Bob the Drag Queen Is an Immovable Force on 'BLACK'

Bob the Drag Queen Is an Immovable Force on 'BLACK'

Since winning the eighth season of RuPaul's Drag Race, Bob the Drag Queen has catapulted into a renaissance queen of sorts. From comedian to social media darling to one of the most recognizable drag queens in the world, Bob has done it all while recognizing the importance of these milestones in relation to being Black. Black and Brown LGBTQ+ people navigate the world with a different set of priorities, fears and rules, and Bob does not take any of that lightly.

Within the activism space, Bob has come forward as an important voice in the discussion of identification, allyship, and how to best support and advocate for Black LGBTQ+ people. For the premiere of his new video, "BLACK," he steps out foot (and purse) first for a powerful display of pride while also refusing to back down from displaying the uncomfortable realities of queer people of color everywhere.

Across the dance romp with Caribbean and reggae influences, Bob joins forces with Ocean Kelly and Basit for a bold display of anger as they confront racism in the world, acknowledging that there are few places to feel safe. The gorgeous visual is oozing with look after look while the three turn situations of brutality on its head, such as arresting a police officer and shooting hooded people hanging from the ceiling.

Below, watch the video for "BLACK" and read PAPER's conversation with Bob the Drag Queen.

What has the journey been like finding your musical voice, and how has this release in particular contributed to that?

It’s really interesting, I’ve always loved rapping and writing music. Recently, I met someone named Ocean Kelly, who kind of reinvigorated my desire to make new music and reconfigured how I think about it. So yes, this release has definitely helped me restructure my own thoughts on my music.

From a lyrical perspective, how did you arrive at this song?

So I actually started with the lyric, "I’m Black, with a capital Black." I think I said it to a friend one time about my Blackness. I’ve been in one of those positions in my life where I have to defend my "Blackness" against either myself, or other white people or other Black people, and that was just a quote that I said one day — and the rest came from there.

And how did your producers help amplify or bring those ideas to another level?

I started producing this with Mitch [Ferrino] when I knew I had a song I wanted to do and halfway through I said, "I need a Black voice producing on this," and it was handed over to Ocean Kelly. I actually took a trip down to Atlanta just to flesh out the song and we even switched up some lyrics once I got there. Being in the room with him really helped bring out the true essence of the song.

In the music video, why was it important to you to have the police officer and car as an initial centerpiece?

I think for me, the relationship that Black people in America have with law enforcement is such a tumultuous relationship, especially considering that, it’s not like there’s not overlap, it’s not like there’s not Black cops. I have Black cops in my family, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of room for improvement within the relationship.

How’d you decide what guests vocalists to feature on this? How do they elevate your message?

I knew I wanted to work with Ocean Kelly for a long time now, I just had to figure out the perfect project. Basit and I worked together for Black Queer Town Hall. I’ve always been a big fan of their music and their work, and I called them up and asked them if they’d join me and they said, "Yes!" I was elated.

What do you want fans and listeners to take away from this?

I always say, I don’t really make art with an intention of what people need to take away. I hope everyone gets what they need. Everyone’s going to need something different. Black listeners, white listeners, queer listeners, nonbinary people — everyone is going to get something different and I hope everyone gets that they need from it.

Photo courtesy of Simon Chasalow