The music industry has been created around the aesthetic, ideals, and myths of a group of gatekeepers who don’t always allow access for the artists whose views are breaking the mold. Hypnocraft Presents is opening a new archetype of gatekeeper, developing a platform for the obscure and marginalized. This week The Hum series, continues at the House of Yes, and will be a tribute to a variety of Brooklyn based musicians who have found a voice in being prophets of self love, positivity and empowerment.
AudioFemme had the opportunity to speak with Bunny Michael and Xhosa about the inspirations, journeys, and struggles of staying true to the expression of self love, positivity and the never ending exploration of conscious expansion.
AudioFemme: What started first, the memes or the music?
Bunny Michael: *Laughs* The music. I’ve been actually performing and making music for almost 10 years now.
AF: How did you first start getting into it?
BM: I had never made music or anything before, and I was hanging out with musicians, and we started free styling. I think this was back in 2004. I started free styling about a bunny rabbit. Then the next day my friend was like let’s put out a record. We toured a bunch, and we were part of that Myspace wave. So we were able to do all these things based on this Myspace hype and it was really fun. Then we broke up and I basically have been doing other projects and learning how to produce music and make music on my own. So my first solo thing was under Bunny Michael.
AF: When did you start doing the spiritual memes that you are becoming more known for now?
BM: It’s funny how it kind of ended up happening through that. I had been, like everyone else, dealing with childhood trauma or dealing with pain stuff, just trying to learn how to heal myself and feel good about myself. So I had been already exploring different ways, through yoga and meditation, and I was reading a lot of spiritual books. I kind of had a spiritual awakening after the Bunny Rabbit project ended, because I was at a really low point at that time. I was doing music with somebody, who I was in a romantic relationship with and it was really abusive actually, to be honest, and I had to heal myself after that. So I got really into spirituality and have just been on that path ever since. Then a few years ago I had a meditation and I could see one version of myself, hugging the other version of myself, and it was the healing vision.
I had already been making photographs and art with two of me. I had actually already had an art photography show in Bushwick even before the memes. It was all digital photos of two of me. But I didn’t start making the memes until like two years ago. Then I decided to only do the memes on my instagram.
AF: How do you get people informed about all these different kinds of pieces that you are creating?
BM: The music has always been about consciousness exploration, and higher stages of consciouness, that has always been the message behind the rapping. In the past year I’ve been really trying to merge the two worlds together. During my live show I have parts where I talk to my higher self on the phone and he answers back. I’m really trying to build a world that is beyond memes, and incorporating it into the music more and more and being known for the message. Because to me that is the most important part of the entire, whatever I’m doing. It isn’t really the form, it’s the message behind it. I’m still finding creative ways to merge the music and the higher message together.
AF: It is so powerful when an artist can transcend aesthetic and medium to focus on the message.
BM: Yeah that’s how I know I will always have something to do. The purpose is beyond me, beyond my agenda, or my success. The purpose is the inner journey, and I’m always gonna be on it. It’s kinda of like I set myself up for this thing, that I can’t really get out of at this point.
AF: Will you be collaborating with someone else for The Hum, or will you be performing solo?
BM: It is going to be my music, but two of my really good friends are going to be backing me up, on drums and guitar. I have been friends with them for a long time, and we have never played music together. One of them is named Zoie Omega and also L.K. Napolitano, and they are really excited to be playing. It’s been really fun to practice with them and we’re really excited, now we want to start a new punk girl band.
AF: What is the significance for you of having a space like The Hum, a more female oriented musical space?
BM: For me, I think about gender as a reconditioning process, and we are all at different points in our growth right now. It’s exciting that there’s obviously more awareness and people are becoming more vocal about how brain washed we are to believe in this binary situation. We are all at different points, so right now it is very necessary to have these events that are exclusively this way to bring more attention to the necessity of those things. So it’s a very important step in the growth and achievement of that.
I normally play with the guy that I work with on production, he normally plays on stage with me. And so I was like “I can’t have you this time”. So it was good for me too, because it got me to reach out to other people.
AF: This lineup of The Hum is specifically focused around artists who are not just musicians, they are all icons for an idea.
BM: I think that is sort of just how we are growing to be as artists, because you can’t really separate yourself from the work now in so many ways. It’s more about the artist and their journey, that’s becoming so much a part of why people are interested in things. It’s the story behind it, and I think that’s really great. Because it’s also enabling a lot of access to people who wouldn’t normally have it. So it’s a really exciting to be courageously putting your work out there and doing it for the right reasons.
AF: How does having a space like The Hum help you maintain an essence of femininity and vulnerability in your music?
X: I like that this series helps celebrate that idea and focuses on that specifically. I was really excited to hear the lineup for the show is Bunny Michael, and I already knew I was playing with Sateen, but I just think that between the three of these acts, it’s going to be a very positive empowering show. I was just excited to see everyone who is a part of it to be honest. I feel like the music that is being pushed to the fore front in this series should get more love, so I’m glad that The Hum is doing it.
AF: What impact do you think The Hum has on the community of artists that are trying to bring these positive messages to life?
X: I feel like in the music industry can get a little discouraging as a whole for artists that aren’t feeding into this massuline narrative. In many ways artists that don’t do that get overlooked or disregarded, and there is twice the amount of pressure to be strong, but also look good. You have to prove yourself and prove what you’re doing is actually technically good. I feel like The Hum series kind of weeds through all that, and just showcases that these people are actually talented musicians and need a platform to share that. That doesn’t really happen in this industry as a whole. Because a lot of the gatekeepers don’t really see the value.
AF: The aspect of the gate keepers is definitely a huge issue, and who those gatekeepers are and what kind of influence they have on what we see and consume artistically.
X: A lot of time they’ll look at a woman artist and automatically assume that what we are saying is less important, that what we are playing is less difficult, that the work we are putting into it is not as much. In a lot of cases we have to work twice as hard to prove something.
For audience goers I think it’s important to see themselves reflected in the people that are there on stage and showcased. The industry was kind of set by minimizing females rolls in the industry. When I think a lot of music listeners are looking to get empowered by people who look like them, or represent the values that they have.
AF: Is there anything that you’ll be performing at The Hum that you’re really looking forward to?
X: I’m excited for all my songs equally, but I’m going to be performing some unreleased stuff that I’ve been starting to perform more lately that I’m really excited about. It’s all stuff off my upcoming mix tape, LVL 9. Usually I produce all my music but with this mix tape the concept is that I’m collaborating with the artists around me more so. Showcasing the people that inspire me directly and inspire my sound, and it’s got more of a hip hop influence.
I’m excited about performing that because I feel like it will kind of contribute to the hype of the night. There are some songs off of it that I think are really important, like “Vision” that’s a call to action. Cause it’s important throughout this self help positivity thing that we are all preaching that we put a sense of responsibility behind that, and an edge and an aggression too. It’s not all “I’m happy now and then the world is better. If I just love myself hard enough then all my problems will go away”. It’s a balance of both and being fierce in that, and taking responsibility in that too, to spread that message, and influence people positively.
AF: It’s important to discuss that, because yea you can love yourself, but shit’s still gonna be hard.
X: That’s basically something I’ve had to come to terms with personally. A lot of the time my optimism is to fault. I express that a lot in my music, because it is an outlet, and it helps me get through certain things personally. I had to learn that just looking at the bright side all the time doesn’t necessarily make the situation better. Just because I know it could be doesn’t mean I don’t have to work to make certain decisions to make sure that is the case.