Jaewynn is a fresh queer artist you need to add to your playlists.
The San Francisco-based rapper’s new single Spice Girl is a swaggering, effortlessly-cool track that takes inspiration from late 90s to early 00s R&B and hip-hop – and of course the pop culture-defining British girl group the Spice Girls.
As well as being a total earworm, the song sees Jaewynn put her queerness front-and-centre in a genre that historically hasn’t been very welcoming to members of the LGBTQ community – at least not in the mainstream – and using female pronouns and rapping about sexual encounters with another womxn.
“It is of the upmost importance for people to see this kind of romantic love,” she tells us. “It displays solidarity and camaraderie to fellow queer folk, and it lets anti-LGBTQ people know and see that we are here, we are bold, we are loving, we are resilient, and we are people deserving of all that life has to offer.”
We spoke to Jaewynn about her music icons, whether a mainstream audience is ready for the new wave of out-and-proud queer musicians, and how the Spice Girls helped inspire her with their ‘girl power’ mantra.
When did you first discover your love for music?
I first discovered my deep love for music when I was growing up in the Mission District of San Francisco. In stark contrast to the gentrified tech city it is now, San Francisco and the Mission was once a multicultural melting pot and so I had the pleasure of making all kinds of friends from different walks of life. They introduced me to R&B, Hip Hop, and Rap and I fell in love instantly. I was finally able to branch out and start listening to things that resonated with me. The first song I memorised word for word was Lauryn Hill’s Doo Wop (That Thing) I was so completely entranced by the melodies, her singing, rap, the beat, ad-libs, and that deep, sultry voice of hers. That entrancement and love for R&B, Hip Hop, and Rap will last my lifetime.
Your new song Spice Girl is incredible. Where did the inspiration for that come from?
Thank you so much I appreciate it. I found the beat on Soundcloud from an extremely talented producer (PoetED) and it took me away into another world. I immediately started saying, “Give me what I want, what I want, like a Spice Girl”, and it felt so effortlessly perfect I knew that was going to be the core of the song. I brought my fiancé into the studio with me to show her that line I recorded and she flipped out and said, “We need to make this song a tribute to the songs we knew and loved growing up”, which was exactly what I needed to hear. It was an incredibly fun song to make and it fell together in only a couple of hours.
The Spice Girls revolutionised ‘girl power’ – do they have any special meaning to you personally?
The Spice Girls were an iconic symbol of just that – girl power! They were a diverse group of women making songs about friends, love, respect, and success at a time when I was just learning my first words. I looked up to them and idolised them so much. My sisters and I would morph into the Spice Girls and perform their songs in my living room.
The song is inspired by 90s/00s artists. Who are some of your favourites?
Oh my gosh, don’t get me started! I literally only have 90s and Y2K hip-hop and R&B downloaded on my phone. I’m a pretty nostalgic person in general so I’ve been listening to the same music since I was a kid. Off the top my head, my favourites are Aaliyah (rest in peace baby girl), Lauryn Hill, Tupac (rest in peace King), Musiq Soulchild, Ginuwine, TLC (rest in peace beauty), Destiny’s Child… the list goes on. My sister found the Aaliyah album in a thrift store and I learned all of the lyrics to every song within a week. I had these artist’s albums playing on repeat for years and continue to listen to them to this day.
The video features a romance between two queer womxn, how important is it for people to see this on their screens?
It is of the upmost and pressing importance for people to see this kind of romantic love on their screens. It displays solidarity and camaraderie to fellow queer folk; it lets anti-LGBTQ people know and see that we are here, we are bold, we are loving, we are caring, we are resilient, and we are people deserving of all that life has to offer; and it gives people hope for a more open and understanding future generation.
Were there any queer womxn you looked up to when you were growing up?
When I was growing up in the 90s and 00s it was taboo to be out so most of the queer people I looked up to and idolised were only rumoured to be a part of the community. My first crush was Alicia Keys and I was sure we would get married. I’m so appreciative to live in a time when my sexual preferences and gender do not need to be stifled and are more accepted.
As a queer person and a womxn of colour, do you feel a responsibility to represent these intersecting communities?
I feel a responsibility to fully represent myself in all aspects, absolutely. By extension I am representing and giving a voice to the people that are akin to me. I hope that the people who look like me and feel like me can see me and know that we have the right to be exactly who we are. We have the right to feel the way we feel, be it proud, scared, confident, anxious, included, marginalised, happy or sad. As a cis mixed race womxn, I have felt every emotion and feeling in that broad spectrum, and sometimes feel all of them in the same day. It’s a beautiful hard knock life and I want queer folk, people of colour, and women to see me and know that there is community and solidarity everywhere.
You performed at San Francisco Pride this year. What is your favourite thing about being part of the queer community?
I absolutely love the inclusivity. Anytime I am in a queer space, I feel safe, seen, loved, and protected. We have all been through so much and most of us are just looking to feel heard and seen and feel secure. It is sometimes hard for me to feel both at the same time, but when I am in a queer space I feel the most at ease.
There are a lot of queer artists rising up now. Do you think the mainstream world is ready for them?
It’s been a long time coming. Too long. I’m often sad and resentful that the world wasn’t ready for it earlier because there are so many beautiful queer souls who paved the way for people like me. People who worked hard to be seen but were shamed or ignored. People who wanted to tell their stories but were silenced. People who put their blood sweat and tears into their craft but were never acknowledged. I honour them and look up to them and mostly I thank them for making it possible for people like me to do what I love and be accepted.
Your looks are incredible – who are your style icons and why?
If I’m being totally honest, I am most comfortable when I’m eating pho in my partner’s oversized hoodie and sweatpants. If I am caught out in a cute fit, it is definitely something out of her wardrobe, or something she picked out for me in a cute thrift store. I am often presented with the dichotomy of wanting to feel sexy and wanting to be comfortable. It’s why I live for any of the outfits my partner pieces together for me. A tight shirt and baggy pant is the best of both worlds and my ultimate go- to fit. The inspiration behind the styling in the Spice Girl music video was heavily influenced by that kind of comfy-sexy 90s aesthetic.
Do you have plans for an album or an EP in the near future?
I have a Spice Girl vogue remix coming soon by Lazy Flow out of Paris and an an Afro-house remix to my first single Right Now featuring Tia NoMore by Grammy-nominated producer Stylo Live. I am also diligently working on my EP which is set to drop early 2020.
What does 2020 have in store for you?
I hope in 2020 I am afforded the opportunity to continue doing what I love. Making music has been a passion of mine since I can remember and that is where my focus is. Through my music, I want to be able to spread love, hope, strength, positivity, and the idea that our wildest dreams and goals are within our reach. To anyone who needs to hear it and is willing to listen.
Jaewynn’s new single Spice Girl is out now.