They think that by putting a negative on their profile that is better than putting positive or undetectable, and they're more likely to get a hookup and more likely to get attention and sex. That's like boasting about the fact that you're white in a racist world or boasting that you're a man in a sexist world.
This is In the Key of Q featuring musicians from around the world who inspire my queer identity. Everybody is welcomed to the conversation, whatever beautiful identity pleases you. Music helps us feel connected and know that we are not alone.
This program is made possible thanks to the financial support of listeners like you over at patreon.com/inthekeyofq. And remember to subscribe to the show wherever you listen to podcasts.
I'm Dan Hall. Tune in. And be heard.e London queer music scene in:
So it's a big fanboy welcome to Marcos Brito. AKA QBoy. Hello!
Hola! Are you okay?
I'm very good thank you. And this is, uh, for those listening, the first In the Key of Q that has been recorded in person.
Woo. So I've been annoying him for hours now, before we even got started.I, uh, started, uh, in:
Why rap though as a genre?
It's direct and it was the energy of the youth. It still is the energy of the youth, but at the time hip hop was perceived to be homophobic in the nineties. Yeah, it was perceived to be homophobic because of the gangster rap plan that the major record labels had put into gear since 94.
And so from 94 onwards, all of the positive, conscious fun, many different styles of decent hip hop all sort of evaporated and wasn't being funded. And the only thing that was being pushed was Gangsta Rap. So at the time, it was very important to me to do the music I was doing and also the DJ and I was doing cause the DJ and started at the same time as the recording, to provide something for other people to provide something for myself so that there was some representation out there.
And to combat the idea that hip hop is homophobic as well. And any of the homophobia that, that was, you know, the backdrop, the nineties backdrop for me, it was like we had a mission. We had a mission to fight the homophobia, to fight the idea of hip hop, being homophobic, and to fight the idea that being gay means being white and listened to Kylie Minogue.
DanYeah. Cause certainly in the:
These were really iconic spaces and especially Popstarz. These weren't small, apologetic every three months, nights, they were big, big events. And I don't know whether they still exist now, because certainly the queer scene that I see, which is might be a bit different. I'm not on the front end anymore. I'm nearly 50, but even the bars I go into I'm, I'm just sort of hearing pop music.
QBoyfinitely count throughout the:
And there was even a queer punk scene wasn't there?
Exactly! And then now it's faded out. Now it's still of homoginised a bit., but I think that's the world over, not just the UK.
I really love rapping. And, and to, in the sense of, I love getting my mouth around a complicated sentence and mastering it. Writing your own lyrics and finding your own voice as everybody always says it's the hard part. And that definitely took a minute because I didn't want to be American or Americanized.
It seems silly now, but at the time there wasn't so many British rap voices. Um, and a lot of people who are rappers, even if they didn't come from the States still had a slight American twang.
You've always rapped with the very Essex/ London accent.
I try to be myself, which is, you know, mostly Basildon and there's a slight well-spoken element of me. And there's a slight rough Basildon element of me. Uh, there's a Hispanic, uh, African Guancha element of me where my family come from, but my voice changes as well. I always, I dunno, each song when I record it I'm almost, it's almost like a its own little project and its own story and it has its own vibration. It has his own feel about it. So I will adapt my vocal to the songs.
So sometimes it might be a little higher pitch. Sometimes it might be really low. Like I did a song with Stedman from Five Star and he, I remixed his song and he has very high vocal on the track. So I purposely went very low. So it creates a dynamic. Uh, but it's probably lower than I would have done in any other song.
What was the child world like that you grew up in that helped shape this person who became a, a queer rapper?
Um, well, my life has been filled with trauma! Which is the shame. Um, I'm not going to moan about it too much. Uh, and no, um, no shame or disrespect to my parents. They were both problematic at times.
My mother is lovely and she does love me to death, but, uh, she was undiagnosed bipolar for most of my life. And that presented itself as alcoholic alcoholism and very sort of aggressive, erratic behavior. So that I grew up around and her sort of having fights with my dad with her instigating it.
So, uh, my dad quite... No, not responsive and not very communicative. Um, coming from a small Catholic base background island in the Canaries. Uh, my mother had severe postnatal depression when I was born. So I wasn't even looked after by her for the six, seven weeks when I was born I was looked after by my auntie. So that has brings its own problems later as an adult with connecting to people and trust in people and anxiety and all of that.
I feel like, um, there were a lot of instances where I didn't have a great time as a kid, but, uh, music definitely always had a strong, strong input. Yes. Something that I've loved and enjoyed and connects with.
I'm a dancer as well. This is the thing is dancing is probably my natural talent. Rapping is not my natural talent. It's just something I like to do. And if I work hard at it it can sound good. And if I don't, then it won't, but dancing, I don't have to think about that. It's not a, it's not a practice. A practiced thing or something I have to mentally engage in. It's a soul thing. And I, I it's meditation for me when I start dancing.
And I've always been a dancer. I used to move along to the rhythm of the pestle and mortar because my grandmother was, um, owned her own restaurant in the Canary islands. And so used to be making food all day. And so when I was about three or four, I would dance the rhythm of that in the kitchen. So it's just, my hips have the energy and they want to move.
So for me music and dancing are very connected
When I became a teenager, I was more depressive. I didn't really have many friends. It was being bullied at school for being gay since I was nine. So that was going on for years. Um, uh, and so I definitely, throughout my early teenage years, I was just in my room.
I remember the playground being a divisive and pretty shitty place. And I was lucky enough to have in my secondary school to have some good friends who I'm still friends with now, but they couldn't protect me from constantly hearing insults here and there insults on corridors teachers saying stuff.
Well, it wasn't just school. It was just the general culture. You were a kid on a Sunday, seen homophobic content and then sprawled across The News of the World that all your family was reading.
I mean, how you supposed to feel about that?
Nobody's sticking up for you and your family are feeing off that same homophobic bullshit as everybody else in the country. So you don't have any power in that situation and you don't have anyone to turn to because it feels like the entire world is homophobic and therefore you are the problem.
Section 28 in the UK, which brought about, and the early eighties is basically a way to stop people talking about homosexuality in the classroom. They didn't want to promote it. Like you can promote homosexuality. Gay, Queer, lesbian you know, teens were being bullied, but were not being protected. And teachers didn't know what to do about it because the second they stepped in, they almost going against Section 28.
Did you reach out for help at your school ?
And, oh yeah. Yeah, I did. I also had to, um, At one point, go to lunch, uh, on my own for about a year and a half, I used to go and sit on my, I get food from the supermarket and then sit in a council estate on a bench away from everyone.
And, uh, I would leave five minutes before the bell went. Uh, for each lesson changed that I didn't have to find myself in corridors or with any of the other kids or bullies.
Queer boy was then main name that I got. In the corridors and in the playground, which is why I have the name QBoy, that's where it came from.
And I use queer as well in the title of the podcast in the same way as it was used as a term of abuse. And it's a reclamation of language.
So you're a teenager. Now I know writing rhymes. What is your home life like at this point?
My father left home after many years of fighting my mother and went back to the Canary Islands. So it's my mother, my youngest sister, and my grandmother. And it's difficult. Like I really just wanted to escape.
What's Basildon like?
Fucking rough, isn't it, you cunt? But I hate it.. It's just full of old people and idiots, rough idiots.
I needed to get out of Basildon.. So I did the college and in college, that's where I first found my confidence.
I had the confidence. So it was mostly ego, but it still, it got me through and it was a 360 degree feeling from what I'd previously experienced at school.
And then I went to university in Leicester. I did a degree in contemporary dance. And then once I left that three years later, I moved back down south to London.And then at that point,:
I did a search gay hip hop London, and then gayhiphop.com came up and I was like, what is this website? What is, what is this? I think gay people, are there gay people who like hip hop. I was astounded and amazed. And this is 2001. There wasn't a Google. There was nothing, you know, like times were different.
Gay culture and gay magazines were like ignoring the fact that black people exist and that music, that hip hop and RnB exists. And then hip hop culture was just pretending gay people don't exist. And pretending that there are no black gays.I knew in:
But you must have been one of the first artists to have done that. The idea of you eschewing rejecting the standard record industry system and going our own way to people listening to this now they might sort of think, oh yeah, that's great. But actually I think it's important to remember the time in which you did that because people who were not already hugely powerful were not doing that. Like, it would make sense if somebody was signesd to Warners and they were a huge star and they got to the end of that 20 year contract, they then yep, absolutely. would set up on their own. And that makes sense. But for independent artists alone in the world, it was almost unheard of.
Yeah, not just as a queer artist, but just as an indie artist.
I was part of that first-generation that MySpace generation that suddenly had the internet to be able to promote ourselves, connect with fans, build a fan base, put our songs out there, put out content music, videos, you know. That none of that was available to you beforehand as an artist. So I was definitely part of that first-generation that was like, no, we're going to do it our way.
And then it was just went bang, but not because the music was amazing. Nobody was talking about the music, but me, the idea of a gay rapper was so fascinating to the press and to the world that everybody wrote about that story. And that was the angle. I became the face of gay rap globally, really. Because there wasn't anyone else kind of doing it at that stage at that level.
And part of that is because I look like the cute white boy that all the other gay press were having on their pages. And I was, you know, I was under no illusion that was happening. I think every time I got interviewed, I always try to make sure I mentioned the, the other queer hip hop artists that I was coming up with who were black, who are not getting pages who are not having their photos put in magazines who are not being seen. You know, I made sure that they were like, you need to go check out Deep Dick Collective, or you need to find Tory Fixx, or, you know, like there's... It was my job. Cause I knew I was going to get the press and the cover and the attention because they liked the way I look to make sure I don't forget the other people
With white audiences, there has been a long history of them needing to get used to blackness bit by bit, you know? And so I was a, um, palatable version of hip hop for them. So you have to remember that gay clubs were not playing hip hop, gay pride events were not having rappers or hip hop or black performers playing any music, performing any music of that nature.
And so. For them to go from not having that to booking a black rapper, there was a huge chasm, you know, between those two things happening and I'm the bit in between. Where I warmed up those why audiences to hip hop and to the notion of rapping and to the notion that gay people like hip hop, uh, a. enough so now we get to the point where black queer artists are getting covers, are being heard, are getting number ones are being like, they're there now. And they get the credit and the attention that they deserve.
But I was just sort of in between thing. And I don't know whether that people look on me favorably as that. Cause I think that I worry sometimes that people think I'm more like Justin Timberlake where I'm just trying to steal the limelight from Usher.
But at the time there was no Usher. I was it!
It sounds like you are aware that your whiteness did give an ability for the music to be heard and that in order to try to counterbalance things, you, you made sure that you always mentioned the name of the other black artists who were around.
And discuss the fact why they weren't being mentioned in the magazine. Magazines won't put black queer artists on like these gay magazines. Won't put their faces on the covers yet. Like you have to, you have to say it.
Danuh, across the years up until:
I had nobody telling me this is a good idea. This is a bad idea. No one to bounce ideas off judgment, all of that stuff, no one in the industry, you know, no one in the music industry and the hip hop industry. And like, I didn't have that support or structure behind me.
So I think that I suffered because of that as in some, some ways.
Creatively uh, and, um, uh, uh, productively and I was just spending a lot of time in my room hours and days and months and years, um, trying to do everything myself in and burnt myself out a lot.
I was gone in two directions. Part of me was going down this more authentic route of writing stuff that's honest about my life and deep and emotional and stuff. And also musically, I wants to go down, moreover, boom-bap jazz inspired, authentic hip hop vibe, but I also knew that the majority of the white gays I was performing at pride events don't know that music doesn't understand that music.
Uh, what would be the point of me trying to sell that to them? So then I started making a lot of poppy, electronic songs, we true stuff I wanted to do at the time, but I know that I was more pushed in that direction because I was trying to please my audiences and trying to provide those pride events with songs that were upbeat and make it, get the crowd going.
And I think that I shouldn't have done that.
Things have been ticking along for you as an artist for a while you've been making music. Uh, with your EPs and the album and well-produced stuff that is being well received, generally albeit to a new and emerging market and people who half the time don't understand you.And then:
QBoyputting out my Moxie album in:
And so I just felt very isolated on my own and then stuck in my room, trying to make this album happen and work out how to use Logic, you know? Study how to use it. There was no YouTube or YouTube tutorial. I just worked out how to do it myself. And that takes a long time.
So I was doing that and, uh, and I was very busy also during that period of my career and I just burnt myself out.fter the Moxie album came out:
Uh, and so I'm just walking into calamity and things aren't the way that they are promised, you know, and that's stressful when you're trying to be the manager and the agent and the label and the performer, you know, I can't be all those hats and all those things and go on stage and perform when I'm super angry because the stage manager hasn't given me the cordless mic that I need, because otherwise I'm going to kill myself when I'm trying to dance and rap at the same time with a corded mic, you know, like just simple things like that will happening all of the time. And I just found it very frustrating. I wasn't happy.
And then I tested for HIV and I, I, it was all negative. Um, but then I got infected on purpose by someone. I didn't realize that as what had happened until three years ago.
And so what year is this?
I just couldn't cope with life.
So I left the flat that I was staying at. I went to stay with some friends and they looked after me for a year. If you grow up in the eighties, maybe even the late seventies, um, and you were gay, you thought you were going to get HIV.
And what would that have meant?
I'm going to start having sex with other gay men, and then I'm going to get AIDS.
That was the story. It was almost already written out for you in your head. And you had living with that as a kid, as a teenager.
But in the Eighties what would that, what would the end of that narrative have been?
Well, in the eighties, they would have just died often. Most so many people died in the eighties and the early nineties, um, because they didn't have the medicine and the, the, the, the, the understandings that we do.
So, yeah, I was, I got HIV at a point where I was more fortunate to take advantage of, um, how far we'd got medicine wise, but mentally you're still, that kid who's like, oh, I'm going to get AIDS and then you get it. And they're like, oh, well I've just, just might true this prediction. Yeah. You know? I was fearful. I was worried that it was going to stop me from traveling to America to places or, um, stop me from being QBoy the performer, or it was going to get me some bad press or it was going to be, oh, what a surprise? The gay rapper got AIDS like, you know, like that, all of those stories just revolve around in my head and it creates so much pressure that I just was unable to operate.
It affected on my mental health massively. I had a very good boyfriend at the time I met just after I became HIV positive and we were together for about five years and he helped me through that process a lot, many ways.
And how did he help? What was helpful?
Because I'd been on my own in my room for so long. I I'm naturally a very anti-social. I don't really like people. I think I don't need them. And I've gone... I went to such a long time without really tapping into them or being social. And then I got sick because of it, you know?
And then it was him that made me realize you need people, you need friends that you see regularly. You need to open up and talk to people because I just wasn't talking to anybody about anything. You know, I've was always in my head.
So he really helped me become a bit more human. I guess I'm in that he helped me with the, with the shame I was dealing with with being HIV positive.it anyway. And so from about:
I didn't have no idea what I wanted to do instead. Uh, and since 2012, my party R & Shece and David O. We started in:
It's a queer party. Celebrating all of the females of R&B and hip hop, which the people I've been celebrating at any way in my entire life. Um, that's been doing really well. So I was suddenly DJ'ing a lot more rather than DJ'ing a little bit suddenly this party is taken off and then once that takes off, then you get more bookings because R&She is famous.fter I put the Qing EP out in:
I like DJ'ing now and again, I don't like having it as my main job. I don't like having to be in a club at 4:00 AM every weekend, two or three times nights a week.
It's exhausting. I'm 43. I don't really like crowds. I don't drink alcohol. I don't like socializing in large groups.
So possibly working in a nightclub isn't the best career choice!
No, it's not me. I do love music and I do love music selecting and playing music. I love that. And I love sharing my taste. That's what I love.
And I'm also very good at it. I'm very good. Over these past 10 years, especially, um, I've realized I'm a good DJ. You can give me an empty room and I can fill it quickly. I know how to play the songs what order to play, and I'm good at it. I'm very good. I'm better than I expected.
So I spent four or five years floating along, but no dream, no passion and just going to DJ and then coming home. And that's it.
I realized I was daydreaming about something and I'd been doing that same day dream quite often over the past, like few weeks. And, uh, and then when I caught myself I was like, Marco, you have a dream, you have not had a dream in years, and now you keep dreaming about something. That means you have something that you're passionate about.
It was a very, it wasn't like I was desperate to do it, but it was just something that kept reoccurring, and that's comedy. Aside from hip hop comedy is my other huge love, Victoria Wood is my hero.
God bless you for that.
Love her. She is part of my fiber and my brain has been structured around her comedy and who she is and I, her identity and everything.
So, and since I was 12, I was when I first introduced Victoria Wood, An Audience With was the first thing that I saw.
And there's wit in your raps. . There's wit in there for sure.
This, this, this, my raps were a vehicle for me to be humorous. In fact, I think there are many rhymes I wrote that I think are hilarious. That other people never got, because I think that with hip hop, not all hip hop is the same, but certainly the more traditional, authentic hip hop has a lot of wit has a lot of clever wordplay and, uh, and it's humorous and sassy and can be cutting. And I love that. I love that element of hip hop. So I always try to bring that into the rhymes that I write.
So unless you are a hip hop aficionado and know about that kind of wit element of hip hop then you will probably miss it in my music because you're not looking out for it. You don't understand it, but if you do know how about hip hop and you listened to me, maybe you don't think I'm that good of a rapper, but I hope that you think I'm a good lyricist because I think I can write some very clever, witty rhymes. .
But now I want to translate that into doing some standup and I don't know if I'll be any good, but it's the only tiny glimmer of passion that I have at the moment. So I must follow that light because we don't have any other light to follow
We grew up in, in a situation when nobody really knew what was going on with HIV and aids, people were dying. There was a lot of fear, but then we jumped forward and we have the internet. We have anything that you want to know, you just type in what is, and you can find it out. Anything, anything we didn't have that luxury before 15 years ago.
Every kid today has that luxury, but they don't use it. And that's fucking annoying. Cause when we were in the dark, we didn't know about stuff. People were dying. People don't need to die anymore because we have medication, but that stigma is still there. Because they're not educating themselves or the, and also they're not being educated.
That's something to do with the schools or the system that everybody not just queer people, everybody needs to understand about HIV and AIDS and syphilis and all of the SDIs and where they come from and how they...
You having sex with someone who is regularly taking HIV medicine means they do not have enough of the virus in their blood or semen to pass it onto you. Therefore they cannot transmit it to you.
This is basic information that's available to everyone and you don't know about it. And you are a gay man living on a gay app often, you know, and you're not educating yourself and you don't understand and that's just fucking ignorant.
Do you get peoples shaming, you and things like Scruff and Grindr?
Yeah. With screw off. Um, you can have an option to say if you are, which, um, uh, positive or on PrEP or undetectable or negative. Um, a few years ago, I kinda liked this. I thought it was good. Now I don't.
If I say that I am positive or undetectable, I get a lot less traction. I get less people messaging me. I get less people messaging me back. If I messaged them first, particularly younger people, anyone under the age of 35. If you've got the word undetectable positive on your profile, you message them. They're not likely to get back to you. A week later, you take that off your fucking profile and you messaged them again. Then they get back to you.
The problem is, is these fucking idiots think like this? They think that if you only have sex with negative people that is protecting yourself, that is delusional. And it's actually so incorrect is the opposite.
People who have HIV go to the doctors every six months, they take medicine all the time. They are getting checked more frequently than any other person.
Therefore their health is usually more tiptop than any negative person. Not just sexual wise, cancer. You might have a bit more risk to get cancer when you get HIV, but you're also less risk of dying of cancer because your doctors check you more often than if you didn't have HIV, do you understand?
So having sex with someone who is positive isn't unsafe or unhealthy it's more healthy because that person is more aware of their own status and aware and taking medication. And are being checked up by doctors to make sure that they're always undetectable. So that's makes them safer.
Secondly, anybody that's say negative is not negative. They are guessing they are negative because if you have a test today and you have a test for syphilis and HIV and gonorrhea, and it's an immediate turnaround, it's a couple of hours test. Those tests are only negative if they all come back negative for a period, a window period between two and six weeks ago.
It's a snapshot of the past.
mean you're negative now it means you were negative six weeks ago. So. Anyone that's like going, oh, I'm negative. Or using that as some sort of a pass to bounce to get sex is an idiot. And anyone that accepted the past is also an idiot.
You get HIV from negative people. You do not get HIV from people who know they're positive. You get it from people who don't know they're positive yet, which are the people that tell you they're negative. It is much safer to have unprotected sex with someone who's on medication and positive than it is to have sex with someone who's negative.
You have to remember, often people lie and people can say, oh, I'm negative. I got tested two weeks ago, but they've had sex 20 times in those two weeks.
I think also it's really important that we call it out, that all of us call it out be they people who are positive, people who are negative as a community, when someone texts you and says, are you clean?
I think we should all as a community, write back and go do, do yourself some learning and then come back.
Well I just say, can you not use that word? Because it implies HIV, positive people are dirty and then they get it.
The other issue I have with these apps with, with this listing of, um, negative, positive undetectable is that negative people seem to think that the, they need to put that they're negative because they think there are an advantage being negative. They think that by putting a negative on their profile that is better than putting positive or undetectable, and they're more likely to get a hookup and more likely to get attention and sex because they think being negative is better and they need to promote this. That is disgusting. If you have negative on your Grindr or Scruff profile, get rid of it now. You don't need it. You don't need to boast about the fact that you're negative. That's like boasting about the fact that you're white in a racist world or boasting that you're a man in a sexist world. It's bullshit. Stop doing it.
Marcus, what do you think your 15 year old self would think of you?
Oh, I have no idea. I don't know. Uh, in, in all honesty I have achieved every dream I've ever had. Um, my first dream was I wanted to be friends with Five Star well guess what well I'm friends with Five Star. I then wanted to be friends with Victoria Wood and Salt N Pepa. Well, I'm friends with Salt N Pepa, and I met Victoria Wood several times and have several letters from her.
I made connections with all the people that I grew up idolizing. I then ticked off all the things I wanted to do. When I was eight I knew that I wanted to be a choreographer. I wanted to dance. I wanted to perform, I wanted it to be a pop star. I wanted to make music videos, you know, these all weird dreams I had.
Well, I've done all of them. I've traveled around the world. I've, I've actually achieved every tiny little dream, even if I didn't realize that there was a dream, but everything that I was like manifesting as a kid, it happened
Where can people find your music?
I, uh, all the songs are on immune, um, SoundCloud. So all my albums are on SoundCloud, under my QBoy Music. Everything's QBoy Music
We've heard a lot of your music throughout this episode, we've been hearing bits and bolts, but, uh, I think we've been saving the best to last. So if there was one song that would be the perfect gateway track into your catalog to make people absolutely fall in love with your music and you, what would that track be?
depends on the person and what their interests are, but from a QBoy brand brand perspective. I think that a good song to start with is Q-B-O-Y Is Just So Fly I mean, the song itself is an introduction to me and my name and what I'm about. So it's got the hip hop, bravado, cockiness, sexuality. I mean, that's a good song to start with, Q-B-O-Y Is Just So Fly.
Marcos Brito, AKA QBoy. Thank you so much for coming on In the Key of Q, it's been a, a real, genuine pleasure for me. I wasn't bullshitting when I said I've really enjoyed your music for the nearly 20 years now.
Thank you, Dan. And thank you for having me here. Thank you for taking the time to appreciate me and appreciate all the other artists that you are covering on your podcast. I think, or they must appreciate it as much as I do. So thank you.
Thanks for listening to this episode, you can support In the Key of Q via Patreon. The link is in the shownotes.
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The show was made at Pup Media. I'm Dan Hall. Go listen to some music and I'll see you next Quesday!