“Have you seen me in the magazine? Huh? Have you seen me in the magazine?” Mister Wallace chants with urgency on his stylish debut EP Faggot, out now via Chicago-based FutureHood Records. With cameos by Cakes da Killa, aCebOOmbaP and Kiam, Faggot sees Mister Wallace spit to jazzy, infectious ballroom beats that link club music, house, sickening synths and hip hop, all while exploding the constructs of queer sex and gender.
You can’t play Faggot, certainly not a track like “It Girl,” and not get into the fantasy. I caught up with the Chicago-bred, New York-based provocateur via phone on his way to Six Flags. We kee’d about being fabulous, black queerness, and what living as a faggot really means.
I’m really drawn to the way you’ve embraced the word faggot all over the EP. I mean, it’s the name of the record. How did you decide to go with such a strong word?
I chose “faggot” because I wanted to poke fun at the media’s coverage of queer hip-hop artists and as a fuck you to all the people who called me names or told me the world wasn’t ready for people like me. I feel like gay is a white man’s term. There’s not much room within “gay” for black/brown bodies. Also it’s very limiting. Faggot is limitless. The “other” is where it’s at — gay is the status quo. I’m not for the status quo, and my music speaks to another perspective, the perspective of the modern queer black body. When the word “faggot” is thrown at you on the street, the way people say it and the stigma behind it, it’s bad. But also you see me and, yes bitch, I’m fab as fuck. [laughs]
Yes Gawd! But what does it mean for you to be “fab as fuck”? What does that actually do?
You know, what does it do? It barely pays your bills, I’ll tell you that. I think it’s a way of expressing an awareness about the constructs around you. In the RuPaul’s Drag Race society there’s a lot of people who are starting to understand the constructs of gender but still getting wrapped up in the constructs. It’s the in-betweens and the mismatches where it’s really at. It’s the butch lesbians who are having sex with femme men. It’s the expression of identity, the allowing of everyone to be themselves and not try to limit people.
So for you, being fabulous and being a faggot is all about blurring the lines of identity, of shaking up social constructs altogether.
I think a fabulous person is a person who can communicate that I won’t actually be limited. Fabulousness is a way of showing how you can communicate and operate in the world on a different plane. It’s a beacon for a lot of people, a wakeup call, and that’s why I push to be in people’s faces.
Speaking of being in people’s faces, I was listening to “It Girl” on my headphones in my living room and as soon as it came on I screamed, “Ooooh bitch!” I couldn’t take it. My reaction was so visceral, I couldn’t even stay seated. My roommates didn’t know what was going on with me.
I’m glad you felt that way when you turned it up because I want to wake that up inside of you. I want you feel like you’re the “It Girl,” too.
I surely did! I was walking around my living room, throwing my arms in the air, twirling.
The message of the damn song is “Girl, you’re that girl. Be that girl.” It’s something I have to tell myself everyday in the struggle of being fabulous and trying to life my life as an artist. I want my work to be my life, and I want to spread this message in many different ways. It’s about empowerment, waking up and feeling good about yourself. As an African-American man growing up in the 21st century, it’s not great for someone like me and we’re limited in so many different ways. “It Girl” is about being unlimited. Nothing’s going to stop me. When other people listen to it I want them to have that same feeling, no matter what their background is.
You’ve essentially repurposed this negative slur and thrown it into a black queer performance context. That must be liberating for you aesthetically.
I grew up in a household where, you know, you’re walking and you’re living and you’re enjoying yourself and then all of a sudden they say: Don’t walk like that! Why are you holding your hands like that? The vogue references in “It Girl” – the “ha” – is supposed to make you go right into that femininity because that is part of who you are. You should be able to express that freely.
How exactly has voguing and ballroom impacted your sound?
Ballroom was everything. In that household where you’re told, “don’t move like that” or “don’t walk like that,” and then you see a whole movement based on that, based on expressing yourself through feminine gesture and the power of your personal sensuality, that completely unlocked my mind. I felt like that was where I belonged. My cousin, who was really into fashion, experienced the culture in Atlanta first hand and told me that I had to check it out. Through the power of the internet I was able to look up videos of kids in New York that were tearing it up. I was in my room crashing and crashing and crashing to the floor. My mom was like, “What are you doing in there?” and I was all, “Nothing! I’m sorry!” when really I was trying to learn how to dip.
So you started voguing by learning online and then going to the actual balls and learning there, too.
I was at the club very young, 18, and practicing the moves I’d “perfected” in my bedroom that were not so perfect at all. My friend Darrell found me in the club, honey, and he was like, “Hey, come to this house meeting” and I got to practice with the girls and walk all the mini balls. So voguing has always been there for me as an inspiration.
The interesting thing about voguing nowadays is that it is so popular and has spread internationally. Have you had a chance to experience any of the international scene?
I’ve been watching Leyomi since the very beginning. So when she and Dashaun Wesley started traveling globally and seeing the effect this has had on pop stars has been cool. I remember very early on seeing clips of Beyoncé and Mya — Mya was one of the first girls to have a whole vogue break down in this Pepsi commercial years ago. I gagged. I’ve seen what’s going on in Paris and I think that’s really exciting, and I would really love to go over there and vogue with those kids.
What do you think about the label “black gay rap”?
You have to look at it from lens of it being gay first. So everything else is straight rap? What’s the point of denoting the sexual orientation? What told you my sexual orientation was gay? What, because you heard a ballroom sample? What I’ve seen them do to Mykki Blanco and Cakes da Killa is immediately say it’s “gay rap.” But no, that’s just rap, girl. Half the stuff Kanye West is putting out right now sounds like some fags who are giving her heat and fire and saying, “Yasss, bitch!” All those girls sound gay to me. Again, it’s that whole RuPaul’s Drag Race culture. That language is seeping into straight culture.
Just because you heard someone talking about doing one thing with a man don’t mean they’re not doing something with a girl either. On Faggot you find a song like “PPlay,” and I’m singing “playing with my pussy” and it could be a vogue reference, but then there’s the flip where I can also do that other thing, too, that you don’t think that I do because my arms move the way they do or because my voice sounds the way it does. Gag!
You recently moved from Chicago, where you were quite the scene queen, and now you’re based in New York. What has changed for you since the move?
I moved to New York about eight months ago. There’s a lot more opportunity. There’s more doors opening up, more people interested in what I have to say. But more so it’s the energy. There’s a lot of history here, and that has affected me greatly. I’m a kid of the night. I go out all the time and I get to DJ a lot more here, always at all these different parties seeing all these different scenes. It’s been inspiring me to make more art. I’ve been more productive since I’ve been here. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve been working on that I’m excited to share soon.
Well, Banjee Report, the rap group I’m in, is still very much alive and well. We’re working on our debut album. Overall it’s more music, more visuals. I’ll be releasing a video for “It Girl” soon, so that’s what I’m working on currently. We’re shooting the video tomorrow, actually.
I’m sure there will be some sickening looks.
Oh, yes! [laughs] We’re working on that today. Oh my god. It’s all about looks! It’s all about being fierce.
Buy Faggot on Bandcamp.