Rapper Backxwash Releases Innovative EP ‘Black Sailor Moon’

Witchcraft, Gender, and Catchy Hooks Come Together in Music

Backxwash uses unique and sometimes bizarre and random sounds in her music to create art.  Courtesy Bianca Lecompte

“This is the first tape […] where I feel very, very comfortable, but I feel very, very angry at the same time,” said rapper Backxwash of her latest extended play, Black Sailor Moon. “I’ll be lashing out and explaining why I’m feeling so angry […] That encompasses it, being angry for the right reasons, I think that’s Black Sailor Moon.”

Backxwash’s career is effervescing—just six months after her first EP, F.R.E.A.K.S, she released Black Sailor Moon in December. She regularly performs at queer and social justice events, and raps on many Montreal stages, notably at Casa Del Popolo, Maison 2109, and at Le Cypher jam nights.

“I’m at the point where I’m very comfortable in the music that I’m making and expressing myself,” she said, adding that Black Sailor Moon is very angry, queer, and trans. Conceptually cohesive, the seven track EP explores overarching themes of sexuality, gender, and religion.

“I started rapping when I was thirteen years old,” said Backxwash. “I would rap rhymes and I could flow, and I used to like making hooks as well. […] I used to live in this neighborhood where you had a lot of artists down the street, and it was really fun, but we moved away. And I was like, ‘Well, how am I going to to get my beats from now?’”

She then downloaded FL Studio, a software for music production, and started playing around and producing her own beats. The first attempts were not great, she said, but the more she created, the better she got.

When Backxwash came to Canada from Zambia, she stopped working on her artistry for a while after being told she should concentrate on school. Discovering Le Cypher jam nights in November 2017 felt like a reset for Backxwash, sparking her to take rapping seriously.

Frequently stepping onto Le Cypher’s stage at their weekly jam sessions allowed Backxwash to experiment and learn about her rapping voice. “Using that new voice on the new EP works out pretty well,” she said. “The process is just also [about] becoming a better writer. Just having a much more complex rhyme scheme to go with it.”

“I feel like rhyme schemes can be mixed and matched in so many different ways,” Backxwash continued. “That’s probably one my favorite parts of writing a song, just like, coming up with the rhyme scheme. I try to make it […] complex but still at a level where it’s fun.”

Le Cypher founder Vincent Stephen-Ong said he sees a lot of artists come through at the jam session, but not many make a mark like Backxwash did. She’s an amazing performer with a fresh sound, he added.

Black Sailor Moon is sonically daring, mixing pop elements, like a sample from Britney Spears’ “Toxic” in the song “Aesthetic,” with “hard-core techno beats.” “And I think part of it is just me as an artist being afraid to, I guess, take the leap of having a strictly dark EP, cause I feel as if people are going to get bored,” said Backxwash.

Backxwash regularly performs at queer and social justice events, and raps on many Montreal stages. Courtesy Bianca Lecompte

Backxwash said that she has a good ear for what’s musically catchy—_Black Sailor Moon_ certainly contains hooks that stay with you.

“I’m very innovative and I try to keep my pieces as experimental as possible. So, a lot of the beats have weird samples to them,” said Backwash. In “Track 1” for example, she sampled the sound of a dog trying to play the piano.

“I found this power in you discovering yourself through music,” said Backxwash. “I feel most comfortable when I’m making music. I just feel really awesome, in the aspect of just not really caring at this point. I’m just trying to make good songs.”

“The fear of talking about whatever you want is completely gone,” she said. She added that when she was working on F.R.E.A.K.S., she was still discovering what it meant to transition and to express herself in lyrics.

Black Sailor Moon is fire,” said hip-hop artist Shades Lawrence. “It’s my understanding that [Backxwash] hasn’t been around that long, and I think she’s really making a splash, and making a splash real quickly.”

If 2018 was a prolific year for Backxwash, it’s only a stepping stone for the next one to come. Many projects are brewing in the near future. A video for the song “F.R.E.A.K.S” is coming out soon, a short tour is in the cards for next summer, where Backxwash is hoping to perform in feminist spaces. Black Sailor Moon will not stay the rapper’s last release for long, as a collaborative EP is in the works, and Backxwash already started working on her album, to be titled Deviancy.

“It goes back to […] the intersection of witchcraft and queerness,” said Backxwash. “It tells the story of a witch who finds a friend. They start practicing witchcraft together […] and somebody finds out. Then, the witch is burnt at the stake, but she survives, and gets revenge on her enemies.”

“I still have a small element of trying to compromise to what I think people want to hear,” she said. “And if I’m going to do this album seriously, I have to go in and just forget about what people want to hear and just make music, just make the type of music that I want.”

Backxwash’s music is available on Spotify, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud. Catch up with her on Facebook to be updated on her upcoming shows. Don’t miss Backxwash’s performance at the Lux Magna festival on Jan. 26.