From demos to debut albums, SoundCloud is often the first stop for any artist looking to get their music into the world. Now home to more than 20 million creators, the platform has helped empower a new generation of DIY artists to reach an audience without having to compromise who they are. To celebrate Pride, PAPER teamed up with SoundCloud to spotlight rising LGBTQ+ musicians all month long. We're already obsessed, and you will be too.

Chicago-based artist and performer Cae Monāe is not afraid to get confrontational in her work. Combing elements of trap, deconstructed club, poetry, and found sound into her ambient soundscapes, Monāe's work addresses head on the brutal reality of what it is like to be a trans woman of color today. If her work makes you uncomfortable, good. You probably needed a wake up call anyway.

Her most recent audio triptych, WOMXN, ranges in scope from microaggressions to the macro-injustices that define centuries of systematic oppression. The EP's opener "Janet" cleverly inverts this dynamic with this mocking, almost meditative, sample that asks, "Who was the first person you told you were cis too?" It's repeated to the point of nausea before Monāe lets the track succumb to an overwhelming drone.

Monāe's sound collages pull no punches when it comes to harsh realities and inconvenient truths, but that doesn't mean they aren't all doom and gloom. Much like browsing Monāe's Instagram page, her productions are colorful, vibrant, and with a fantastical surreal quality that makes them immediately captivating. Whether it's bouncing off the walls of a gallery or shaking the dirt and grime off the basement floor of an unmarked club, Monāe makes herself known.

PAPER caught up with Cae Monāe to help you get acquainted with the sonic storyteller. Follow her on SoundCloud, here.

How would you best describe your sound?

Experimental. Accidental. Purposeful. My private diary of magic spells and fuck ups.

How do you identify?

TRANSCENDED WOMAN, business woman, 99% angel, mother of fantasia.

What was the most insane show you've ever played?

I was booked by FUTUREHOOD to do a show at Metro for IML. It was the biggest stage and sound system I've ever played on. I was terrified, but as soon as I heard the bass hit — baby — a shiver went through my puutwa and the rest became a dream.

Who are your influences/inspirations?

Black and Latina voices. Stories of pain and triumph. A blunt and glass of sauvignon blanc after a long day of mind numbing experiences. Painters. Trans Women. Sexual Partners. Sex Workers. My Mother.

What was the first MP3 you ever downloaded?

Black Eyed Peas - My Humps (Lil Jon Remix).

Who are your queer music icons?

Janelle Monáe, Cakes da Killa, Ariel Zetina, Tyler Okonma, Jasmine Infiniti, Big Momma, Mister Wallace and FUTUREHOOD — the girls.

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride is Marsha P. Johnson. She is Sylvia Rivera. She is a phenomenal woman and radical celebration of life.

"It is a dark and exciting thing being a queer woman, a queer artist. It's this illogical experience that has created my most admirable friends and family."

As a queer artist, what challenges have you faced?

I guess the biggest challenge has been resilience. Shining after being used as toilet tissue. Smiling after being laughed at. Surviving after being stabbed in the back. It is a dark and exciting thing being a queer woman, a queer artist. It's this illogical experience that has created my most admirable friends and family.

How would you like to see the industry be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ voices?

We are everywhere — no matter how exclusive industries try to be; you can not hear, see, wear, taste or experience something that hasn't been influenced or created by queer people.

Why do you think SoundCloud important to creators in the LBGTQ community?

More often than understood, queer and trans people do not have platforms that are financially and publicly accessible. It allows us to have a dominion to speak and share without limitation or expectation.

What other queer creators have you discovered while on SoundCloud?

I have found a new world of community. I've found my sisters, friends and mothers. Too many to mention but too few to be unmentioned — A community that showed me that making music on my iPhone and using a public library computer in South Bronx to share it is all I needed to introduce myself to the world.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

A journey — stories, mistakes and fantasy.

Photo courtesy of Cae Monāe

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