Artist Interview: HipHopHoe

After another tumultuous winter for the arts community, Performing Lines reached out to some of our associated artists to touch base. In this series of interviews, which will be published throughout October, we spoke about lockdown coping strategies, how each artist’s practice and perspective has changed over the past year, and where creative work fits in the middle of a pandemic (if at all).

The first of these interviews is with HipHopHoe, a DJ and musician whose work is dedicated to uplifting the voices and stories of peoples otherwise silenced by oppression:

 

As many have pointed out, art and culture that we can access at home has been the saving grace of lockdowns. What are some of the things you’ve been reading, watching, or listening to?

From time to time I’ll flick through “A Trillion Tiny Awakenings” by Candy Royalle or “The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls” by Mona Eltahawy but it’s been more watching & listening than reading for me, unfortunately.

Image by Shelley Horan

Image by Mikey Ayoubi

I’ve enjoyed the access to international artists and their performances via Boiler Room, the Versuz series from the US [where I watched Erykah Badu and Jill Scott playing each other’s music and chatting via Instagram live!], HÖR from Berlin, the Cercle series for its incredible locations and scenery, right down to low budget Queer zoom events bringing together an interesting cross-section of different art practices.

Locally, Grumble Boogie has been medicine for the heart, mind and body, whether I’ve felt like participating or not. I have enjoyed the Irregular Fit, Club Mince, Section 8, Indicia and DJ Charlie Villas’s online events. I’ve also attended / DJed zoom events by performance artists Dazza and Keif and Themme Fatale.

One thing I was super grateful to access was a week long, free [for POC femme / non-binary artists] music bootcamp. It had really interesting sessions by artists and producers [including some of my favourites] on sound production, song-writing, music distribution etc.

The generosity, transparency and global comradery I experienced whilst bleary-eyed at my computer in the middle of the night for that week was really touching and something I’ll never forget.

Has this been a significant change in how you engage with art?

One hundred percent. I am not a person who watches much on screens when I’m engaging with art [unless it’s a film or installation]. For me, art usually means more when it is shared, in space, with others. Especially in regards to DJing or live music and performance. I really miss that collective experience. I miss the energy exchange. I miss amplified music. I miss dance floors and dancing all together. It actually blows my mind that we have had to observe laws over the past year and a half that have banned dancing. Consequently, my consumption and engagement with art has declined. At times, it’s felt too dystopian and depressing.

 

Sourdough starters are so lockdown 2020. If you could pick one outlandish skill for everyone to suddenly get into, what would it be?

The sourdough and kombucha… Yes. Very 2020. The outlandish skill I’d choose for everyone to suddenly get into is kindness. It’s outlandish because it’s a radical act, which i find quite sad, actually. Empathy, thoughtfulness, tenderness – if we could all tap into those feelings and actions, it would revolutionise the world.

Image by Guy James Whitworth

Image by Kyle Palmer

There does seem to be a bit of pressure to use our time productively. We keep seeing
this very factually suspicious meme circulating, claiming that Shakespeare wrote King
Lear throughout a plague. Have you found this expectation of creativity in lockdown to
be a realistic standard?

I can’t fathom how anyone has been consistently creative during this time… it suggests a detachment from reality to me. Many days, I have struggled to get out of bed, and sometimes my greatest achievement has been going for a walk. As far as my experience goes, most creatives and the people approaching us for work at the moment have a good understanding that at times, it is impossible for us to produce work. Other times, I’ll have bursts of inspiration and I can achieve things I’m proud of such as my vinyl collaboration with Pony Club Gym.

I hope that, moving forward, we re-evaluate our expectations of productivity all together. The hustle and grind pre-pandemic feels unhealthy in hindsight. And after so much stasis, I worry about how I’ll manage when life opens up again.

 

If you have been working, is it in a different way than before?
Has your focus shifted to different forms or ideas or methods?

If I am doing creative work, it has been mostly online. So pre-records for radio shows and Twitch, IG / FB live, Zoom, Mixlr for live DJ sets. These are not mediums I have ever had to navigate pre-COVID. I hadn’t even heard of Zoom, nor had I ever contemplated live-streaming. Being a relative technophobe, I’ve found live-streaming really nerve-wracking! So much can go wrong, and if you’re in the middle of playing music, there’s very little you can do to deal with any issues. Also, Instagram and Facebook will disconnect streams when they can pick up copyright infringements and Twitch just mutes you.

In terms of content, if you listen to my work over the last few years, you will notice a crescendo in my sense of urgency. My mixes have become increasingly political and maybe more aggressive in order to reflect the times, the cultures I identify with, their experiences, and my increasing distress at the state of the planet.

 

Has your perspective changed on your own practice, and do
you think this will impact what you do in future?

At times, I have been unable to tolerate any sounds at all, let alone listen to and acquire new music. There have been several times, I’ve thought I’ve wanted to quit music completely. I can acknowledge that these are all grief responses, but it feels like there are a lot of barriers to pursuing this career. Ultimately, my values have stayed the same. Perhaps the challenge will be compromising less on who am I am as an artist, and being more unapologetically me, in a world and an industry that loves to temper and dilute us, and our power.

It’s difficult to imagine what the future looks like at all, especially the future of the arts & entertainment industry. I just hope to be able to get back to playing music to real live people. I hope to continue to bring culture, history and aural experiences to entertain, unite and build up community.

 

What has been bringing you joy recently?

Small things have been bringing me joy. It feels better when things are simple. Spending time with loved ones, if not IRL, digitally. Sunshine, blue skies, flowers, good food, baths, candles, incense, getting in the garden and watching things grow. It brings me joy when my peers / colleagues / friends produce new work too. I’m so proud of anyone creating at the moment, especially independent / unsupported artists.

HipHopHoe lives and creates on stolen Aboriginal Land.

Her work is dedicated to uplifting the voices and stories of peoples otherwise silenced by oppression.

Although her first love is Hip Hop, expect the unexpected as she traverses decades, genres and moods in one giant leg-spread.

In everything we do, we acknowledge that we live on Aboriginal land and constantly learn from the wisdom of First Peoples.

Where we are and the history that precedes us informs how we work and how we move forward.