Ashleigh-Rae Thomas - Articles

TT The Artist Takes Toronto

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TT the Artist is a force. She’s a multigenre rapper, covering hip-hop, Baltimore club, and Miami bass. She’s queer, and though she doesn’t like labels, she understands their importance. And she’s here as a leader to help all queer women of colour break into the industry. TT is in town performing at The Rude Collective’s second anniversary, a party by and for queers of colour. When I explain that Black queers from all over the diaspora will be there, she says, “That sounds beautiful. I can’t wait.” What kind of musician would you describe yourself as? My music is a mix of hip hop, Baltimore club, Miami bass, and dance. What do you know about the Toronto queer scene? Very excited, first time in Toronto. I’m interested in what the culture is like, how the people are. I’m big on fashion and arts, so I’m interested to see. I don’t know what to expect. I’m excited to connect with different types of people who represent culture, hip hop, dance music. I’m excited to share my music in that space. What’s one thing you want Toronto fans to know about you? I want them to know that we’re bringing the club-queen movement to Toronto. It is a movement about women of colour, women who are bosses, who come together to support each other. I’m bringing it to create unity and create a platform so more women like myself have the opportunity to showcase and share our culture with each other. It’s more important now than ever for women and women of colour to be out in music and to be leaders in music, the faces of different sounds. More than ever, I’m very excited to share Baltimore club music. Being a hip hop and rap artist, I’m excited to show people what I’ve got. I’ve got a lot of new music I’ve been working on and performing, and some of my well-known songs that people love to party to. I’m 34 – I’m okay with saying that. For a while, people start to put you in a box. There’s a whole wave of women like myself who are still the underdogs and still have something to say. Our music doesn’t necessarily align with the content that’s out today. I’m planning to write a book on how to navigate through this industry based on my experiences. It’s going to help a lot of people get their foot in the door. TT the author is coming soon. Tell me about your female led record label. Club Queen Records is a woman-focused digital records label. It’s a platform where we put WOC in the forefront of hip hop and R&B. My goal is to create a platform for more diversity and representation. I work with a lot of different genres, and we don’t get to see that in the mainstream music world. I don’t want us to be boxed in. We work with different types of artists. We are putting a focus on women and allowing them to express themselves as who they are, without being given all these boundaries. What is the importance of a female-led label? It’s important to have these outlets because people – men – in this business are not putting a focus on women. Unless you come with a certain look, image, or certain type of content. Every great movement started out with a purpose and an inspiration to solve a problem. There are so many amazing diverse women who don’t ever get the opportunity to share their stories. It’s important for us to take ownership of our own narrative to create that platform to express ourselves. How does your queerness influence your music? I’m big on working with artists of all different backgrounds. Whether on- or off-camera, or with the subject matter of my videos, I’m conscious of being inclusive. I don’t believe in labels, but we have them for the sake of defining things. If I were to define queerness and what it means to me, it means being different, it means being someone who is not afraid to walk to the beat of their own drum. That’s how it expands into my work. I have a lot of queer friends, and I have a strong bond with them because I’m inspired by their choice to be who they are, even in a world that does not always accept them. I don’t like to label myself. I identify as many things. In terms of my orientation, I feel like queer, Black, feminist, woman, believer, dreamer. I hate calling myself anything, but I do identify as queer. What has the hip hop/dance/EDM community done to become more queer-friendly or better to Black women? I feel like now people are starting to be more open about women and queer people in positions of power. We’re influencing culture and changing the dynamic of what we see in this business. The industry and businesses have no choice but to put us in the forefront. We’re people of value on our own. With or without their help, we have been thriving. The world is just starting to catch up; we have always been ahead of our time. What’s the most fun you’ve had as an artist? The most fun for me is travelling to different cities and meeting so many new people. I remember when I went to Vienna, Austria, for the first time. I was almost like, “Where am I?” It’s scary – not in a sense that I’m afraid to travel, but anxiousness, excitement. Travelling overseas opened me up so much. The fact that music and my art allows me to do that – I get to connect to people like you and learn about myself. What was your favourite collaboration? I know you’ve worked with Diplo in the past. My favourite collab would be … I recently got a chance to do a record for Insecure. I did a record with Dreezy and vocals by Issa Rae. It was exciting because I felt like I was part of a big movement and working with women of colour. It was even bigger than working with Diplo, to be working with such game-changers. The song is called “Ho for It.” Who do you want to collaborate with in the future? I’m now starting to lean more towards film. I have a movie coming out: Dark City Beneath the Beat. As far as music, I want to continue to work with more women, more female, Black, queer artists. It’s important right now that we do that. I want to work with dope female MCs and producers and continue to work with them as an artist and through my record label. The gays are really into astrology right now. How important is that to you? What’s your sign? I think I’m the same sign as you. You’re a Virgo? Me too. I kinda believe it. I feel like … I’m spiritual, I believe in God. But I believe being born around a certain season, something was happening in the air that created you in that time period. I believe that there are things that we have in common with people who were born at the same time, and the stars, and the energy. It hasn’t led me wrong yet.

About The Author

Ashleigh Rae Thomas

Ashleigh-Rae Thomas

Ashleigh-Rae is an aspiring journalist and writer, who lives at home with her parents and younger brothers. She was born in Toronto and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. After being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, Ashleigh-Rae does her best to help her friends in similar situations. Ashleigh-Rae spends a lot of her time on the internet, where she learns as much about the world as she can.

Ashleigh-Rae Thomas

Ashleigh-Rae Thomas is a freelance journalist based in Toronto, Ontario. Her aim is to make gay publications Blacker, Black publications gayer, and a mixture of both for mainstream outlets. She has done so by writing for Vice, THIS Magazine, Daily Xtra, and Before writing non-fiction, Ashleigh-Rae wrote TV and movie reviews for A self-professed nerd, Ashleigh-Rae spends a lot of time obsessing about the Marvel Universe and diversity in fiction