The Whipping Winds of a Radical Love: A Sonic Timeline of My Struggle for Love and Me
I glared at the camera, the proverbial outside eye watching me toil with myself for the past two years, and gave it a good “what the fuck are you looking at?”
This is not my fault; this is not my burden to carry.
T1: Charcoal Baby – Blood Orange
Frank Ocean aside, Blood Orange was the first openly gay artist I thoroughly listened to. I loved their 2018 project Negro Swan, drawn specifically to its breakout track, “Charcoal Baby,” which expresses the isolation and otherness that comes tied to Blackness and queerness. I remember feeling uncomfortable when I realized queerness was a theme, not for outwardly homophobic reasons, but moreso due to an inward homophobic fright I had that I, too, could be subject to this very torment. It was only when I pushed through those confused feelings and willed myself to continue listening that the project revealed itself to me.
T2: Peroxide – Ecco2k
For this song, I recommend that you watch the music video to get the full idea. The way I found it was pretty funny. I could write an entire dissertation on why it’s funny, but in short, there used to be a whole Twitter trend dedicated to making “gay versions” of songs, where users took the beats of popular tracks and superimposed their own homoerotic lyrics over them, and I eventually ran into the one for “Peroxide,” named “Gayroxide,” where the interpolator crooned of being “at the bus stop, sucking cock / Cock x7.” I listened to the real version of the song “as a joke” at first, but in time, it would grow to become something I cherished on a personal level.
The video was like nothing like I’d seen before. There Ecco was, floating in the midst of a waterbound windmill farm in a white dingy, seductively dancing whilst sipping from a canister of gasoline. The way he carelessly floated the line “they all stare at me, I don’t care at all” made my brain do backflips: I didn’t need to disregard my wants in fear of other people’s perceptions because, frankly, they were hating for stupid and invalid reasons. I was ready to confront whatever I was scared of.
T3: Let’s Get Blown – Snoop Dogg & Pharrell
Eventually, the time came for me to prove this. Sitting in my basement intoxicated off of what I will for legal reasons say was communion wine, I was scrolling through Twitter until, to my amazement, I realized that Let’s Get Blown, off of Snoop Dogg’s Rhythm & Gangsta — one of my favorite childhood songs — had a music video. I watched it all the way through and had one main takeaway: Pharrell is a pretty man. A very pretty man.
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. All the suppressed thoughts, the Freudian slips, the homoerotic jokes came floating to the surface and I finally admitted to myself: I’m queer. Prior to my exposure to Ecco2k, I’m not sure if I would have been so comfortable with this mindset. It seemed I was done playing the game, I was done running, done lying, done hiding, done convincing.
T4: Nappy Wonder – Blood Orange
Because most of this process occurred during quarantine, my battle had been mostly internal and shielded from social pressure: it was easy for me to ignore the outside eye, because it couldn’t see me. Over the summer, I cycled through different braided hairstyles and eventually landed on one with bobos (look up “bobos hair” for context) tied to the ends of my hair, paired with a gel set painted onto my nails. I posted it to my Snapchat story, as I usually did when I changed my hair, but this time, that once-absent outside eye came back with boiling rage. There’s no need to go into the details of the comments that were made, but one former friend sent a barrage of f-slurs into my messages.
That night was probably the lowest I had ever been in my entire life. All the progress I had made, all the time, the devotion, the digging, the building, the redefinition and the reconstruction came tumbling down, imploding upon itself, fogging and suffocating me in its remnants. In this state, I decided to return to Negro Swan to remedy my ails, but, unexpectedly, it dug me deeper: much deeper. By the time I arrived at Nappy Wonder, its slow crawl, dredge of lament, and the powerless plea of “feelings never had no ethics” swiped its sharp edge against my already-raw chest. I was a puddle of a man, wading in a pool of self-hatred and disgust. I felt that all this “self-realization” was a lie. I felt like a fucking idiot.
T5: In the Flesh – Ecco2k
I never liked listening to sad music when I was sad, and now I remembered why. Halfway through Nappy Wonder, I cut the music to Ethiopian Jazz (which didn’t do much to help), then to Ecco2k’s PXE EP. God, the waves of tingling that go over my brain thinking about the relief that that was. Those first two synths came in—Lord, they came in with such a radical, heavy-handed rejection of the omnipresent outside eye that had been pounding my brain to mush. Ecco describes this project as sounding like “throwing a car battery into a washing machine,” but it was the most comforting thing I’d heard in my life. Rather than Negro Swan’s method of finding peace within yourself amidst the social conditions surrounding you, PXE served as a combatant to it. I reconsidered: this is not a battle to fight against myself. It’s not my fault for being queer, it’s their fault for not being able to deal with it. The weight was lifted from my chest, and the monkey freed itself from my back. It felt like when Truman realized he was in The Truman Show. I glared at the camera, the proverbial outside eye watching me toil with myself for the past two years, and gave it a good “what the fuck are you looking at?”
T6: Jalouse – Ecco2k
That wasn’t it though. In the song immediately after, Jalouse, Ecco delivered the final nail in the coffin:
“You don’t have to act so jealous
I can tell by the way you look at us
And you want something you won’t get, huh?
Oh, haven’t you had more than enough?
Why you gotta act so jealous?
(You want it, you want it, you want it, you want it)”
Never in my life had I heard lyrics that applied so well. Again, it was emphasized: this is not my fault, this is not my burden to carry. They see me living my life how I define it and they hate it—not because I’m different, not because I’m an “outsider,” not because I’m “gross”—but because they’re too scared to feel this feeling themselves. Critical thinking is left behind, struggling and bubbling in the mud over simple, subconscious jealousy.