It seems funny that Jay Boogie should claim he “never chose to be a rapper” – the Dominican American MC is hip-hop, for goodness sake. From the Brooklyn neighbourhood he grew up in, to the discrimination he faces every time he leaves his front doorstep. “The life that’s spoken about in hip-hop is the life that I live,” says the femme-projecting artist, who released his most recent mixtape, Jesus Loves Me Too, this summer.
“The outfits that I wear might be more on a effeminate tip, but it’s still the same thing. In fact, it takes even more amount of gangster to look the way I do.” Releasing club-ready rhymes for the past four years, Jay brings the flavour, the aesthetic, the sass. You’ve seen rappers in dresses before, sure, but have you seen one that wears them to go to the store, not just in the pages of a glossy magazine? “A lot of the things infiltrating hip-hop these days have been generated by people like myself,” Jay suggests. “We’ve done it with your favourite R&B divas, your favourite popstars. Now it’s got to the point where rappers are influenced by the clothes we wear too.”
For Jay, the problem arises when artists put on the clothes but, “won’t really face the advocacy.” You see, to Jay, music is a form of activism, a way of, “speaking to kids in middle America who are 17, 18 and like, ‘So what if I like men? I can still rap.’” In the future he’d love to see more LGBTQI+ artists break through hip-hop’s heteronormativity. For now? “I’m just trying to give people something fun to look at, something strong to listen to, a backbone.”
He might not have chosen to be a rapper, but it sure is one hell of a weapon.
i-D, NOVEMBER 2017.