The Queens Tell All: Conversations With Queendom Come Performers

 
Photography by Jeana Lindo

Photography by Jeana Lindo

Cypher league is holding our second Queendom Come event this Friday at Silent Barn in Bushwick to celebrate the musical talents of women throughout the world. We have representatives from New York, as well as artists coming all the way from Italy–like DJ/performing artist Sarah Von H. These women come from diverse backgrounds, represent a range of genres, but are bonded in their desire to empower women and shatter gender norms.

I had an opportunity to converse with a few of the women that will be blessing the crowd via e-mail. I got to know more about them and their opinions on the treatment of women in the industry. You can check out their takes below.

How would you define the genre of music you play/perform?

Hadassah: I’m mainly influenced by soul, r&b and jazz, however some days it may have hint of folk music, or be more trap sounding or experimental depending on how I’m feeling.

Djali: Sancocho. I take my mixer, add sounds from here and from there, and when I put it all together, it always tastes good.

In 2013, Chicago rhymer NoNameGypsy tweeted: “I’d rather be an artist than a femcee.” What are your thoughts on being categorized by your gender in the music industry and not solely by your actual profession?

Sarah Von H: My gender doesn’t define me, I’m a human before being a woman. If society wants to keep reminding me that I’m a woman, then that’s a society issue, I’m not influenced by any of that and I’ll keep doing what I do harder than ever.

Zuri Marley: Gyal movements, if dem wah seh gyal dem can seh gyal. No one has really called me anything or said anything I’ve never been called a female DJ publicly unless that was the point of the set which I’m fine with.

How would describe your fashion sense?

Ellie Cope: I like the elementary/middle school look a lot, back in the days when we all wore gym shorts and rode scooters with sugar and grass stains on white t-shirts. Also been into scrunchies and various other dollar store finds, style icons of the year have to be my tom-boy goddess Grace Rossi-Conaway, and then Enid and Rebecca from ‘Ghost World’.

Djali: My sense of style changes with the seasons, from disco queen and Twiggy to a Brasilian Spice Girl and ’00s pop star. I’ve been bestowed the nickname Denise Huxtable of Dyckman because of it. Some days I’ll show my stomach; others, I don the “college student on her way to organize a protest in ’68.”

Zuri: Wig Caps.

Sarah Von H: I would describe my style as my style, I don’t get dressed to impress others I get dressed to impress myself. I like to be comfortable wherever I am so I don’t even have time or the focus to do too much. Everyone is free to do what they want, women should be free to go out naked as far as I’m concerned. If society has a problem with that, then society has some real big sexuality issues.

In what ways does your style challenge how the industry attempts to oversexualize women?

Ellie Cope: I feel that at this point it doesn’t serve me to make my image anything other than how I’m feeling that day, not some elaborate skin display. I think for some women it’s empowering and I’m down with that, but being sexy makes me uncomfortable and stressed on stage. Hence the gym shorts.

Djali: Rather than my clothes, my attitude and music taste definitely challenge the industry’s sexualization of the femme by actively reclaiming the very thing they’re trying to control. Lots of the music I play is Funk Carioca, born from Brasilian favelas, the epitome of raunch. I also love playing those quintessential male-centric songs about ass shaking, matched with those of rap goddesses who paved the way for us to be comfortable in dominance. When you reclaim what the/any industry has commodified, you gain agency, and there’s nothing more frightening to fragile masculinity than a strong femme. I encourage the women around me to exercise bluntness and reclaim vulgarity. The whole women-as-docile thing is archaic, and a meninist emancipation is overdue.

Zuri: I play reggae/dancehall and just good music, and I make anything I want really, whatever comes out of me.

As you find your footing in this industry how do you maintain staying true to yourself and what you represent?

Sarah Von H: Staying true to myself is probably the easiest part of it all. Nothing really affects me, I come from a small Italian city where people communicate and work together to make that place greater than ever. This is how I was raised, with honesty and despite there being a lack of it in NYC and the music business in general, I’ll keep living my old way. Success is way less important than my values.

Zuri: I’m with myself constantly that should do the trick.

Ellie Cope: As an artist it’s important to break daily routine and form rituals instead. It’s so easy to feel like nothing and get in that endless hellhole of self hatred, going home feeling like you’re sinking into the subway – but I think for a lot of artists the one thing keeping us around are those awfully dark feelings cause they are just so interesting and romantic and indescribable. Life is about reacting, and it’s not impulsive or crazy or stupid to let yourself feel and interact with life as it’s happening, and question the legitimacy of daily conversational routines.

Why music?

Ellie Cope: Everything else is so boring

Hadassah: It was never really a choice.  I try to choose another life but being able to write songs everyday without putting in much effort kind of got in the way of any other life I was trying to create.  in short music hunted me down and trapped me (laughs).

Djali: Despite wanting to learn every language possible, our greatest communicator is music. Whether from Ghana, Mexico, Santo Domingo, or New York, the moment you hear music, you dance. We don’t have to know what lyrics man to feel a beat, vibe, or be transcended to another realm. So much of the music I listen to come from places whose languages I neither speak nor understand, like Alemayehu Eshete and Ethiojazz to all the Bollywood numbers in K3G, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and KHNH that I blindly sing along with.

We are music, intrinsically. The way the blood moves through our veins,  the way our hearts beat, the way we breath: it’s all rhythmic. Niestzche once said, “Without music, life would be a mistake,” and I agree.

What are some upcoming projects you have going on?

Hadassah: I’ve become obsessed with visual art so Ill be having a lot of music videos. But you can find me on instagram at @hadassahisme and on my website hadassahisme.com and on Soundcloud.

Sarah Von H: I’ll be touring in Europe next Spring and I definitely can’t wait to be back there for a while.

Zuri: I’m going to be playing shows this Fall and working with a band I’m putting together on a full production that will go up in May.

Ellie Cope: I’m going to put out a mixtape/zine in the next month or so, should be alright. The working title is “Hey, excuse me, could you please fuck off?” I’m currently off social media but here’s my Soundcloud.

Djali: As the host, creator, and director of reign(a), a Mass Appeal web series where the naturally fly femmes challenging white feminism teach me a hidden talent of theirs, I’ll be spending lots of my time on that…when I’m not being a student. You can find it on massappeal.com. As a social activist, I’m always organizing, helping out with, or partaking in rallies, protests, and demonstrations–all of which you can keep up with via my Instagram, @djalibc.

 
Asha Atkins