It’s time for your required lesson on music #herstory: transgender artists have always been here and they’ve always been running the game, even when the world didn’t want to see them for their talent.
Whether it’s the art, music or fashion, trans artists have been the backbone of many movements. They helped create jazz, rock, funk, disco and house — genres that grew past their roots and reached many, but were also sanitized of their original character and co-opted by those straighter and whiter. That’s so yesterday and we’re getting loud and making sure these living legends are getting their flowers now.
Legendary or up-and-coming, here are some trans icons you need to get into.
This New York-born-and-raised raptress dropped her “Transphobic” EP in 2017 and years later, it remains on repeat as one of my favorite works. Untouched in its fierce, raw energy, the five tracks speak on Quay’s life as a trans woman in the city and bring you into her world. Influenced by Lil’ Kim on this track, “Queen of NY” is like the best homage a female rapper could ever make to the queen of rap herself. Quay understands the assignment when it comes to fly fashion and being full of herself in the way every rapper should be.
She followed the project up with a few singles like SOPHIE-produced “Queen of This Shit,” which closed out a Versace show and was included in Euphoria’s Season 1 soundtrack. Still praying everyday to get blessed with new Quay.
If you’ve been looking for happiness distilled into a pop song, I’m so glad to say I’ve found it in Ah Mer Ah Su’s “We Got It All.” This shiningly positive track kicks you straight into the happiest day of summer with its 80s synths and drums, letting you forget your winter worries for at least four minutes.
Of course, the music video captures this perfectly with Star and her bestie Saturn Rising having some fun in the sun. Her “Hopefully Limitless” EP is full of beautiful lyricism and is perfect for escaping into some musical joy.
Jasmine Infiniti has a thing for shaking things up. She told i-D last year about her ballroom roots in New York and how she made it her goal to create an inclusive scene when she crossed coasts to California as the former house mother of the House of Infiniti chapter in the Bay Area. She did that, and more.
As founder of the international record label and dance party New World Dysorder, she’s curating sounds from a range of transgender, nonbinary, and femme-identifying talents around the world and creating those inclusive spaces in the rave world. New World Dysorder’s first compilation album WWI blends electro, house, hip-hop, ballroom, and more.
Her own debut album BXTCH SLAP came out in March 2020 and combines classic vogue elements with techno and trance, sounding and feeling like a dark night out should be. She followed it up with the “Prove It” EP in December — “Stunna” features San Francisco vogue icon Sir Joq running the track. Oh, and her music was featured in the MUGLER S/S21 show earlier this year. She is the moment.
This legendary DJ has been in the game since she grew up in Chicago at the start of the house movement. It should be in textbooks that disco never died the way we’ve always heard, it just went underground after all the racist hate and became house music. Surrounded by this moment in history, she brought it to New York, became a mainstay in fashion, and the rest has been #herstory. Last year, she dropped a collection with Commes des Garcon that aptly included DJ bags.
As a trans woman with a long, fruitful career, she’s been very open about the struggles she’s faced on her rise to the top and about how the club scene has changed since her start. She concretely personifies the very notion that trans women have always been here running it, and she’s lived it.
This New Orleans bounce legend is your fave’s fave — Beyonce and Drake have sampled her iconic voice, for starters. She’s been in the game for decades and her star keeps rising. She’s had more features than we can count and she just dropped her BDE EP, and Big Diva Energy is absolutely her life motto. This work is bringing us new and improved Freedia as she grows her sound and her fanbase.
River Moon is good at everything: South Africa’s fashion it girl, one-third of infamous meme page Patia’s Fantasy World, and songwriter-producer-superstar. Last year, she told Office Mag, “I want everybody who's been invisible for the last 100 years to like be in the fucking forefront and be seen as rockstars because we're the real rockstars,” so she clearly knows what’s up when it comes to giving credit where its due. River released her album “Martyr” last year then several singles, one being definite crowd-pleaser The Rave Princess.
FX’s “Pose” may have wrapped its final season this year, but it's breakout star MJ Rodriguez ain’t going anywhere. She’s made her solo debut as Michaela Jaé and she’s got something to say. A classically trained musician on top of her acting creds, “Something To Say” is a funky moment of pure joy that complements Michaela’s range perfectly. In a possible nod to the purest ‘Pose’ scene, its video turns a traffic jam into a dance scene of trans joy where for a moment, a trans girl gets the guy.
You know why they’re so important, so now get into them. Stream our TRANS*CENDENTAL TRANS*EXCELLENCE playlist on Spotify.