualization in the world. “I’ve been sexualized since I was 12,” she says. “By making this music, it is I who find a comfortable space in what I am already seated in. Like, why deny how you are viewed? You can’t hide from it. Instead, I adopted it and rewrote it for myself.

She claims that for black women, “in everyday life there are new ways the world is throwing things at you” – namely, misogyny (a combination of anti-black racism and sexism) which informs about how people are throwing things at you. black women are viewed and how stereotypes limit us in the wider world. “How else can we get away from these experiences if not talking about them? If you fit into the niche that they expect from you, then you give them what they want. I prefer to do something unexpected.

BDE is now available on Because Music

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