At a time when a new crop of queer rappers and producers are beginning to threaten hip-hop’s heteronormative, queerphobic status quo, Washington-based rapper Michete seems to stand apart. Her debut EP Cool Tricks discards the avant-garde, high-art signifiers of her peer’s music in favor of intentionally chintzy beats and rhymes that seethe with rage and ribaldry. On lead single “Rap Game Kimmy Gibbler,” she raps to a brittle beat composed of Full House catchphrases: “My tongue like a whirlwind, head so good make you wanna leave your girlfriend /Or you’re straight huh? So’s spaghetti/Till you heat it up, you ain’t ready for Michete.” All in all a decent summary of what Michete’s all about–crass, merciless, and utterly determined to seduce and disturb. When I caught up with Michete on the phone, she was driving home from a Halloween party.
Michete: I just woke up like less than an hour ago and was like “Oh Shit.” I dressed up as myself with some tiger ears. I’m actually really bad at Halloween like I never start preparing in time and I don’t have the money or the resources or the creativity or the patience to ever dress up as anything good. So I just put on some fucking ears and that’s it.
Joshua Palmer for Loser City: You’re from Spokane, Washington, right?
M: [laughs] Yup, sure am! I’ve lived here for 23 years.
LC: What’s it been like growing up there? What’s the queer or hip-hop scene like?
M: [shrieks with laughter] There isn’t one? Yea absolutely not, there’s definitely not a queer hip-hop scene in Spokane. There might be a bit of a hip-hop scene, but I don’t want to associate myself with that. Spokane is like a really tragic cesspool of white nonsense. I’m trying to get out of Spokane, not become part of the local community. I’m moving to Seattle next year.
LC: You opened for Shamir Bailey a few months ago and got a bump from him in NME; how did you two meet?
M: It’s really weird actually. I saw “On the Regular” about a year ago and when the Pitchfork “Best Tracks of 2014” list came out he was number eleven on that list and I was like “Oh shit this is really cool, his voice is fucking weird.” Then I just randomly came across his Facebook and we had a mutual friend. I sent him a friend request and he accepted it right away. I didn’t think anything would ever come of that; I didn’t think me and Shamir were ever going to have a conversation. It wasn’t like I added him thinking “Ooo this is gonna help me advance my career.” That was in like January of this year. We would occasionally like or comment on each other’s statuses and then one day he posted this status about how he needed opinions on this single he was releasing for this band he manages. I wasn’t doing anything so I was like “Ok send me the song and I’ll tell you what I think about it.” So he did and I told him what I thought and then I was like “Would you, um, maybe wanna listen to my song?” By that point “Rap Game Kimmy Gibbler” had been released. So I showed it to him on my Soundcloud and he, like, fucking loved it. As I put out more and more music he started becoming a fan of mine to the point where he said “Ok you’re opening for me if I ever come to Seattle.” So he and I are like friends now.
LC: What music did you listen to growing up?
M: I just listened to pop artists and rappers mainly. Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Peaches, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Missy Elliot. I probably listened to Lady Gaga more than anybody growing up. I have a Lady Gaga tattoo on my left arm. It’s just like a silhouette of her in the Pokerface outfit with a telephone and a lightning bolt.
LC: What other tattoos do you have?
M: I have eight tattoos. I have the silhouette of the wolf from Fantastic Mr. Fox on my back, I have the Lady Gaga one on my left shoulder, I have the Jigglypuff on my left arm, I have a tattoo of one of the party bears from Adventure Time. I have one of Pikmin; it’s like a group picture of one of every kind of Pikmin. Cait Sith from Final Fantasy and Birdo from Super Mario Bros. on my left arm as well. Oh and one on my chest–it’s just cursive writing and it’s written backwards so if I look at it in the mirror it says “flawless.” And I got it before the Beyonce song too so…[laughs].
LC: How would you describe your own relationship with hip-hop?
M: I mean “Uninvited guest, rap game Kimmy Gibbler”…[laughs] Obviously I’m quite a big fan of it. I’m passionate about, you know, making it and hip-hop as a genre is hugely influential to me as an artist. And I recognize that it’s tremendously influential on American culture in general. But I think America doesn’t do a good enough job of giving credit where it’s due in terms of placing value on the fact that it is a black culture and a black music and how important that is. It’s a sentiment that’s been expressed like a million times, but it’s wild how we’re so quick to embrace black culture while disregarding black people and it’s sad to see that play out. Obviously hip-hop is a really fun style of music and, honestly, I think it’s all for inclusivity–I don’t think that anyone is trying to make hip-hop this exclusive thing. But we can’t just take in this culture and then completely disregard where it comes from, I think that’s really fucked up.
LC: How/when did you first start making music?
M: I probably started taking it seriously about two or three years ago. But, I first started writing raps when I was fifteen. I’ve always been a performer and I’ve always wanted to be a musician. I sang in talent shows in middle school and in high school I was in theater and was on the improv team. The first time I recorded music I was seventeen–it was actually for a high school play. It was a song me and my theater director wrote. Then in 2011 I tried to record this little demo/mixtape thing with this dude I knew in his little shitty studio made out of blankets. That ended up not going through because he started wanting to charge me money and I was like unemployed so that didn’t happen. I had three really shitty songs that I recorded just with my friends burnt onto a CD and I gave a copy of it to Kreayshawn when she came to Spokane [laughs].
LC: You’re into roller derby right?
M: Yea, I’ve been on hiatus for like a year now, but yea I’m part of a roller derby league in Spokane.
LC: How’d you get into that?
M: I just went with a friend one day and they were advertising for a new team and I thought “That sounds cool” so I went to practices and got surprisingly very good at roller derby like very fast. I never played sports in high school or anything and I was never athletic so it was very bizarre how instantly capable I was.
LC: How do you approach the useage of the word “faggot” in your writing and what’s your relationship with that word?
M: Well, first of all, being that I am a queer, assigned-male-at-birth person, I feel like I’m completely within my rights to use that word basically however I want. Basically, when you’re dealing with the type of men I’ve dealt with in life, you get sick of the faggot shit. You just lose your patience for it. When it comes to like rappers who are super masculine, like straight dudes, “faggot” can be a certain way to call them out on their completely contrived masculinity.
LC: In his Pitchfork piece about you, Andy Emitt called your style “qrappy”–a portmanteau of “queer” “rap” and “crappy.” How do you feel about the term? Do you intentionally set out to be or sound “qrappy?”
M: I mean [laughs] my music definitely has an intentionally low-budget aesthetic to it and that also translates into the videos. I don’t know how I feel about the term “qrap” or about the fact that it’s catching on, but I mean that’s definitely sort of part of it. I mean you compared me to Peaches and electroclash in that review which I thought was a cool comparison. But at this point, yea, my production style is pretty desperate considering the resources I have but I’m still able to communicate my talent and my personality and I’m still able to make a product that’s enjoyable and fun.
LC: Who directed your music videos?
M: My friend Andy who is a film student at Eastern Washington University.
LC: So it’s basically just you and your friends working on Michete stuff right now?
M: Oh yeah, for sure. The only professionals I work with in any capacity are the two guys who work at the studio that I record at–they’re the only people I’m paying to help me with anything.
LC: What’s next for Michete?
M: Maybe book more shows because I’ve still only played one [laughs]. Hopefully more music. Maybe more videos soon. I’m trying to get my next EP out toward the beginning of next year. Hopefully get another music video done before then. I don’t know, I feel like I just need to keep creating and see if I can make more momentum for myself.
Joshua Palmer is a writer, musician, and dilettante-about-town living in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated from Trinity University with a major in Wumbology, a minor in English, and did his Honors Thesis on the effects of listening to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds while crying in bed about stupid boys who don’t even deserve you. He does not have a twitter and apologizes to everyone for this.