Tribal Spotlight: Dancing with Pride
The pride behind the music
At Tribal, we want to celebrate the intersectionality of the LGBTQ+ community and amplify the voices of some of dance music’s most marginalised members who consistently fight to expand the visibility of the queer community, in honour of Pride Month.
At the front and centre of EDM’s (electronic dance music) explosion is house music, stemming from Chicago’s infamous 80s club, the Warehouse. The factory established a safe space for individuals who identified with the LGBTQ+ community, whilst creating a community driven by the skeletal sounds of house and dirty 808 tracks. Although dance music originally catered to gay men, it became incredibly popular throughout mainstream culture in the late 90s, establishing a new global force – house music.
The queer community has played a historically central role in the emergence of dance music and rave culture, yet the current demographic of DJs seems to starkly contrast this notion. As dance music has become a global phenomenon, the queer community seems to have struggled to stay inside the frame of attention. However, without the contribution of queer artists and the LGBTQ+ community, today’s electronic landscape would never have emerged. So, with that in mind, we have selected some of our favourite artists (in no particular order) who continue to fight for sexual equality and diversity.
The Blessed Madonna
Hailing from Kentucky, The Blessed Madonna (aka Marea Stamper) developed her skills as a DJ in Midwestern warehouses and fields, until eventually moving to the heart of house – Chicago. As a queer woman, Stamper has spoken from her personal encounters of discrimination and violence that tend to take place within the electronic community and club culture. Although Stamper has been met with fierce resistance over the years due to her outspoken nature, she continues to make extensive use of her position to draw attention to the struggles of dance music’s marginalised members, advocating for an inclusive community.
Often sandwiched between soulful disco and hard-hitting kicks, The Blessed Madonna is known for merging house music with the bolstering underground of techno. Few electronic artists possess the talent to amalgamate separate genres so effortlessly – but this is exactly why Stamper quickly became a staple in the electronic industry. She is edgy and textured yet tamed by her eclectic influences. To be able to create tracks that feel both retro and current is not easy, but The Blessed Madonna bridges the past and present every time.
Best tracks: ‘Keep Moving (The Blessed Madonna Remix)’, ‘Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing) and ‘He Is The Voice I Hear’.
The unapologetic trailblazer, Honey Dijon (aka Honey Redmond) continues to live and breathe house music. Born and bred in Chicago, Redmond was fortunate enough to grow up in a city that provided a home for tastemakers like Frankie Knuckles, who constructed house music. Finding herself growing up on the dancefloor, Redmond was able to explore the blurred lines of sexual orientation, gender, and identity. Later in life, Honey Dijon began to explore her identity, whilst becoming the backbone of New York’s underground house scene. As a transgender woman, Honey Dijon has predominantly utilised her position to advocate for trans rights and awareness over the years. However, she has also promoted the importance of maintaining a safe, inclusive community for marginalised people in a culture that has entered the mainstream.
As a DJ, Honey Dijon has developed a reputation for creating total chaos with her ability to curate cross-genre sets. She adds a fresh sheen to the classic sounds of disco and funk without ever looking back to the past. Instead, Honey Dijon maintains her sense of musical autonomy by exploring soundscapes of thumping techno, retro house, and jack acid house. Although the cultural history behind house and disco lives through many of her tracks and live sets, she continues to challenge and transcend the conventions of house music.
Best Tracks: ‘State Of Confusion (feat. Joi Cardwell), ‘Houze (feat. Seven Davis Jr.)’, and ‘Downtown (feat. Annette Bowen and Nikki-O)’.
Considerably techno’s unstoppable force and one of the most eccentric artists in the scene, Berlin based DJ and producer, LSDXOXO (aka Raushaan Glasgow) radiates high octane grooves and horny club cuts. Originally from Philadelphia, he then moved away to the welcoming community of New York City where he made a name for himself as both a DJ and producer, after previously self-releasing his earlier Spit or Swallow mixtapes on Tumblr.
His most notable work in more recent times would be his energetic track Sick Bitch, which first found unreleased fame in VTSS’ HOR stream. Glasgow’s unique sound comes from his manipulation of mainstream sounds by layering pop tracks and vocal samples between ghetto house, hardcore, electro and techno. He is one of many of the new wave of unique artists coming through, infusing camp and erotica into his music.
Best Tracks: “LSDXOXO_TRUTH OR DARE_123 BPM – Kelela (LSDXOXO Remix)”, Sick Bitch, The Devil, Goin Nuts (Feat. VTSS).
Haitian-Canadian DJ and producer Kaytranada (aka Louis Kevin Celestin) has soared to fame over the past few years (especially after THAT Montreal Boiler Room set), now with two critically acclaimed albums under his belt and a Grammy award to show for it. He made history earlier this year by winning the said Grammy and becoming the first black artist to win a Grammy for best dance album, which he won for his 2019 album, Bubba, which features collaborative tracks from artists such as Mick Jenkins, Estelle, Tinashe and Pharrell Williams.
Celestin began by releasing a series of mix tapes also, back in 2010 and after amassing wide recognition, he scored a record deal with major label, XL recording, with whom he released his debut album 99.9% in 2016. He has an incredibly signature sound within his music, which lends itself to him being one of the greatest current producers in the music industry and is a fine example of how marginalised folk can reside within the frame of house and techno.
Best Tracks: 10% (Feat. Kali Uchis), YOU’RE THE ONE (Feat. Syd), Be your Girl – Teedra Moses (Kaytranada Edition), Together (Feat. AlunaGeorge, GoldLink).
If there is one DJ that has taken the house community by storm, it’s Kiddy Smile (aka Pierre-Édouard Hanffou). Born in Rambouillet, Pierre was raised by his mother, who was a first-generation immigrant. As a child, Pierre was drawn to the world of dance and began to work for some of the coolest music artists in later life – such as LCD Soundsystem. However, he soon decided that he wanted to make other people dance. By 2020, Kiddy Smile began to influence the course of history, as he was invited by Emmanuel Macron, the French president, to perform at the Elysée Palace in Paris. In a country where homosexuality is not represented, Pierre refuses to shy away from his identity as a queer man. Whilst performing at the Elysée Palace, he chose to wear a shirt with the slogan “Immigrant’s son, black and faggot”, demonstrating how he consistently uses his visibility to open doors for other racialised LGBTQ+ individuals.
In a world full of cookie-cutter music artists, Kiddy Smile belongs to the small group of artists who continue to go against the grain. The French producer has released singles with Defected Records and Glitterbox Recordings, allowing some of the biggest names in house and disco to remix his tracks – including Honey Dijon. With a sound fashioned by jacking beats, seminal disco tracks and funky house roots, Kiddy Smile’s only mission is to get you moving – whether you can dance or not.
Best tracks: ‘Let A Bitch Know’, ‘Teardrops In The Box’ and ‘Turn It Up’.
Finally, we have the late SOPHIE (aka Sophie Xeon), who was a Scottish producer and DJ, who morphed electronic music into avant-garde pop. Sophie was an incredibly influential producer, having produced records for Charli XCX, Vince Staples, Kim Petras and Madonna, to name a few.
Sophie was introduced to electronic music by Sophie’s father playing cassette tapes in the car. Soon enough, Sophie became enamoured with the sound and began producing music at a very young age – learning to DJ shortly after. Sophie’s debut single, Nothing More To Say, was released in February 2013, and the debut album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides was released in 2018, which was also nominated for Grammy award for best dance album.
Having originally remained anonymous for some time, Sophie came out as a trans woman in a statement music video for It’s Okay To Cry, which was the first time Sophie’s voice and image were used in a release. SOPHIE tragically lost her life in January this year, aged 34, after climbing to see the moon in Athens, Greece, when her footing was lost and she fell from the rooftop of a three-storey building. Sophie was a true visionary artist, and a liberating pioneer for the trans members of the dance community, and will forever be remembered for her astounding, innovative musical work as an artist, and as a woman.
Best Tracks: It’s Okay to Cry, BIPP, Lemonade, Ponyboy, Pretending
LBGTQ+ is intrinsic to dance music
In this light, it is important to remind ourselves that the LGBTQ+ community are intrinsic to the emergence of dance music, and that they are still musically relevant. It is more urgent now than ever to conserve an inclusive music culture.
Words by Aimee Dodd and Ruth Casey