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Perpetual Change — Heidi Barton Stink

| Mar 12, 2012
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When I first started doing these columns, rap and hip hop were not musical genres often associated with the transgender music scene.  We could start discussing various reasons for that, and while that might be a good subject for a future column, it’s not our main focus this time around.

More and more trans rap artists are taking the step to “come out” (as it were) onto a stage that is more often than not dominated by hateful, homophobic, misogynistic spew not welcoming to anything outside of it’s own narrow viewpoint.

Heidi Barton Stink from Minneapolis is an artists who has not let herself be intimidated by the mainstream rap/hip hop world.  She writes lyrics that focus on social justice issues and positive themes, along with queer and trans themes.

Heidi has one EP, The Familiar Pattern, which offers a fresh perspective when it comes to traditional hip hop, but also goes beyond what is normally heard in the mainstream gay/trans cultures.  She stays away from the overly sexualized party songs and instead delves into themes such as lack of inclusion and visibility of gender variant people and the shame often felt by young people growing up who know they “…just don’t fit in…”

Her music covers a wide range of beats and verbal styles, and she is also working on a debut album.  TGForum and Perpetual Change are proud to introduce this up and coming artist to our long time readers.

TGForum: I wasn’t able to find much in the way of basic background information about you. Are you from Minneapolis originally?

Heide Barton Stink: I’m from south Minneapolis, born and raised. I love it here. There is a really dense trans and genderqueer population. The people rock, but the weather sucks nine months of the year. There is also an amazing hiphop scene in the twin cities. Growing up here, I looked up to the locally based “underground” rappers who were maybe making a meager leiving from rapping. Hearing people rap about my city and things that I related to was a hug influence on my decision to start writing and eventually start rapping.

TGF: Do you have any formal training and/or play any instruments?

HBS: I have no formal training. I never learned to play an instrument, but there is a lot of structure to rap lyrics. I think I learned to make music that instinctively ends up sounding right. You know, some people know everything about music and can’t write a catchy song to save their life. I would rather be where I’m at, gradually learning this stuff by necessity, while writing songs for people to jam out to.

TGF: In your press materials, it’s mentioned that you use topics such as inclusion/visibility of gender variant people, addiction, and even shame, for lyric ideas. Do you feel that such topics aren’t being addressed by gay/lesbian rappers and musicians? None of that is being addressed in the mainstream?

HBS: There are a lot of “out” rappers trying to do the mainstream rap thing now. People want to make a living doing this and that’s understandable, but it can be really hard to write heartfelt songs when your motive is to get rich. With that said, I would point out there are probably a million people writing greats songs about this stuff, they just aren’t getting heard. We just gotta keep our minds open and our ears to the ground.

TGF: What type of venues do you perform at, and how often?

HBS: I perform in Minneapolis and St. Paul all the time. My local community is amazing and supportive. I’ve been doing more community based venues/events, schools and colleges, and fewer bar shows. I also get around the country on a semi-regular basis. I am always looking for out of town gigs. For now at least, I will rap anywhere I’m invited if it looks like I can break even. Bring me to your town.

TGF: I have a couple questions I’ve always wanted to ask a rapper. a) How do you balance the social consciousness aspect with the entertainment aspect of what you do? And b) why do most rappers, and also people who do dance music, use more than one producer on a project? ( I have recording experience and I would think that having more than one producer on a project would mess with the overall continuity and add unnecessary expense to any given project.)

HBS: I look at it like this: when I write a song, it’s my responsibility to make something that sounds good as it can, so that I can convey whatever I’m trying to talk about. When I perform, though, my first responsibility is to put on a good show. This is a completely different skill set than rapping. Many talented rappers are terrible performers and vice versa.

The album I’m currently working on has one producer (See More Perspective), and I love it. No matter how much different stuff we try, it’s cohesive. I would recommend people try to find one producer, one that shares your vision of the project you want to put together. If for no other reason, buying beats a la cart is way too expensive. People will want to sell you beats that aren’t even mixed right for hundreds of dollars. Basically, producers need to get over themselves as much as rappers do.

TGF: You have one EP out and you’re working on a new project. How’s that coming along?

HBS: The new album’s almost done.

TGF: What kind of advice would you offer any musician, singer/songwriter, rapper, entertainer, etc., (trans or not) who is just starting out?

HBS: Know your craft. Make sure your stuff sounds good. Be your own worst critic, or someone else will do it for you. Especially queer/trans rappers — everyone is going to assume you suck until you prove them wrong. So you actually have to be better at rapping and performing than your straight counterparts, just to beat the preconception.

TGF: If you had one thing to say to the transgender community, what would it be?

HBS: We have to have each others backs, support each others causes, and not throw one another under the bus like the gay community has done to us over and over again.

TGF: In closing, anything you’d really like to say?

HBS: Yes, concerning the Michigan Womyns Music Festival. What people need to understand about Mich Fest is that we (trans women) can’t see the love that happens on the other side of those gates. Last year a trans woman’s life was threatened by a cis male right outside of those gates. Mich Fest security took the perpetrators side before they even knew what was going on. The transphobia wasn’t implied that day, they didn’t believe or care that the man assaulted her because she was a trans woman.

The whole concept of a safer space where your qualifications as a woman are judged by a (probably male) doctor’s sex assignment at birth is not only transphobic, but completely erroneous. People who defend the policy are NOT allies to trans people, no matter how many times they say they are, and never can be as long as they hold those beliefs. The Fest has, for too long, been an institution that has stood . . . to strip trans women of their rights to safer spaces such as homeless shelters and healthcare. Real allies actively seek inclusion of transwomen to ALL of these spaces.

Heidi Barton Stink’s EP The Familiar Pattern is available as a download at bandcamp.com; also on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Reverbnation, along with videos on vimeo.com She can be contacted through via email.

ALSO THIS MONTH

Storm Miguel Florez has been at work on a new project and corresponding video. He sent this brief update, along with an inquiry: “Thanks so much to everyone who has donated to the IndieGoGo campaign for my upcoming video. Thanks to you I raised enough to take to the recording studio with a drummer, a bass player, and a pack of drunken zombies. We have raised $2,070 and have $3,930 left to raise by March 30th. Think we can do it? We certainly can with your help. If we flood the campaign site with visitors and leave lots of comments, IndieGoGo will put it out to even more people, so if you cannot contribute financially, please visit the site anyway and help keep it lively!

Storm needs an actor so consider this a casting call: “Looking for a gay male and his gay chihuahua dog for an unpaid, non-speaking non-zombie role in a zombie music video. The obvious shoe-in for this role, (the father of my chihuahua), Luis Gutierrez Mock, will sadly not be available on the day of the shoot, so I’m looking for the perfect gay with the perfect chihuahua. We;re shooting on the evening of March 24th, in San Francisco. If you are interested, please call 415-312-0019, or email. Please note, the person who plays this role must have their own chihuahua.”

NEW MUSIC

Live-Barefoot At The Symphony Idina Menzel — The reason I’m mentioning this particular project here is because Menzel has become very familiar because of her past role on Glee as Rachel’s mom. While this isn’t a dance music project (after all, it’s recorded live at Koerner Hall at The Royal Conservatory, Toronto, Canada with the Ketchener-Waterloo Symphony, hence the name), it does have a certain appeal to the wider GLBT community. There’s the almost obligatory Streisand medley of Funny Girl/Don’t Rain On My Parade, along with some real surprises such as an orchestral version of Gaga’s Poker Face and Roxanne from The Police. Produced and arranged by Rob Mounsy (with Menzel and Burt Goldstein as executive producers), the project is very well recorded and the song selection holds your attention. The only thing close to a criticism I have is that Menzel talks too much in between songs. That’s a small price to pay, though, in order to hear such a wonderful voice get the chance to stretch. (Check out CD insert for proper musician credit.)

One Million Pieces Kady Z — Produced by Tone Def, this five song EP is pure dance material, with one exception, track #3, Feel, which is quite laid back.

Let’s Get Naughty Jessie And The Toy Boys — New remix disc now available, and Yummy remix disc by Meital also recently released.


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Category: Music

Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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