Brooke Candy: ‘I Don’t Do Well With Barriers’

US rapper discusses empowerment and the art of extremity with Martyn Young.

Hip hop is full of striking characters. There are few rappers that are more diverting and committed to their own singular aesthetic and persona than US rapper Brooke Candy. Over the past few years, she’s established a striking presence through her energised live shows and hypersexual videos depicting a surreal sort of dystopia, satirising a number of elements of pop culture. There is more to Candy than simple shock value though. She’s an artist fiercely committed to promoting a message and an ideology.

How important is it for you to perform live? How do the crowd react and do you thrive on that?
Oh yeah, the only time that I can get out any of my aggression towards the world and aggression towards myself and others, as well as my own sadness, is when I’m performing. That’s when I feel like I have full power. I feel like I’m in control. It’s very important for me to not only perform in general just to stay sane, but to put on a good performance, to really let myself go and just give it every ounce of my being. It’s important for my own sanity because if I don’t give every ounce of myself in that moment I retain some of that craziness. People coming to my performances should expect an amazing show. I’m prepared to give them what they need to see.

Do you notice a different sort of reaction to you and your live shows in the UK compared to the US?
Any UK or actually any European show that I’ve ever played, other than Milan where nobody was really dancing and I couldn’t understand why. When I’m playing festivals that are like underground f**king raves I feel like the audience is fucking crazy. That’s everywhere in Europe from Copenhagen, Denmark to Hamburg, Germany to here in London I’ve played shows that are like fucking riots. People are punching each other and moshing. I grew up in more of a hardcore punk scene. From the age of 14, I was going to hardcore shows. When I was 17, I was very influenced by being a punk rock’n’roll bitch, that’s what I was. Going to those shows it’s so odd to me because the audience mimic what I was seeing when I was going to those punk shows. It’s odd because I’m making hip hop / pop music and I’m starting a fucking riot. It happens more so here than in the US. I’ve played some underground shows in LA where it gets crazy but it never feels quite so authentic. I’ll play a non-English speaking country and not only will they be going insane but they’ll be reciting my lyrics back to me even thought they don’t speak English. It’s kind of surreal. European people are more open to new ideas.

How did you begin making music?
I began making music a while ago, maybe 3-4 years ago, not seriously in any way. Cosmically and organically, I happened to meet a producer in LA who had made a mixtape for a rapper that I knew. He liked the way I looked and he asked me to come to the studio to start making some music. I took a long break though and got kicked out of my house, I went through all this s**t of living in a car and doing jobs that I didn’t want to do. I remembered doing the thing that I was good at and made me happy and I wondered why did I ever stop. Let me try that again. I’m already living the s**ttiest life possible it can’t really get any worse. I decided to start taking things seriously. Taking things seriously can really help you. I don’t want to give the credit to any single person or any single thing for making me do this. It was just a conscious decision based on my life at that point.

The message within your music is empowering and welcoming. It seems like you have no barriers to anyone or anything.
I don’t do well with barriers. I felt contained and trapped most of my life because I was hiding a secret about my sexuality. My family was orthodox Jewish and not only were they not accepting of that they were not accepting of me being around non-Jewish people. It’s very cult like. Anyone that’s grown up in these cult like religious settings would tell you the same thing. It’s like being confined. If you grow up and you’re smart enough to understand that that’s not life, you’re gonna rebel and do the opposite to an extreme.

Imagery is obviously important to you. What feeds into your look, and how does it relate to the music?
My look is really just a representation of my brain. I was born in a generation that had the internet, since I can remember we were using computers and we were raised with that. The internet is definitely intertwined with my aesthetic. It just depends on how I feel. I think I want to stand out and be unique and look as fucking nuts as possible. I’m definitely fucking crazy, that’s for sure. There’s a reason why I look so odd. It’s to draw more attention to what I’m preaching. People my age have a very short attention span, they like to look at things that are weird, and bright and crazy otherwise you’ll lose their attention. Unless I can grab their attention through my imagery, they won’t ever hear what I’m preaching. The only reason that I’m doing this is for people to hear what I’m preaching. The look draws attention to the message.

Your videos are incredibly striking and daring examples of pop art, in particular for ‘Pussy Makes The Rules’. Is this your preferred form of expression?
They’re all so different and they all represent something different. When I read the comments for the new video, I hear everyone saying the obvious comparison is Lady Gaga and things that have been done before in pop culture. If you read the description of the concept of the video though, you’ll see that it’s a satire of pop culture and the way it references religion. It’s kind of like poking fun. It’s definitely a lot more thought out and conceptualised. ’Das Me’ will always be my favourite though. That video cost $100 I put everything together and directed it. That’s what garnered attention from a large amount of people. It’s basically my mission statement. That video is a new, modernised feminist anthem.