Groundbreaking people are often seen as ones who are needed to keep the industry they are in on their toes. Trans rapper Braydbunch is setting out to be that shape shifter in the music world in 2019 and beyond as their lyricism, beats and who they identify as has never really been seen before in an arena that is constantly changing.
Braydbunch has done a phenomenal job at developing a major online presence due to her songs that have already racked up millions of views like "Deaf to the Hate" and "BANG!" She's giving the industry a major wake up call, one that appears to be needed given just how boring and redundant the hip-hop world has become lately.
The most important aspect of Braydbunch is the sense that she is doing all of this unapologetically. Getting to the place that she is now has not been easy, with the backlash of her transition and more, but she's doing this not only for her community but the bevy of kids she teaches in New York City.
Braydbunch sat down with me to discuss all of that and more in a truly eye-opening interview earlier this week. Check it out.
Do you feel as if you are breaking ground in the music scene due to how you identify?
Without a doubt. I think my transgender identity works both for me and against me in many ways. Overall, being transgender is usually a disadvantage for me in the current world we live in. After transition, many of the privileges I had as a white male were ripped out from underneath me. For example, I went from quickly climbing up the ladder as a man in the school system, to having my reputation smeared, was physically assaulted multiple times in the work place and nearly had my career unfairly ruined by supervisors who were transphobic and did not want a transgender teacher in the public school system. However, I used all the hate directed at me to light a fire and did not allow others to unfairly end my career due to my LGBT status.
I held onto receipts, covered my ass and worked harder than ever to prove myself in a work environment that did not want me there. The road has been a long one, but I like to think I came out on top and proved all my haters wrong. However, I know my case is currently being investigated by the EEOC who I hope does the right thing and holds those who did me wrong accountable for breaking laws. However, I currently teach in one of the greatest city schools in the country, much due to my passion for teaching. I also think that my trans status makes people talk more about me than the typical rapper trying to make it in the hip hop game. Some of the talk is positive and others are clearly hating, I am not going to lie, people love to hate on me for being both white and transgender in the hip hop world. In a way, I know I need to try harder than most to prove myself to the world as a rapper.
However, my experiences make me more unique than the typical SoundCloud mumble rapper rising to fame these days. I have things to talk about that others haven't experienced. I offer a different perspective of the world through my music. However, I'm getting better by the day and the haters are slowly getting quieter and quieter. Especially as my download and play counts increase worldwide. People can hate all they want but you can't hate on statistics. I am currently the biggest transgender rapper in the game. I also have built this following all through myself. I don't have a promo team or giant label behind me. Much like Tekashi 6ix9ine, I am building an empire all by myself one day at a time. This is just the beginning for me, and I am touched with the support I have received from my fans. I am definitely going to use my transgender status to help me gain attention, but overall I want to become so good that eventually that will be the last thing people remember about me.
What made you want to get into the world of hip hop seeing as your day job is much different?
Well, I have always loved music, particularly hip hop. I won my first official rap battle when I was in 8th grade. However, I also tried to be a Rockstar when I was younger. When I was in high school, I had many failed attempts at forming musical groups, such as my high school band The Sophmorons. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that most people weren't as hungry as I was. I couldn't rely on anyone who was as passionate as I was when I was younger, so most of my musical projects ended up hitting a dead end. However, I never gave up on the dream of being a superstar one day.
You see, a large theme of my early life was always being told that I couldn't accomplish certain things by others. Others were always crushing my dreams and sadly the younger me was more susceptible to the opinions of others. I always had dreams, such as living my life authentically as a trans woman. I reached a point in my life where I felt like I wasn't living my life and decided that I needed to reclaim my time. I decided to focus on myself before everyone else for once. I made a conscious decision to chase down all my dreams that nearly escaped me. I now am making them all happen. I got married to a beautiful woman that I loved with all my heart, I work as an openly transgender high school teacher in NYC and am now starting to make a name for myself in the rap game.
However, the real reason I decided to give this a shot is due to David Bowie, believe it or not. Last spring, I was going through a rough time in my life. I was going through a divorce and felt like I was all alone in this world. Writing poetry and listening to music helped heal my damaged soul during this dark time in my life. By chance an old friend happened to contact me while they were visiting NYC for the week. They invited me to the David Bowie exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and I jumped at the opportunity. Little did I know at the time, but I was going to leave changed forever.
I swear, I feel as if I got more out of that exhibit than anyone else on the planet. I left feeling inspired, almost possessed by Bowie himself. From the fashion, to the music, to the lyrics, to his personal story it all was so relatable to me. He was so ahead of his time in many ways. He blurred the lines of gender and sexuality in the most beautiful way. He also surrounded himself with others who were so talented that he could grow off. Most importantly, he did not try to fit into anyone’s boxes. He lived life how he wanted to. I left that exhibit and never looked back. I no longer was going to try to appease anyone in life with my lifestyle choices. I was just going to be unapologetically me. I went home that night and recorded my first mixtape over the rest of spring break. Were my songs good? Most were horrible to tell the truth. However, like a sport, I knew with practice I would just get better and better. Even Michael Jordan had to start somewhere.
I returned to school from break and informed my students that their next project was going to be to make a historically based mixtape. I was quickly nicknamed Shady Brady by one of my students and the rest is now history.
How do your students support you in the process?
At first, many of my students laughed at the idea of a transgender rapper. I was told that I would never make it. I even had some kids challenge me to some rap battles. To be honest I caught a lot of hate from the kids early on. NYC high school kids can be very honest and open. My early stuff wasn't too hot. However, it became clear to me that I was getting better when I released the song “Best Men” online and on Spotify. It was a song I wrote from the heart about the best man at my wedding, who told me I couldn't be part of his wedding party unless I presented as a man. There is more to the story, but this burned my soul. What amazed me was the fact that kids were singing the song on their own in classes. They were sharing it with friends and memorizing the lyrics. Suddenly, kids were coming to me for help with their own music.
When this current school year started, I realized that many kids had a strong passion for hip hop just like I did. I decided to start an after-school program for beat making and rapping. What started with just a few kids has now turned into one of the largest programs in the school. I have a real producer come in twice a week to help me teach these kids how to make beats and record their own songs. This producer works with some of the biggest artists in the rap game himself. I have even put my own money into getting them the equipment they need to start their own studio at the school. The club has become so successful that I even have former students who are in college showing up to help and participate. Even crazier is the fact that high school kids from other schools are showing up too. Many of my students are now putting on their own live shows and building up large followings online themselves. Students are even popping in to my room during lunch so I can help them with their own songs and beats that they are working on. I am proud to say that many of them are now talking about going to school for music production when they graduate.
These kids are so talented and have really helped me with my own music making process. They have exposed me to artists I have never heard of and will give me honest feedback on my flow, beats and lyrics. These kids have helped turn me into both a better artist and teacher.
The most amazing part of all of this is the fact that music brought us all together. Many of these kids never actually knew a transgender person before meeting me. Some of them have shared with me that I have made them look at transgender people in a completely different light. One student told me that he hated LGBTQ people until he got to know me in my hip hop club. He now even hangs out with a trans kid who shows up to my club sometimes. The fact that these students accept me is hard to believe sometimes. Especially because I used to work in schools where I was physically attacked for being transgender in the past.
Would you like to make music your full-time gig?
Yes, I would. However, I would love to be able to keep teaching as well. I dream of a large international tour one day. Maybe I can time my tour dates with my breaks as a teacher. In all seriousness though, I have started my own recording studio known as Braydbunch Studios. The studio is still under construction but should be fully up and running by this summer.
Although I love the idea that some labels have reached out to me already, if I get signed it would have to be to the right label. I'd love to get signed to A Boogies' label, Queens Bridge the Label. However, I also am thinking of starting my own label much like him and his crew did. I know enough talent to start one and believe that I really am going to slowly take over the New York hip hop scene. Considering I have my own studio, I may just have to make it happen. Much like 6ix9ine, I would love to pave my own road to success. However, I know that getting signed to a major label could only open many doors that I currently do not have access to. I would also love to have the money behind me to expand my reach.
You just passed half a million views on your song "Deaf to the Hate". How did it feel to reach that milestone?
Although it feels amazing, I know this is just the beginning. I am currently working on finishing a music video for a song that I believe is going to be a true hit. One of the record labels that helped 6ix9ine blow up is planning on releasing my next single and video on their end. I believe that I will pass a million views in no time. In fact, I am all about progress so I know that I am going to release a couple of videos that will easily pass a million views.
Furthermore, I am more excited about the success of my recent mixtape that I have been sharing on my SoundCloud. If anyone hasn't heard it yet, you are missing out and should give it a try at www.soundcloud.com/braydbunch. My current single “Why You So Mad Bro?” Feat. Xhristian!, Shandrika and Young the Third (Prod. LeftyLouC) has almost 300k plays in less than two weeks. “The Heart Bursts” FEAT. Xhristian! x Sxlitary x Stezie (Prod LeftyLouC) has well over 300k plays in a little more than two weeks and other songs from The Shady Brady MixTape are doing just as well if not better. I even have around 40 k followers on SoundCloud which I believe will only increase in time.
It also blows my mind that “Deaf to the Hate” has been Shazam’d over 20k times. Many mainstream artists have smaller numbers than I do.
Lastly, I am proud of the fact that I have around 1 million streams on Spotify in less than a year. My monthly listener count is around 40k people each month as well. This is amazing considering I am an independent transgender artist. Even better is the fact that most of my good stuff hasn't even been released on their yet. I have millions of streams worldwide on other streaming platforms at well. I hope to just increase my following each month from here on out.
Speaking of "hate", how do you silence them in such a politically-charged time?
Well, the lyrics to my song “Deaf to the Hate” are pretty much it. I block them out and don't listen. I keep my eye on the prize. I will never make everyone happy and am used to the hate from both the cisgender and transgender community. In fact, some of the most hate comes from the transgender community itself. This is one of the reasons I have embraced the non-binary movement. I refuse to squeeze into anyone’s boxes. I've been told how to act as a trans woman from both cisgender people and transgender people who had no right to tell me how to live my life. Just like I block out the "Transplainers", I try my best to block out the haters.
All the hate I receive just makes me stronger. I know that each time I release a better song or video, that I will silence some of these haters as I already have some. Others will continue to hate on me, but as say in my song, that's just a sign "that the games about to me mine."
Furthermore, as a transgender woman. I have seen true hate up close and personal many times. I even had my own aunt & uncle disinvite themselves from my wedding when they found out about my transition. They even took me out of their wills and left all their inheritance to my two sisters, one who is even a lesbian. I know there are certain people out there who hate me simply for being trans. I'd say that is more their problem than mine. I keep my circle small these days and only let in people I truly trust. I lost most of "closest" friends and family after I transitioned. I am used to the hate and it only makes me stronger.
What does the future hold for your budding career in 2019 and beyond?
2019 is going to be my year, I can just feel it. I am excited for Braydbunch Studios to be up and running this summer. I can't wait to release my next single because I know it is going to be a hit. A leaked clip of the song went viral in NYC on both Snapchat and Instagram with hundreds of thousands seeing it in a day. My Instagram just seems to grow each day. It seems everyone wants to learn more about Braydbunch these days.
I also think my success comes from believing in myself. I know I am special. I know I will be a star. I know I will be signed to a label or will start my own. I will continue to grow in popularity. I will get the Instagram blue badge lol. Most importantly though is the large show I have planned for this summer. I have done a few local small shows in Brooklyn that have been amazing. However, I am almost done securing the location to my first large Brooklyn based show this summer. Tickets should be announced shortly, and it is going to be EPIC, I promise. After that, I plan on trying to do a small American and Canadian Tour. I have a large following in Canada and want to possibly perform some shows in Montreal or Toronto this summer as well.
I am also finishing up my first official EP that I hope to release by April. I know the world is going to love it.
I also am curious to see if the EEOC does the right thing with my claims. If not, I may have to decide whether to take my case to Federal Court to fight for trans rights.
Lastly, I hope to find true love this year. Video models are fun and all, but I want something real. Need to find my queen so we can build an empire together like Jay-Z and Beyonce.
For more information on Braydbunch, check out their official Instagram.