Photography: Daria Kobayashi Ritch
Styling: Miyako Bellizzi
Hair: Sylvia Wheeler
Makeup: Anthony Nguyen
Assistant: Juliann McCandless
Everyone knows Brooke Candy—and that’s exactly how she likes it. But not if it means anyone can tell her what to do. Fresh off a collaboration with Sia, the former stripper-turned rapper-turned fashion world icon, is ditching all the major label buzz to make a new EP that takes her back to her roots—a grimy basement where she spits filthy lyrics about sex and drugs. That’s because, no matter how many stars want to record her or designers want to dress her, Brooke Candy doesn’t know how to be anything but herself.
After hypnotizing the world as some kind of feminist ninja in Grimes’ “Genesis” video, Candy quickly began selling out shows and gracing magazine covers. Her unapologetic blend of honesty and aggressive sexuality made her an instant role model for the queer community, and her bold, unflinching style made her a top designer muse. But Candy is equally at home in Gaultier as she is in a GG Allin hoodie—that’s what makes her so special. Instead of belting pop songs at giant arenas, Candy would rather be grinding at an underground show. To her, fame is all about reach, and even though she has a powerful message, nothing is worth compromising her voice. In the future, she hopes to create real, positive change. But for now, Brooke Candy’s just doing what she does best: “getting on stage and rapping about my vagina, and hitting someone in the head with a microphone.”
BULLETT caught up with the artist to talk fame, feminism and finding her sound.
What are you working on?
I’m working on a new EP that’s like punk-rap. It’s just what I’ve been feeling—I want to make music everyone can dance to. I never particularly wanted to make mainstream pop music—it just seemed like a great opportunity and a really cool way for me to build a fucking massive platform to spread a conscious, positive message to young girls and the queer community. But I think I have a better chance of doing that if I just stay true to what I’m good at—making raw and authentic rap music, and just being myself.
There aren’t a lot of people who really go for it like that anymore.
Music is very vanilla at the moment. You can always find something really special if you look for it. But it seems as though, within the mainstream market, it’s over-saturated and it’s all the same shit over and over—that’s it. The Wendy O. Williams of the world, the GG Allins—nobody exists like that right now and the world fucking needs it.
Are you different from the girl in the Grimes video?
I’m exactly the same. The only difference is, I’m stronger now, a little bit smarter, and I’m not on drugs. So I can actually do this shit—I can actually elicit some change.
What about your sound?
The sound will be a little bit different. It’ll still have that energy, it’ll still be danceable in the club, it’ll still be punchy and in your face. The aesthetic is a little bit different, too, but it’s still fucking wild, it’s still me, still 100% my art and spirit. The only differences are good differences—I’ve grown up and experienced a certain amount of success. I was driving my vehicle towards even more success, and it wasn’t making me happy. So I just reevaluated, what am I doing? Why am I doing it? And how do I want to be doing it? Now I’m back to the basics—back at square one, and it feels fucking great.
I’m just so sick of being force fed the same fucking thing over and over and over. Right now, there’s so much darkness on the planet, and politically, shit is so fucking weird—we just can’t be where we’ve been for the past five years any longer. Musicians and artists need to just fucking go for it—be abrasive and intense and angry and make shit really happen, not just tweet about it.
Now that you’ve recorded a big record with Sia, you’re decided to go back into a small studio with your friend. Is your approach the same in both cases?
Ten times out of ten, I’m always going to pick making songs with a friend in a basement. Because that’s gonna feed my spirit, that’s gonna feed my soul, that’s gonna be raw and fucking honest. I think it was interesting, and amazing, to experience making a song in that setting—I’ve never been able to work with someone as talented as Sia, and doing it was such a crazy learning experience, and I wanted a big platform so I could push a message because I really do want to fucking help the planet. But as far as my art goes—that’s always going to be the most important. Pushing raw creativity is more important than chasing money, because that’s going to actually help people.
You say you want to create real change. As an artist, how do you do that best? Being a big pop artist who everyone knows, or saying ‘fuck you’ in a basement?
You absolutely do not cater towards the mainstream market—ever. If what you create happens to work, then great, amazing. That’s honest. But that’s not typically the case, and I think it’s way more important to just be your authentic self.
A lot of people can’t believe Brooke Candy is your birth name—that’s she’s just a character.
But I am a real character. When I get on stage or make a video, it’s definitely amplified. But it’s who I’ve always been and the name I was born with.
Does feminism play a part when you’re writing lyrics?
When I wrote “Das Me,” everything I rapped about actually happened. I was so disturbed and distraught that I went into the studio and was like, ‘This is what we’re gonna do right now. We’re going to stick it to these fucking dudes.’ Because nobody is going to tell me I can’t do something that is totally natural and feels great and can be transcendent. Nobody’s going to tell me it’s wrong and that I’m dirty for wanting to have sex—especially if they’re doing it themselves. Being a girl in society, it’s supposed to be so shameful, so trashy. But really? We’re all fucking animals. Whatever.
Why are you working on this EP now?
I feel like I’ve been in a weird matrix glitch for the past three or four years, but I’m finally out of it—back at square one, but way healthier. “Living Out Loud” was a big part of me when I made it—it’s such a good song and I love performing it. But now I’m just focused on raw, gritty, back to basics righteous rap music.
What was it like recording with Sia?
Seriously it was one of the best experiences. But I’m open to just anything. Life and consciousness is so weird, nobody knows what this is or what they’re doing. Anything that comes my way, I want to do it—I want to experience everything. And I think that’s a pretty punk mindset—to think I can do anything I want, I don’t have to have one sound. There are no rules and even if there were, I wouldn’t follow them.
Duality is something you talk about a lot. You’re a fashion world darling, but at the same time you answer your own emails. You’re equally at home with Sia as you are performing in a dingy punk venue. Where does that comes from?
Everything is about balance. And I think we all have two sides to us. It’s as simple as in nature—light and dark exist. Except in reality, neither do—they’re just an idea. But beyond that, everyone has that in them and I’m just able to embrace both sides. I’m spooky and—what’s the opposite of spooky? Sweet?—it just makes me feel like a whole person. I’ve never been able to function in one group, or with one visual look, or one genre of music. I’m just multifaceted—and complicated—as I think all human beings are. But we choose to put ourselves in boxes, or put each other in boxes, and I refuse to be caged in.
You got sober a couple years ago. Has that changed the way you work?
I got off drugs—hard drugs. I still go out and have a cocktail or I’ll smoke some weed. But I just don’t want to hurt myself anymore, and be belligerent and completely out of my mind in psychosis. That’s a choice I’ve made. I’m less about sobriety, sobriety, sobriety, and more about peace—I just don’t want to go down that rabbit hole anymore. I’ve experienced that, the pits of it. And I just want to enjoy whatever this is—whatever life is. I just want to have fun and be happy.
A lot of people are scared to be sober because they think it will damage their creativity.
Certain drugs can expand your mind, but certain drugs, especially in excess, rip you away from the light—they don’t help with creative energy at all. Any human being has the ability to tap into their source of creative energy, and any artist can tap into that and reproduce a body of work. It doesn’t need to be in that state all the time—I’m not in that state anymore and I’m still where I was, about to make some really cool shit. You just have to find your way there organically.
What’s your favorite part about being on stage?
Just the change of energy—it’s such a rush, it’s the greatest high. Better than heroin, better than sex, because it’s all pure fucking love.
What do you want people to take away from your work?
I want people to listen to my music and feel like they love themselves—and feel strong as fuck, ready to take on the world. I just want people to listen to my music and be out of their body. I want it to charge them up, make them riot.
Special thanks to Rudy Grazziani