Brett Von Dort

JohannesburgMusicSummer of Blacker Love

mx blouse on defying genres and gender

June 24, 2019
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The vanguard of today’s South African creative scene is defined not only by its resistance to genre categories but also the imposed societal norms of gender and sexuality. One of the fearless creatives leading this defiant movement is Mx Blouse, the non-binary recording artist, writer, and DJ who combines a variety of musical influences — including R&B, hip-hop, Kwaito, and house — to expand the narrow definition of what a rapper looks like and sounds like in 2019.

Before I got to know Mx Blouse, their perspective, and their influences, the question of their stage name came up in our conversation. “I’ve always been fond of blouses,” they say, downplaying the novelty of the name. “There was a time, when I worked as a fashion writer, that blouses became my uniform, so colleagues and friends started calling me ‘Sandiblouse,'” they explain. “The name stuck. ‘Mx’ is the honorific used by people who identify as non-binary, and so I’m Mx Blouse as opposed to ‘Mr.’ or ‘Ms. Blouse,’ basically.”

Mx Blouse was born in Melmoth in northern KwaZulu-Natal and grew up in Richards Bay and East Johannesburg. Their first foray into the music industry was as a DJ in Cape Town. Before that, they worked as a consumer trends researcher and arts journalist—writing helped them hone their songwriting ability. “Being a writer, lyrics are a very important element of the music [to me],” they say. “I guess this is why rap [as a form of expression] is so appealing to me.”

Growing up, their musical palette was informed by artists both from home and abroad. “My inspirations are quite wide-ranging,” says Blouse. “When I was younger, the likes of Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Nas and a lot of ‘90s Kwaito music is what I was generally exposed to.” There’s no denying the influence of ’90s Kwaito on the new sounds emerging from South Africa today and Blouse’s music is evidence of that.

“At my house, we had every single Kalawa Jazmee release, so there were always either Trompies, Bongo Maffin, Boom Shaka, Alaska or Brothers of Peace playing and that was the music everyone enjoyed.” Mx Blouse takes inspiration from Kwaito legends TKZee and 2000s pop acts like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. “Recently, I’ve become obsessed with artists such as Solange, Kelela, and a lot more esoteric electronic and alternative sounds.”

Mx Blouse has never been stagnant in their sound or aesthetic. After making their debut in 2017 with the rap-heavy EP Believe the Bloom, their follow-up singles featured a more future Kwaito and gqom-infused sonics. Mx Blouse leaned even further into these sounds with 2018’s “Is’phukuphuku,” working alongside experimental musician and producer Thor Rixon, beat wizard Jakinda (from the future-kwaito duo Stiff Pap) and Cape Town-based musician Albany Lore.

Mx Blouse’s next project is an even further progression of their sound. “It’s a dance music EP and I think there will be many surprises for anyone who listens to my music,” they say. “I’m still keeping some Kwaito, house, and gqom influences, though the most surprising thing will be the lead single, which is a very pop hit and I’m very excited about it.”

Without conforming to anyone’s ideas of who they should be, or what they should sound like, Mx Blouse is blazing a trail to success on their own terms.

All clothing: alc man/alc woman