“Me and my sister were always smoking, like, you know, smoke weed all the time, drink all the time,” Quay Dash laughs as we discuss her upbringing. “Have parties, you know, the whole nine yards.”
The emcee – who came for the NYC rap throne in 2016 with her track Queen of NY – personifies a New Yorker, her thick accent replacing ‘or’ for ‘aw’ and adding ‘you know’s and ‘like’s as fillers. In conversation, Quay is warm and polite. Her music, on the other hand, makes you feel like dressing up in leather and slow-motion walking down a steamy, damp alleyway while swinging weapons with your girls.
Since breaking through last year, Dash’s steady rise has been paved with a slew of boisterous, braggadocious, shoulder-brushing anthems. It’s the culmination of a life-long relationship with rap. “Hearing it in my area and my home seeing it on TV, rap has definitely shaped my music in a big way,” Dash explains, citing Bronx mainstays like Terror Squad and Remy Ma. Dash grew up in the Bronx herself, spending most of her childhood between the New York foster care system and a residential treatment centre. It wasn’t until she settled with her sister that she began writing and developed the Quay Dash persona. “My sister was a part of a rap group and she was like the only girl amongst a big bunch of guys, it was very impressive.”
While she pools inspiration from homegrown rappers, Dash’s sound is not confined to classic New York hip-hop. She is also a devout hard techno and house fan, and splices elements from club culture into her sound. Having turned heads in 2016, this summer her Transphobic EP was re-released with the hard-hitting, SOPHIE-produced single Bossed Up.
The title of the Transphobic EP is self-explanatory. The project reacted creatively to the abuse and hatred lobbed at Dash for confidently owning her identity. The very nature of Quay Dash is defiant, existing at the intersection of being a black, trans woman in a male-dominated and often transphobic rap industry. “I feel like what I do is pretty powerful,” she says. Dash is hypervisible at a devastating time when trans people are 4.3 times more likely to be murdered compared to cis women and the statistics are overwhelmingly worse if you’re a person of colour. Dash is aware of the dangers but uses her music to present her identity with bravado and fiery confidence, though she doesn’t care much for labels. “I am more than just some tranny or whatever the fuck you wanna call me… I’m sick of people just asking me about being trans, I am just a regular person,” she says. “I wanna be known for my music and talent. I’m not an activist.”
Well, what’s next for the dynamic rapper? Dash is very open and honest about her future. “I’m signed to a record label, and some things just don’t go right. I’m just going to move further and drop an EP and keep going with my independence and make my fans more intrigued”. Transphobic has been snatching edges and defying the rigid norms through witty lyricism and distinct beats. No longer shackled with the bureaucracies of stifling management, Dash has free reign to create an unfiltered sound. Watch out for her next move.