Tonight I'd like to introduce you to Babeo Baggins and the Barftroop whose motto is the brutally simple - "Fuck with us or don't, its that simple." That's right, if you want straight talking and in your face attitude then you've come to the right place. Do you remember back in January when I wrote about the sexily subversive hip hop of Lady Boners and their song Bacon Pancakes? Well, if you liked that then you're going to love this. Barftroop is five young women from the US who all met through being bloggers. Marshaled by the formidable Babeo Baggins they set about challenging the negative stereotype of the 'black female rapper' through their provocative and exciting music and art. The five members of Barftroop are;
Babe Field, and
I came across their music on bandcamp and soundcloud and I immediately found it arresting. It's loosely within the hip-hop tradition but is obviously much freer and playful than that genre normally allows.
I was also taken by the humour and the bold, explicit sexuality in the music and in the accompanying visual art (which can be found on the Barftroop tumblr page). It seemed to me that this playfully assertive attitude might be an aspect of the group's feminism and I put that question to Barftroop ringleader Babeo. She replied:
"When it comes to our feminism I'd say it's an EXTREMELY important part of our music.
Speaking for myself, my sexual content is greatly influenced by my feminism. As you can hear, my voice is very light and innocent. It's sort of me showing that you can be a sexual creature and not lose your innocence. Because innocence is held in some strange, important light when it comes to women, and if you have sex or talk about sexual things people deem it 'gone' as if it's a bad thing to be sexual. Or as if I have to be completely pure to still have a grasp on my innocence. As though my sexuality should make me feel guilty and ashamed so that there's no way I could still be innocent. I don't like that thought process. I just want anyone who listens to my music, mainly women, to feel like you can be sexual and sweet and innocent. You can be anything you want to be, no one has the right to tell you any different.
I think just Barf Troop as a whole, for all the girls-is just us expressing everything we want to express with no filter whatsoever."
I asked Babeo about the band's stated intention not to be confined by labels, especially that of 'black, female rappers'. Specifically, I wanted to know hat were the annoying negative aspects of that stereotype for Barftroop? She replied:
"The negative aspects of the black female rapper would have to be that idea that we're all "rough" and "mean" or "rude". We're all different and we bring a different sort of rapping style to the "black female rapper" image and I'm excited about that. I'm happy to be able to say that I'm a (part) black woman and I'm rapping and I'm not being "hard". I'm rapping about nerdy things and sexual things in a sweet way and being shy and silly. You don't HAVE to be anything just because you're a black female rapper and I think that's what it's about for us. Breaking the stereotypes, but just being ourselves."
So, that's the Barftroop ideology and it serves them well. To hear how it feeds into their music, here are some of the tracks they've produced over the last year:
Hope you liked those. As you can see, all tracks are available as free digital downloads and there are plenty more great tracks like these on Barftroop's bandcamp page.
The last thing worth noting about Barftroop is the group's fantastically vibrant and colourful cartoon art, which I briefly mentioned above . These posters and covers are designed for them by artist and Barftroop fan Yuta Sakakibara and they are graphically, brutally, sexually explicit but with the cutesy overtones of Japanese pop culture. This bizarre combination somehow suits Barftroop perfectly.
Have a look: