We profile the stripper turned rapper who is out to blow your mind.
Brooke Candy is out to blow your mind: a stripper turned rapper who has adopted, appropriated and reclaimed the idea of the female as a sex object. Initially I was wary of her gold-plated body armour, waist-length braids and claw-like manicure (you might recognize her from Grimes' 'Genesis' video), wondering what the woman behind this exterior — at once frightening and fuckable — would be like. It soon became clear that Brooke Candy — intelligent, articulate and quick-witted — doesn't care if you like her or not.
Ingrid Kesa:What does a typical day for you involve? Brooke Candy: Lately I've been travelling a lot, so every day can be different, but generally each day revolves around smoking blunts, answering emails, getting money, smoking blunts, recording, performing, smoking blunts, meeting new people and smoking blunts.
Your dad worked at Hustler magazine when you were growing up. I'm guessing you had a pretty liberal upbringing…
You'd be surprised. I'm not here to speak for my family, but the adult-entertainment industry is a multi-billion dollar business — just because you are catering to people's fantasies doesn't mean theres anything flighty or glamorous about the people who make it happen. I wasn't raised in this liberal free-love environment like one might expect; I'll say that.
What was your perception of the women in Hustler's pages when you were a kid?
I thought they were hot.
There's an interesting play between female empowerment and misogyny in porn. Would you say that being aware of the existence of that industry as a child shaped your thoughts towards sex?
Everything you experience shapes your views on sex and relationships, so I wouldn't attribute the porn industry to any beliefs I uphold, but maybe subconsciously I was aware that certain people didn't view sex as such a personal thing — that they were willing to expose themselves in exchange for money or personal gain.
How did you get into stripping?
Well, the money helps, but I honestly did it to test my limits as a performer and prepare myself for the performance aspect of the industry. The way I saw it was, if I can take my clothes off for a dozen sweaty dudes then I can definitely rap for thousands of awesome kids who are actually there to hear my music.
Did being a stripper change your attitude to sex or men?
No, I had already formed my views on sex and men by the time I started stripping, which is probably why I was able to do it. I think stripping has nothing to do with either sex or men in general. Some of the dudes in strip clubs are really gross — sorry!
How has stripping influenced your lyrics and visuals?
I think that embracing the taboo of the stripper persona for visual references is beautiful, because strippers and women who are considered to be sexually free are so powerful and are really unsung heroes.
A lot of your lyrics are about liberating women — I like the line from 'Das Me', "A slut is now a compliment / A sexy-ass female who is running shit and confident" — but at the same time stripping could be thought of as objectifying women. Was that ever problematic for you?
People may think women are being objectified in the strip club, but the men are equally objectified. Money and sex are two of the most powerful forces in the world — I may just be a sex object to you, but all you are to me is an ATM dude. If a man is willing to give me something so important to him — money — just for dancing and being exactly who I am, then I think he's the one being used.
Do your parents know what you do now?
Not the extent of what I do, but they know I'm a rapper. It's not for them, y'know?
Being female and white puts you in the minority in rap. Do people in the industry have preconceived notions about you or not take you seriously because of this?
I can't tell you all the double standards I've been subjected to since I started performing, but I knew going in what preconceived notions I would have to battle … I have to work ten times harder than someone who immediately springs to mind when you hear the word 'rapper', but the reward is much greater. I've always been good when backed into a corner. Fuck yo' prejudice!
Is it hard to challenge gender norms in your lyrics, considering rap is a genre that’s often viewed as misogynistic? Or is this changing?
I think the time has come to let go of all preconceived notions. I'm still paying homage to the greats who paved the way for me and the genre I grew up loving. I'm just using the art form to express a new ideal. I'm proud to open minds and flip shit on its head.
Would you call yourself a feminist?
I'm standing up for all oppressed people: women, gays — we all have a voice. It's 2013 and all this fear and hatred still exists. Let it go.
You do seem super comfortable in your own skin. Has it always been this way?
When I was younger I had extreme body-dysmorphia and extreme eating-disorders. I saw different therapists and random people and the only thing that ever helped me get out of that weird depression was being creative, and that's the only thing that's ever helped me in my whole life to maintain some sort of balance and some sort of peace within myself. There's no permanent shape or size, but the media, especially in Western civilisation, perpetuates this perfect body-image, this totally horrible 36-24-36 Barbie thing, but I hate that. It's so unnatural… I think everything is beautiful and, personally, I love thicker girls, and I like girls. I love curves; I think they're beautiful. I think everybody has days where they think they look like shit, but I gave that up a long time ago. You gotta embrace everything you've been given — show what you got, ladies. It feels sick to be free and own your body and feel sexually empowered.
What does the word peace mean to you?
I just read about this amazing artist who lay in a room surrounded by different things — alcohol, pills, a knife, a gun. She let people in the gallery come up to her and do whatever they wanted to. They would pour alcohol down her throat or put pills in her mouth; that was part of her conceptual idea. But every time someone in the gallery would pick up the gun or the knife, someone else would block them. So I think that innately, as human beings, our nature is to be good, and I think we all want peace. I just feel like we're taught differently. It's a natural feeling but it's unnatural, in a way. There is still so much hate. I encounter so many people that are hateful, who send me crazy-hateful comments on Twitter or email me the meanest, meanest shit. Someone recently told me to hang myself by my braids. I have people send me beautiful, uplifting things too, but my response [to the haters] is always going to be positive and to kill them with kindness. I always try to let that person know that I love them in a way… rather than being negative back, just be positive, and that's a start to something.
Is it hard to not take those negative comments to heart? Considering the image of Brooke Candy projected to the public is the real you, not just some record-label persona…
I have done all of this myself and I'm not creating art for anyone else other than myself — I just feel like I need to get all of this out and if someone doesn't like it I don't take it personally, because I'm not doing it for them. Eventually I'll gain their respect and they'll be on my team. I'm not out to hurt anyone — I'm out to make art.
What you were saying before about combating hatred with love reminds me of the rave scene's 'Peace Love Unity Respect' saying. Did you ever go through a rave phase?
I went through a rave phase when I lived in San Fran; I moved to the Bay when I was 17. Rave culture is my shit; I love it. I've watched every documentary there is about it. It's beautiful but at the same time it's kind of scary — if you've been to a big rave before, you would've seen hundreds of ten and twelve-year-olds on drugs. That aspect freaks me out, but I totally agree with the whole PLUR thing. It's about people coming together and sharing positive energy.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
On top. I'm in this shit for the long haul, baby. I want it all — sky's the limit, and right now nothing is in my way.