Lucas Charlie Rose on His Creative Process, Mental Health & Activism

Black Trans Artist Makes Ratchet Music with a Message

A warm and bright smile covers Lucas Charlie Rose’s face at his studio in Montreal. Photo Daren Zomerman

Locked in a small office that doubles as a recording studio in his apartment, Lucas Charlie Rose works with no days off.

This article has been updated.

His room is cluttered with two computers, a mixing board, a guitar, a keyboard, tam-tams, and even more instruments. Soul-trap music plays as he masters his songs.

On stage, Rose is bursting with energy, jumping on and engaging with the crowd, enticing them to dance around with him and laugh along to his jokes between songs. He also uses his stage time to deliver messages that are close to his heart.

Rose is a Montreal-based hip-hop artist who describes his sound as “ratchet music with a message.” He is also the founder of the Trans Trenderz record label. He released his sophomore album on Dec. 31, which also happens to be his birthday.

His songs range from playful to vulnerable and are all raw. He approaches topics such as young love, self love, and the social struggles he faces as a Black trans person.

Aside from his music, Rose is also an activist and has been heavily involved with Montreal’s Black Lives Matter chapter.

Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

The Link: How do you feel about your album dropping?

Lucas Charlie Rose: It’s my birthday present to myself. To be honest, 2017 was probably one of the worst years of my life. I realized recently that I don’t remember most of the year, as I was dissociated for most of it because my mental health was so bad. When I listen to the album it’s like I’m hard on myself but I love it at the same time. I don’t know how to explain it. My first album had a different feeling, it was like “Oh my God, I’ve never done this before and it’s on iTunes and Spotify; my career is legit now,” but this is the second album, so I need to keep up with the first one. I have to show growth, which I did because it’s a lot more personal and vulnerable than the first album. I’m trying to remind myself that it’s good to let go. When I make an album, it’s never done. This album isn’t done, I could work on it for six more months.

The Link: How do you feel about having that kind of vulnerability out there?

LCR: Talking to people one-on-one is really hard for me. I have borderline personality disorder, so I’m afraid that if I open up to you, you’ll close the door on me because it’s too much. Music doesn’t do that. Having BPD, people don’t get it because my brain doesn’t work like other people’s brains. Most people expect that a person who is neurodivergent will make all the communication efforts, sometimes people don’t try to find a middle ground. It’s hard because I don’t speak the same language as people emotionally. With music, you have this whole background that doesn’t involve words that is going to make you feel something. I can tell you how I feel and put that music behind it and it just amplifies everything.

Even though you don’t understand exactly how I feel, that music is going to trigger feelings inside of yourself and you can be like, “Oh I’ve felt that before, therefore I can relate.” That’s what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to make people relate. It’s okay if you don’t understand me but you can relate it to your own experiences.

“Hip-hop was created as a way for people who were marginalized to express themselves,” —Lucas Charlie Rose

The Link: What does the process of putting together an album like for you?

LCR: To me, making music is like another state of dissociation. It’s like I’m not really there. The songs come together really fast. Sometimes I barely eat in a day because I’m gone—I’m in this alternate universe making my music and then I come back. Sometimes I listen back to my music and I think, “How the fuck did I come up with this melody? I have no idea.” It’s weird, but I also never want it to stop being like that. I’m not putting a filter on it. For a time I was, but now everything is coming out. It’s a very raw process.

The Link: What does the title Genderf*ckboi mean?

LCR: Everybody sees me as this light skin dude singing about sex, and I guess I have the fuckboy aesthetic. The ‘boi’ is with an ‘i’ intentionally, because I don’t identify as a boy, I identify as a boi. I feel like I’m both a man and non-binary. You can be a man or a masculine person and redefine masculinity as something other than a fuckboy or toxic masculinity. You can still talk about having sex or turning up, you can still listen to ratchet music and still respect people and understand what consent is and be woke.

Being a Black trans guy, people will always talk to you like you’re aggressive or violent or abrasive. Those are words that people use to describe me all the time, but that’s not who I am at all. If you listen to my album you’ll know that, because I talk about who I am, and I’m very vulnerable and open. I feel like I’m a lot less masculine now than I was before because I was overcompensating. The more I’m transitioning, I don’t fuck with gender. It’s also about redefining masculinity. You can be vulnerable, you can talk about what you’re going through, but you can also talk about the fact that you love yourself.

The Link: The album ends with the line: “If I don’t belong in hip-hop, where do I?” Can you expand on that?

LCR: Hip-hop was created as a way for people who were marginalized to express themselves. Because they lacked the resources, they had to find their own way to do it. Hip-hop revolutionized music, where you don’t need money to make music anymore. The first project I released, I was singing in front of a camera, taking the audio out of the video, and putting it onto a beat with a free software. Now it’s so much more accessible. Soulja Boy made Crank That on a demo version of a software. How many millions did that song make? That’s what hip-hop is. It’s DIY. It’s raw. It’s there for marginalized people who are going through shit and no one’s listening to them.

The Link: Can you tell me about your involvement with Black Lives Matter Montreal?

A: When Black Lives Matter Montreal first started, they posted a callout looking for people to join the chapter. I saw it and sent them a message asking if I could give a Trans101 workshop. A lot of trans people have problems with some Black Lives Matter chapters in the U.S. because they aren’t very trans-friendly. If there was one in Montreal, it would be cool if they started on the right foot, and I ended up joining them and doing actions such as the Pride protest. We are close to each other now because we’ve been through so much. Until recently, we were only four members, and it’s hard to get that visibility and hate when you’re only four people. There was a lot, a lot of hate attached to the demos that we did. When you’re in your early 20s and you get that much hate it brings you closer together. In a way it brings a lot of negativity but the positivity is so much stronger. You’re actually doing what’s right.

The Link: What other actions has BLM Montreal taken?

LCR: The first big one we did was the vigil for the death of Pierre Coriolan. We went on stage at the Montreal Jazz Festival and it was our biggest demo, Black Lives Matter Toronto came down to help us. Since Pride we haven’t done much because we’re not a lot of people in Black Lives Matter, we don’t have a lot of resources. We’ve mostly been holding events. I’m an artist and I know that going out and dancing is also a form of activism sometimes; when you’re feeling down you need a place to be around your people. I really want Black Lives Matter to offer that to people, especially for Black queer people. After our Pride actions we held a Black Lives Matter show at La Vitrola. We also did a Halloween party at La Sala Rossa which was fun.

The Link: What’s the message you want the people reading this to take away?

LCR: I don’t see a lack of resources as something that stops you, I see it as a blessing. Listening to my album and the budget behind it, what I did with that zero dollars, imagine what I could do with a million. If you don’t have any resources it’s fine, but find a way to do it. I always find that the most genius people are in the hood right now: hustling and finding creative ways to make money. It’s a matter of not being scared to put yourself out there. I did it. I’m trans, most people out there don’t even know trans guys are a thing. If I can do it anybody can do it, let’s be honest. That’s my inspirational message.

In a pervious version of this article, the term BPD was written as bipolar disorder when it should have said borderline personality disorder. The Link regrets the error.